‘Surface’ Episodes 1, 2 & 3: Recap And Ending, Explained – Who Is Sophie Ellis? What Does Sophie Remember?


“Surface” is a psychological thriller drama series that builds up enough intrigue in its first three released episodes. Starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the protagonist, Sophie Ellis, the show is about this woman who survived a horrific suicide attempt physically, but her injuries have wiped out her memory. It is her effort to piece her life together and the mysterious facts that she unravels that become the focus of the show. So far, “Surface” is not looking bad at all, with enough reasons to give it a watch.

Spoilers Ahead

‘Surface’ Episodes 1, 2, And 3: Recap And Ending

Five months after her horrific suicide attempt by jumping into the open sea from a ferry, Sophie Ellis has survived and recovered well, but has lost most of her memory in the process. Some bleak fading moments from after the accident are the earliest memories she has, and one specific image—of helplessly falling into the water and drowning—haunts her as she speaks to her therapist, Hannah. Although Hannah insists on the importance of letting the past go and dealing with the present and the future, Sophie has a hard time digesting such advice as she cannot help but ponder her past actions. Since waking up from her coma in the hospital, Sophie has known herself to be the wife of a wealthy philanthropist, with hardly any financial or social stress at all, and she has understood her husband James to be one extremely caring and concerned for her well-being. What then could have been the reason for her to jump into the water to kill herself? This is the primary thought that keeps eating away at Sophie. One night out for dinner with her supposed friends, all wealthy women of the same social stature as her, she sees a man constantly looking at her, and the whole scenario seems to feel odd to her, as she does not identify herself among the group of women either. A couple of days later, she accompanies James to an investor event at his firm, and the same man from the restaurant appears on the street again, and now directly approaches Sophie. He warns her that her husband is not who he seems to be, and that there were more sinister things that happened on the boat on the day of her attempted suicide, suggesting that it was probably not a suicide at all. As James walks up towards them, the man hurriedly leaves after secretly handing Sophie a matchbox with the address of a bar on it. 

The woman still mentally suffers from the trauma of the incident, despite remembering so little of it, and is tremendously scared of crossing over any body of water, and cannot even sit straight in a car crossing over the Golden State Bridge in her hometown of San Francisco. One day, she visits the harbor as well, only to be resurfaced with the trauma from the incident. She does feel the need to revisit her past, and makes use of her job at the same hospital where she was treated to find out more about her injuries. Although her record from the recent accident does not look odd, she finds an older case in her medical history—one of a fractured right hand, in which it is clearly mentioned that the injury points to potential domestic violence, which she had denied to the doctors at the time. Sophie tries to find out more about this injury from her supposed best friend Caroline, and the woman says that Sophie had actually gone shopping with her when she tripped and fell, breaking her arm. With growing confusion in her mind, the protagonist finally decides to visit the bar that the stranger told her to go to, and she is soon joined by the man. He now reveals himself as police officer, Thomas Baden, who was given the responsibility of investigating her possible homicide case, and tells her that she frequented the bar a lot. At this time, James had been away on a professional trip, and Sophie also finds the suicide note she had supposedly left, which read something along the lines of Sophie leaving James after realizing that she could not be happy with her and that he deserved to be happy with someone else. Late that night, after James returns home, the woman finally manages to log back into her iPad, which suddenly puts a lot of the puzzle pieces together. Sophie finds a handheld video that she herself enjoyably recorded, of her and Baden expressing love and getting physically intimate. A thought strikes Sophie’s mind now that her note might have only suggested that she was leaving her husband, and not necessarily that she was going to kill herself. The next morning, she revisits the harbor, during her morning run routine, and speaks with one of the coast guard rescue personnel, who immediately recognizes her. What the woman tells Sophie confuses her even more, as she says that Sophie kept claiming that somebody had pushed her into the water on that day, and that her name was Tess.

With the help of a new treatment for memory loss and the events and revelations taking place all around her, Sophie starts to get glimpses of it back in her mind. In a session with her therapist, she tries with all her might to remember the events right before her jump into the water, and now too, she is certain that she sees a man standing by the railings of the boat while falling down. Despite Hannah’s warnings that it might very well be her subconscious playing tricks in an attempt to avoid any agency in the matter, Sophie is certain about her feelings. In an attempt to ease her doubts, James tells Sophie to ask him anything that she wants to know, and she inquires about where her husband was on the day of the accident. Looking a bit shaky and startled, James responds that he had been away at a business convention in Portland, and had only met her in the hospital room after she was rescued. Perhaps unwilling to believe her husband blindly any longer, Sophie tries to verify the matter by asking for any travel records of the trip at James’ firm. As the assistant at the office finds no trace of such a visit made by James, Sophie tries to check his private bank account history and finds that she has been denied access to these accounts. When she asks James about this later that evening, she learns that he had filed for conservatorship, meaning that Sophie’s financial independence was taken away, and she was now under the control of James because of her health condition. On the advice of Hannah, Sophie decides to take a weekend trip away from the city with Caroline, and James suggests that they go to their own vacation house in Marin, to which Sophie agrees. The two friends drive up to the place, and having some time on her own, Sophie goes around the area to a nearby stable and rides a horse from there. Although Caroline had said that they were really not women to ride horses, Sophie seems to feel a casual easiness with the animals, as if she was very used to riding horses. At this time, suddenly, the woman has another flash of old memory, in which she was riding a horse too, and then a woman called out to her as Tess. Unsettled by this remembrance, Sophie returns to the house and then asks Caroline about their past, specifically about how her marriage with James was. She does not get anything too specific, though, other than Caroline admitting that she thought Sophie was having an affair with someone else once or twice. Returning to San Francisco, the woman receives the name of the convention that James had apparently visited in Portland, and, checking out their website, finds no photos or mention of James attending at all. She runs out of her house and goes to Caroline’s office, only to overhear her best friend having an anxious phone conversation with James, in which she says that Sophie has been asking difficult questions and that they should get their stories straight. Realizing that she has nobody else to believe in, Sophie finally asks Baden for help, as she knows the officer has been following her around for some time now.

Baden takes her to his house and explains how he, too, has evidence about the false nature of James’ alibi. However, he says that he is only building up the case and cannot take any action yet as the rest of the evidence is still circumstantial. He also reveals to Sophie that she has a burner phone, one through which she used to keep in touch with him before their accident. After finding the phone in her closet, and going through all the text messages between the two, Sophie realizes that she was actually having a serious romantic affair with Baden, and she had also earlier understood that the video of themselves making love that she had shot was actually shot in her and James’ vacation home in Marin. Now much more interested in uncovering this side of her, Sophie walks into an SFPD office and asks for Baden, only to be told that there exists no police officer named Thomas Baden. Her confusion is quickly removed by Baden himself, though, who reveals that he is actually an undercover police officer who is not actually looking into any case of a possible homicide, for there exists no such case, but is investigating James only because he is the lover of Sophie and is almost sure that her husband had tried to kill her. The two head over to a bar, another one that Baden and Sophie used to frequent during their affair, and Baden reveals how they had accidentally met each other and since then had only grown closer and fallen in love. Sophie used to tell him how detached and stuck she used to feel in James’ life and his rich corporate world with rich, snobbish friends, and that she would actually find a lot of comfort with Baden as she could relate more to him. A day or two later, Caroline appears at Sophie’s house, wanting to talk to her since she had been ignoring her best friend’s calls since hearing her speaking with James. Caroline now admits that she had seen her leave the office and reveals that her and James’ marriage was not always very happy and that they were having a tough time recently. One major reason for this was that Caroline herself was having an affair with James, and the woman somewhat felt responsible for maybe pushing Sophie towards her suicide attempt. The best friend also shares that Sophie had called her on the very morning of the incident, and had even left her a message, which she had ignored at the time. Asking to hear this message, Sophie hears herself telling Caroline that she and James had possibly had an argument and that he had only just left the boat, and Sophie wanted Caroline’s help with something. This most definitely puts James on the, or at least in the vicinity of the, crime scene. Along with this, Sophie also learns that a massive amount of money has gone missing from the investment firm James works for, and an investigation for embezzlement has left James quite tense. The woman adds all this up in her mind, and sees this as a possible motive for James to possibly try to kill her—that he might have stolen the money from his workplace and she might have known about it, for which he wanted to kill her. With all this on her mind, Sophie meets Baden on the streets, where he tells her that she can only trust one man and one side from now on, and Sophie chooses to trust the police officer, and kisses him.

How Does James Ellis Fit Into The Suspect’s Role Till Now?

From the very beginning of “Surface,” James has been looking rather suspicious and full of secrets. Despite his loving and caring attitude towards his wife, there seems to be something deeper and more sinister underneath. Firstly, he is too controlling of his wife’s actions, even to the extent of telling her what clothes to wear and what all does not look good on her. The fact that he had taken over all financial control of Sophie also does not appear very nice either, as it further stamps his controlling characteristic. Although it is true that Sophie’s accident and health did not allow her to make her own decisions, James had chosen to never tell his wife about this major step he had taken, even after she was back to health and was fit enough to go around on her own. When Sophie and Caroline had gone over for the weekend trip, James kept a stern and careful eye on the actions of his wife through the innumerable security cameras that the vacation house had. This also seems to have been the reason why he suggested they go to Marin in the first place.

Furthermore, as seen in “Surface” episode 3, James now tries to get into Sophie’s iPad after learning that she is gradually getting her memory back, and he tries a whole list of passwords that he could come up with, but does not succeed so far. There definitely seem to have been unpleasant times between the couple before the incident, as James tells a friend of his that Sophie’s survival to him is like a second chance for their whole relationship. From “Surface” episode 2 onwards, we get to hear of the possible embezzlement case in James’ firm, in which some millions of dollars had been withdrawn from someone, and no trace of the money could now be found. With the way the series presents James in scenes related to this, it is perhaps quite evident that it is James who has taken this money.

Finally, at the end of “Surface” episode 3, he does reveal to his friend that he has done something terrible; that he has made a bad investment and is now stuck in a messy situation. From what James tells his friend, it appears that he had invested that money in a place that ultimately did not bring any returns, and he is now scared to face the investigation. The man’s words and actions with regard to his wife’s accident also seem extremely dubious, as his alibi has actually been proven to be false. Baden had bribed a valet to hack into James’ car and bring him all the information about the man’s location history, and from such records, it was certain that James was indeed close to the harbor when Sophie had apparently jumped into the water to kill herself. So far, it does seem like James Ellis has been conspiring against his wife for some time now, and the possible motive is also the same as what Sophie thinks it to be. But, of course, “Surface” has only just begun, and the show seems like one to pack more surprises in its plot than put intricacy in its treatment, and so, it wouldn’t be too shocking if James is actually absolved of such doubts in the coming episodes. 

What To Expect Next From ‘Surface’ Episode 4?

As of now, “Surface” episode 4 might probably stress the events occurring on the two sides—Sophie and Baden carrying out their private investigation into James’ actions and intentions, while James is being investigated for embezzlement at his office. In the last episode, Baden’s superior makes it very clear that there cannot be any case against James since the evidence collected was done illegally and, therefore, cannot be produced in court, and asks Baden to concentrate on his own case. It would be interesting to see how Sophie develops her relationship with this man, and whether she remembers anything more from her past in this regard. The woman’s real identity, as that of Tess, looks to be a very crucial part of her memory, and whether that is explored some more in the next episode would be something to look forward to.

See More: ‘Surface’ Episode 4: Recap And Ending, Explained – How Does Sophie Uncover Her Husband’s Crimes?

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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