Behind Her Eyes

5 out of 5

Created by: Steve Lightfoot

As the mysteries of Behind Her Eyes unfurled before me during its six episodes, I started ticking off the faults I would address in an eventual review: that it plays a bit too cagily with its secrets; that some of the interpersonal dynamics between and around its leads feels sometimes unsatisfyingly designed; and that both of these things add to and prevent a deeper exploration of those characters. Yeah, I had this show’s ticket punched, and I see what it’s doing with its glimpsed curiosities and cliffhangers, mixing a quirky romantic triangle – Louise (Simona Brown) falls for her boss David (Tom Bateman), while also becoming besties with David’s wife, Adele (Eve Hewson) – with an undercurrent of unspoken dangers, crafting ye olde “erotic thriller.” Nitpicking away, ready for whichever shoe to drop.

After having finished the show, and not having necessarily reversed my feelings as stated, I’m swung around to a wholly positive opinion on it: because if you know what you’re doing from start to finish – the boon of a limited series, that’s not wishy-washily asking for a sequel – these limitations are totally fine, because creator Steve Lightfoot, his co-writer Angela LaManna, and Erik Richter Strand approached their material realizing that not everything needs to have deeper meaning. A duck – an erotic thriller duck – can just be a duck. And then you can push the conceptions of what, exactly, that genre can hold, and you turn out something that’s supremely original, while playing with all of its genre tropes.

The confidence in the material is key, but so was casting: Brown makes Louise supremely likable but with believable flaws; Bateman gives David a fluid portrayal that makes him sympathetic as a cheater – his marriage may be falling apart – but then also quite frightening when things turn toward the “thriller” part of things; and Hewson is this awesome wild card, clearly at the center of everything in some way, but mixes her role with guile and innocence such that her willful mysteriousness never becomes obnoxious, but also isn’t over-forcefully charming. The well-roundedness of each of their portrayals – while also staying within their lanes as their archetypes in the triangle – goes a long way toward keeping us entertained while Behind Her Eyes mostly acts normally for a few episodes. This is a pretty brave move: most shows / movies want to give us some spoiler glimpse of what we’re in for right away, but Lightfoot and team play it pretty straight. We suspect that Evie bumping in to Louise isn’t coincidence, and that she probably knows something is up when Louise and David get together, but that’s the game. The cryptic imagery that’s occasionally inserted and addition of Louise’s night terrors start to give things a bit odder of a shape, but again – par for the course, waiting for a knife to pop up somewheres and twist.

Maybe around this time is when you’ll start to question the things I did – the shallowness and etcetera. But also around this time is when things start to get a little weirder, digging in to Adele’s past, and maybe whatever forthcoming twist will be a bit more devious than we would’ve assumed. So keep watching.

And then it keeps changing, and keeps pushing things a little further off the map…

Personally, I love when something takes its time to well establish one direction, and then decides to take another, but I can understand when that comes across differently for others, perhaps accounting for the rather mundane reception the show seemed to receive. However, if you’re able to go in cold, and make your own assumptions about what’s what – playing along with the show as, I believe, its creators intended – I think it can be a brilliant piece of entertainment, rather refreshingly “simplistic” in the sense that it’s solely out to entertain, but then putting all of its energy in to finding the most effective path to do so. And, for me, succeeding.