Owen Michaels in The Last Thing He Told Me is the embodiment of what people who love hard do for their loved ones. Olivia Newman’s show on Apple+, based on the novel by Laura Dave, tells the story of Hannah Hall, a woman who has to go on a mission with her stepdaughter Bailey after Bailey’s father and Hannah’s husband, Owen Michaels, go missing. We don’t see Owen for most of the miniseries, except for the memories of him that Hannah relives. It’s his memories and the time Hannah spent with him that drives her to make most of the decisions, which ultimately end up doing exactly what Owen wanted—ensuring his daughter had a good life. We see him only once at the very end, and he leaves Hannah with a cryptic message. Let’s look at Owen Michaels and explore how far a man can go for his love, as shown in this miniseries.
Love is a crazy, dangerous thing, and people have been known to go to extreme lengths for a loved one or to fulfill the promises made to them. Owen Michaels in The Last Thing He Told Me was no different because he loved too deeply and too passionately. Although most of Owen’s life remains shrouded in mystery for the better part of the Apple+ miniseries, when his real identity comes to light, we see the extent to which he went for his love. Owen Michaels was born Ethan Young, and he fell in love with Katherine Smith, daughter of Nicholas Bell. The thing about Nicholas is that he was the mob lawyer of the Campano family, a brutal organization that punished betrayal with death. However, Nicholas’s professional life never cast a shadow on Ethan or Katherine’s lives, and they even had a beautiful daughter together named Kristin. Things took a horribly wrong turn when Katherine was killed in a hit-and-run one week after her father refused to accept a case from the Campanos.
Here came the turning point in Ethan’s life, and his unbridled love turned into uncontrolled rage and hatred against anyone and everyone who could be implicated in his wife’s murder. Ethan was convinced it was a murder and the Campanos were to blame. Ethan turned state witness and sent eight Campano family members to jail, but his father-in-law refused to play ball, and he followed his employers behind bars. This isn’t where Ethan’s anger ended, though. After Katherine, if there was anyone he loved more than life itself, it was the daughter Katherine left behind, Kristin. Determined not to let Kristin’s innocence be marred by the criminal underbelly her grandfather was a part of, Ethan uprooted Kristin from her family and then disappeared from the earth. Well, sort of. He changed his name and identity, as well as that of his daughter, and moved to a totally different state so that the two of them would never be bothered by his past life again. He took on the name Owen Michaels, and his daughter, Kristin, was dropped for Bailey, and the father-daughter duo settled in Sausalito, San Francisco. Bell considered his son-in-law selfish, rash, and irrational for doing things out of spite and wanting to “blame somebody.” However, from Owen’s perspective, losing the woman he loved more than himself because her father was involved with crime lords deserves someone getting punished for the same. Owen didn’t care about the fallout, nor did he think of the consequences; he sought revenge, something people do when blinded by their strongest emotions. In this way, love and anger can be seen as two sides of the same coin.
After settling down in a different state, ten years went by, and Owen gave love another chance with a woodturner named Hannah Hall. They quickly fell in love and got married because Owen knew that the hole in his heart that Katherine had left could be filled by Hannah, even though his daughter Bailey wasn’t fond of the new woman. Whoever Owen loved, he did so with passion, as Hannah recalled, looking at her wedding ring. Since she was a woodturner, Owen had handcrafted their wedding rings by woodturning since it was something she was passionate about. With the good and bad, life rolled on for the three of them until Owen’s software company came under FBI investigation, and Owen fell off the grid again. However, he didn’t abandon his wife and daughter; for the last ten years, he’d scraped away and collected a fund of $500,000 that he left for Bailey. For his wife, he couldn’t do much because of how suddenly he’d escaped, so instead, he sent a note to her, asking Hannah to protect his daughter, Bailey.
Hannah does protect Bailey against all odds and, in the end, wins over the truant teen’s heart so much that Bailey comes to call Hannah “mom.” Five years after Owen disappeared, one day at an exhibition of Hannah’s woodturning creations, a man with a long beard turned up and surprised her. It was Hannah’s husband, Owen, and he whispered in her ears that her could-have-been boys loved her still. This was a man who wanted to settle in a place far away, just with Hannah, and spend their time in each other’s joyous company. However, in the end, he’d have to escape to keep the ghosts of his past from rising again. Realizing that his wife had waited for his return fruitlessly, he gave up on his love so that she could find solace with someone else.
Owen used to call Hannah’s exes “could-have-been boys,” the ones she had met before him or would have married if she hadn’t met Owen. Through these words, he wanted to remind her that there was a possibility of love and relationship even if he wasn’t there with her anymore, and for her own happiness, he wanted her to move on or try to explore what life has to offer. Being able to love to the fullest means sacrificing for the sake of the loved ones, and this is something Owen understood to the fullest; he knew it’d be selfish to make Hannah hold on to hopes of him returning. Hence, he asked her to move ahead with someone who’d love and cherish her like she deserved, even if it meant him never being able to hold or see her again. As it turns out, the last thing that Owen told Hannah was, in a way, to find love in her life again.