Jennifer Garner is back on TV! The actress stars in Apple TV+'s limited series, The Last Thing He Told Me, which is based on Laura Dave's book of the same name.
In the limited series, Garner plays Hannah, a woman who works to find out her husband, Owen's (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), secrets after he mysteriously disappears. Along the way she has the help of her teenage stepdaughter, Bailey (Angourie Rice) andher journalist pal, Jules (Aisha Tyler), as well as a U.S. Marshal (Augusto Aguilera) and Owen's past professor (Victor Garber).
While many book adaptations takeliberties in terms of plot and characters, fans of Dave's novel will be delighted to know that the show and book largely line up. That's likelydue to the fact that Dave herself co-created and adapted the show, which is produced by Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine,alongside Josh Singer.
Faithful as the show may be, there aresomechanges, none of which Dave had difficulty enacting.
"I started writing it all the way back in 2011 and I threw out 70,000 words of it sometime around 2016, so I was very used to throwing things away," Dave told ET of her novel, which was published in 2021. "As Hannah and Jen [Garner] sort of merged into one,it became obvious what belonged there and how we were going to best serveturning up the volume on this and making it as propulsiveand humanand haunting as possible."
Keep reading to see an episode-by-episode breakdown of howThe Last Thing He Told Meseries differs from the book.
"Protect Her" - Episode 1
While the novel opens on a flashback to Hannah and Owen's second date, the show starts with a flash-forward showing a frantic Hannah searching for Bailey in a hotel.
The show then goes back four days to where a brunette Hannah (she's blonde in the book), is surprised in her wood-turning workshop by Owen, who reminds her about the upcoming release of an article about her, something that didn't exist in the book.
The pair goes on toreminisce over their second date and discuss a taking a vacation for their upcoming 14-month anniversary. It's there that tension between Hannah and Bailey is first hinted about, though it's not as detailed as the book, which explained that the teen's distaste for her stepmother stemmed from two things -- Hannah making a comment about Bailey looking younger than her age and arriving five minutes late to pick her up one time.
The next morning, Owen dodges calls from his boss, advises Hannah to "wait it out" with Bailey, and encourages Baileyto be nicer to Hannah.
Meanwhile, as she did in the book, Hannah goes to San Francisco to get bread to make a special meal for Bailey. While there she takes a call from her friend Jules. In the book, Jules was Hannah's childhood friend who now works at the San Francisco Chronicle as a photo editor alongside Max, a male investigative reporter with a crush.
However, in the show, Jules is metro reporter who is happily in a relationship with the female Max. Jules' role is much heavier in the show than in the book, which delighted the actress who played her.
"In the book, she's just a childhood friend and there are these beautiful interactions, but I think giving Jules that complexity and that layer, those layers also gave the relationship with Hannah a lot of layers," Tyler told ET. "I think you see they've supported each other through...heartbreak, through loss, through family strife, and really supporting each other in being the women that they want to be. It's the kind of friendship I want in my own life, the kind of friend that I want to be. And so giving her that extra oomph gave the relationship, I think, more strength and more value."
Jules hangs up the call because "Max is freaking out" and Hannah heads home to make dinner. At home, though, Hannah's surprised to see a girl in a soccer uniform with a note for her from Owen. The scene plays out much as it did in the book, though the novel had the moment much earlier, and the note from Owen is verbatim -- "Protect her."
While the dinner gets burnt by a distracted Hannah in the book, in the show, Bailey simply dismisses Hannah's efforts, grabs a granola bar and heads off to theater rehearsal, a hobby the teen likewise had in the book.
The show veers off-course from the book here, as Hannah, still unable to reach Owen, calls up his office at The Shop, the software company at which he's the chief coder,before driving over there and discovering an FBI raid and Owen's parking spot empty.
With that she drives to pick Bailey up from her rehearsal. It was on the radio,while waiting in her car for Bailey, that Hannah discovered the news about The Shop in the book, and, in the show, it's via a news article she reads while waiting for the teen.
Eventually, Bailey comes outside with a duffle bag and a note from her dad. Unlike Hannah's note, Bailey's differed slightly from the book. In the show, the note simply reads, "I'm sorry I can't help this make sense. You know what matters about me. And what matters about you. You are my whole life." However, in the book, Owen's note also included the lines, "Help Hannah. Do what she tells you. She loves you. We both do."
As for what's in the duffle bag, like in the book, Bailey opens it to reveal wads of money, prompting Hannah to vomit. Though in the book Bailey offers Hannah a joint to settle her stomach, the teen makes no such offer in the show.
When the women get home, Bailey is visited by her boyfriend, Bobby, who, like in the book, dislikes Hannah, while Hannah has a visit from Jules.
The conversation between Hannah and Jules is very similar to one in the book, where the latter woman explains that Max got a tip that The Shop was going to be raided after falsifying their financials and pedaling a software that was not yet working.After learning as much, Jules called Owen, who, like in the book, only asked one thing -- how long he had to get out.
At Jules' departure, viewers learn that Hannah was raised by her grandfather after her mother left. The backstory of this is explained more in the book, as it discusses Hannah's parents' tumultuous relationship and Hannah's twice-yearly visits with her mother, which eventually petered off.
The show then flashes back to Hannah and Owen's first date, in which she gave him a wood turning lesson. In the book, readers didn't get to see that date play out, but did know that the couple met in Hannah's studio when Owen accompanied The Shop's CEO, Avett, to check on a piece in progress for his wife, Belle, none of which is shown in the series.
Hannah and Bailey have another moment the next morning, when Bailey tries to decipher the meaning behind her dad's note and Hannah apologizes for always saying the wrong thing, a carbon copy of the scene from the book.
The episode ends with a man, Grady Bradford, shows up claiming to be a U.S. Marshal and asking questions about Owen. He advises Hannah to lay low and get a lawyer, and leaves with the same parting warning he did in the book: "Owen Michaels is not who you think he is."
"The Day After" - Episode 2
The second episode begins with a flashback similar to one in the book, in which Hannah invites Owen along on her work trip to Austin.
He instantly gets weird about the city and instead suggests a trip to New Mexico instead. Like in the book, Hannah assures Owen, "There's not a whole lot you could tell me about who you used to be that would change anything, at least between us."
"Well, thank God for that," he answers.
Back in present time, Hannah, who, unlike in the book thinks she's being followed,heads to her studio with Owen's laptop, determined to get some answers.
She discovers Owen's will on the laptop, but the document is password protected. When Bailey's birthday doesn't work as the password, a hint pops up telling the user to "ask L. Paul." This is a departure for the book, in which Hannah was able to access the will and found L. Paul listed as the conservator.
Two FBI agents interrupt Hannah next and, like in the book, she's testy with them, especially when they bring up Bailey. Unlike in the book, however, Hannah does hand over Owen's laptop to them. Another change is that she gives them Grady's name when asked, a decision she opted against in the book, and names her husband's lawyer friend Carl as her lawyer.
She gave Carl's name despite not having been able to get in touch with him. While it's explained in the book that Hannah is not Carl's biggest fan because he openly cheats on his wife, no such background is given in the show. When she finally tracks Carl down, like in the book he and his wife, Patty, are at theirkid's birthday party and refuses to help Hannah because he and his wife lost their money investing in The Shop.
Another flashback follows, one that's inspired by several scenes in the book. In the scene, Owen expresses his gratitude to Hannah's "could have been boys," the guys she almost ended up with, a conversation he had with Hannah in the book's prologue. One such guy is her ex-fiancé, a successful lawyer named Jake. It's during that flashback that Owen also explains Bailey's mom's death, saying that she died in a hit-and-run when Bailey was 4.
The memory seems to prompt Hannah to reach out to Jake for help, and he offers to have his private investigator look into things, just as he does in the book.
Elsewhere, Bailey, like in the book, has had a bad day at school. Unlike in the book, however, when she returns home from learning that Bobby is likely moving awayit's to discover that someone else has been inside the house. The break-in scare is show-specific, and the cops clear the house, before Hannah goes back inside to discover the money Owen left, safe and sound under her bed.
Then Jules and Max arrive for a scene that does not take place in the book. While Bailey laments to Jules about how protective her dad is of her and Bobby's upcoming college plans, Max peppers Hannah with questions about Grady's strange appearance and his phone number's Austin area code.
Later, Carl shows upand explains that he and Patty didn't actually lose all their money in The Shop, but rather he lost it gambling and has been lying to his wife. This conversation is one that occurs later in the book and varies slightly; in the book, the talk is via the phone and Carl didn't lose the money gambling, but by spending it on his mistress.
Hannah proceeds to ask Carl about any possible connection Owen had to Austin, and Carl recalls a time that Owen got weird around the mention of the city and denied ever being their when pressed. This memory isn't mentioned in the book, which instead includes a story from Hannah's past when she declined a job in Austin at Owen's behest.
Fed up after that talk, Hannah calls Grady's office and confirms that he's a U.S. Marshal based in Austin. That gets Hannah thinking about Austin again, so she decides to ask Bailey if she has any memories of the city. After some thought, Bailey vaguely recalls attending a football game and visiting loved ones there. With that little bit to go on, Hannah, like in the book, decides to pull Bailey out of school and head to Austin to find some answers.
"Keep Austin Weird" - Episode 3
The episode opens with Hannah, on the plane to Austin, having a flashback of a time Bailey called her "extra." The flashback is one that does not appear in the book in any capacity. However, the next scene on the plane, in which a rude Bailey tells a flight attendant that she's not Hannah's is a carbon copy of a scene in the book.
The show then leaves out a couple of small details from the book; there's no flirty Uber driver or chatty hotel staff to be found in the series. The series adds something too, as the voicemail Hannah receives from Jake is not in the book.
At the hotel, Hannah checks in using Max's credit card. In the book, she did so using Jules' information at her pal's insistence.
Just as in the book, Hannah and Bailey then head out to the stadium in Austin and try to blend in by joining a tour group, before Hannah assures the teen she has a choice in carrying on.
While in the show it's a foam finger that jogs Bailey's memory of attending a football game after a wedding years before, the book is less specific of the teen's lightbulb moment. Both mediums, however, feature the women questioning why there was any such memory, as they don't know Owen to like football.
In the show, Bailey runs off and laments about missing her big theater moment in the show, something that does not happen in the book. Another difference comes when Hannah reaches out to Jules for help at finding nearby churches where a wedding could've taken place, an activity Hannah undertakes on her own in the book.
Avett's wife Belle's call to Hannah happens in both the book and the show, though she doesn't pass the phone off to her husband in the former as she does in the latter.
While Hannah initially tries to hide the content of the call from Bailey, the teen eventually gets her stepmom to spill a lot of details about Belle's rude call. That moment happens in both the show and the book, but the former sees Bailey tell Hannah she's extra in a good way, a callback to the episodes earlier show-specific flashback. In the book, Bailey simply tells Hannah she was taking things a step too far in a good way.
While it's the third church that rings familiar to Bailey in the show, it's the sixth that does so in the book. Hannah and Bailey's heated conversation with a church secretary, in which they're attempting to discover the weddings took place on football game days in a certain year, is similar to that in the book and has the same outcome. They're told the church was under construction during the given dates and thus no weddings were held, though Hannah leaves her number in case something changes.
Throughout the episode, there are scenes back in Sausalito, in which Grady watches Bobby leave Bailey a gift basket and witness a mysterious man take pictures of the houseboat and attempt to break into it.
Eventually, Grady learns that the man is the head of security at The Shop and was sent there at Avett's behest. After Grady scares off the security man, he breaks into the houseboat himself and discovers the money under her bed. None of theSausalito scenes are taken from the book, and are entirely new for the show.
In the book, Cal phones Hannah to tell her that Owen was having trouble at work, a call that doesn't happen in the show. Additionally, the book features a flashback in which Owen, while starring at Bailey's piggy bank, questions if he made the right decision not allowing Bailey to go on a bike trip with Bobby. That scene is altered for the show, which instead shows Owen, holding the piggy bank in question, explain to Hannah why he didn't want Bailey to go on a boat trip with Bobby and his parents. Both scenes end the same: Owen lamenting his waning ability to protect his daughter.
In the series, Hannah asks Jules to go to the houseboat the procure the piggy bank after she remembers it reads "Lady Paul" on the bottom. The moment is show specific, and is a callback to the password hint to Owen's will, which Hannah discovered in episode two.
Jules does as Hannah asks and finds a key in the piggy bank, which did not happen in the book. In the show-specific scene, Jules is surprised to also find Jake in the houseboat and quickly calls up Hannah.
In that phone call, Jake, who invited Hannah and Bailey to come stay with him in New York in the book, but made no such offer in the show, relays the same information as he did in the book: Owen and Bailey Michaels didn't exist until they moved to Sausalito -- there are no birth certificates, no property records and no clue about who they may be.
The first three episodes ofThe Last Thing He Told Meare now streaming on Apple TV+. Subsequent episodes will be released every Friday through May 19.
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