Aisha Tyler Plays Gay Again in “The Last Thing He Told Me”

It’s only by accident that I started watching The Last Thing He Told Me and discovered Aisha Tyler once again gracing our screens as a queer character. I was in Boston visiting my parents and happened to be in the same room as my dad when he popped on episode four of this miniseries. By the end of the episode, not only was I excited to meet Aisha Tyler’s character Jules and her girlfriend Max, I was so hooked that I went back and watched the first three episodes (then rewatched the fourth, now with 100% more context) because there was a mystery unfolding and I wanted all the clues.

The story of this novel-turned-miniseries is about Jennifer Garner’s character, Hannah, whose husband goes missing right before his company comes under scrutiny for shady business behavior (please don’t ask me follow up questions about this.) She’s left with nothing but a note imploring her to protect her step-daughter, Bailey, and a boatload of questions.

Hannah and Bailey stand in a stadium

Fun fact: Bailey is played by Angourie Rice, who played queer in Mare of Easttown and will be Cady in the upcoming Mean Girls the Movie the Musical the Movie.

Aisha Tyler plays Jules, Hannah’s best friend, who has, along with her partner Max, become close with Hannah and her husband, and who do what they can to help Hannah solve the mystery. They’re both journalists, and in fact, they’re the ones who gave Hannah’s husband the head’s up that her company was about to be investigated. Hannah’s investigation takes her and Bailey to Austin and Jules ends up being her woman-on-the-ground back in California.

Aisha Tyler's Jules is on the phone

Jules and Hannah talked on the phone more in this miniseries than I have with all of my friends combined in the past five years.

What’s fun about Jules is that, not only is she reportedly used more in the show than she was in the book, but in the book her Max was a male coworker she has a crush on, while on the show Max is a female coworker she’s in a long-term relationship with, played by queer actor Tyner Rushing. It’s a subtle change that doesn’t have any bearing on the story but has a lot of bearing to me as a queer audience member. Especially knowing Aisha Tyler herself is queer, and is just off a stint of playing queer on Criminal Minds. It just adds another dimension to this character that could easily have been written off as a side character with no discernable traits, but details like this and also Aisha Tyler’s performance make her feel real and three-dimensional. Even Bailey, who starts the show being cold and standoffish to Hannah, loves her gay aunts Jules and Max.

Max and Hannah

Perk of gender-neutral names: Gender-swapping from book to TV is extra easy.

There’s also something that feels familiar to the queer experience in the overall story itself. I won’t give away the clues or answers to the questions that unfold, but I will tell you that at the top of the show, Hannah and Bailey do NOT get along, but as they work together to solve the mysteries that turned their life upside down in an instant, they have to learn to trust each other. Bailey is just a teenager trying to figure out who the hell she is in this life, and all this new information being thrust at her sure isn’t helping. But even though they don’t share blood, she’s starting to see Hannah as family as she sees how she looks after her, even though she arguably doesn’t have to.

For being classified as a “thriller” by Wikipedia and IMDb (and classified as more of a “mystery” by me) the show is full of heart, largely because of Jennifer Garner’s naturally gentle nature. I just feel like if she told me everything was going to be okay I’d actually believe it. She’s not really old enough to be my mother but I’d take her as a step-mom any day. (Also, any Alias fans will be pleased to know that there’s a brief stint in which she’s reunited with Victor Garber!)

Hannah in overalls without a shirt under them, exposing her perfect arms

Also: Jennifer Garner’s character does woodwork and thus shows off her ARMS a lot. They’re great arms.

There are a lot of women involved in this show – the author of the book had a heavy hand in adapting her story for Apple TV+, Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Garner were among the 4 female executive producers listed of 5 (the 5th being the author’s husband, who co-wrote episodes with her), and all 7 episodes were directed by women, including directors who have worked on other queer faves like Yellowjackets and The Sex Lives of College Girls. And I think it shows, that so many women were involved; even though Jennifer Garner’s character’s entire arc was technically about her husband and his life and secrets and disappearance, she was never defined by him. From the beginning she had more character traits and personality than “Owen’s wife.” Hell, even Hannah’s friend’s girlfriend had more personality and stake in the story than most TV characters’ girlfriends ever do.

I don’t think I would have given this show a chance if left to my own devices, because it seems very suburban straight mom book club at first glance, which is an extremely valid genre, just not one I tend to gravitate toward. But I’m glad I stumbled upon it, and I won’t be so quick to write off stories like it in the future. And in fact, I’ve been diving into a lot of Apple TV+ shows lately, and will continue to report back my queer findings.

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Valerie Anne

Just a TV-loving, Twitter-addicted nerd who loves reading, watching, and writing about stories. One part Kara Danvers, two parts Waverly Earp, a dash of Cosima and an extra helping of my own brand of weirdo.

Valerie has written 550 articles for us.

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