TV Review: ‘Behind Her Eyes’ is Netflix at its best, worst, and most WTF
The mad, chaotic energy of Behind Her Eyes feels almost like a practical joke, the kind of prank you’d expect to end with an epilogue featuring a drunk Ashton Kutcher explaining that this, in fact, a simulation. But no, Behind Her Eyes, from creator Steve Lightfoot (NBC’s Hannibal, Netflix’s The Punisher), is absolutely a real, attainable Netflix limited series that demands to be seen before it can possibly be believed.
It’s hard to deny how quickly and swiftly Netflix has swooped in to essentially dominate pop culture conversations on an almost weekly basis. While they don’t have water-cooler successes more than once every couple of months or so, they have enough output at this point to sustain a steady diet of movies and TV shows suited for just about every type of subscriber, which makes a new psychological thriller series like “Behind Her Eyes” feel all the more extraordinary for its very existence, though you wouldn’t guess it just a couple episodes into its slick, almost norm-core British aesthetic.
Based on a 2017 novel of the same name by Sarah Pinborough, Behind Her Eyes is about a burgeoning love affair between a single mother named Louise (Simona Brown) and her employer David (Tom Bateman), though the two actually meet each other the night before Louise realizes he’s her new boss (and a psychiatrist). There’s an instant connection, but Louise soon discovers that David is married to Adele (Eve Hewson), a socially awkward housewife currently on a cabinet full of meds. Despite Louise’s interest in David, she strikes a secret friendship with Adele that makes about as much sense as the show’s frequent dips into otherworldly meta realms that make Pixar’s Soul look like a documentary.
Before long, Louise gets completely sucked into David and Adele’s twisted lives, and with each episode in this 6-part series, we learn more and more about the unhappy couple’s dark and sordid past. Without giving anything away, the show’s exploration of, let’s say “properties,” beyond what you would normally define within proper reality get pushed to some bizarre limits. And by the end, “Behind Her Eyes” becomes the type of show you have to discuss and dissect in every degree possible if you hope to reckon with it, and chances are you probably won’t.
The implications behind what Behind Her Eyes defines as its resolution (if you can even call it that) are so dense and so convoluted, it’s hard to believe such a concept made it onto a streaming platform as accessible and mainstream as Netflix, though that’s perhaps testimony to the streaming service’s commitment to letting wild source material like this fly free without so much as a studio note, for better or worse. There will likely be a firm camp of people who walk away from “Behind Her Eyes” decrying it as an abomination unto communities who deserve far better when it comes to representation, while others might consider it a welcome example of how far the world has progressed when it comes to the normalized politics of problematic people.
Getting into the show itself, about 75% of it is your standard Netflix fare of intrigue, melodrama, and character relationships made more interesting by the show’s reliance on metaphysical world-building, specifically the idea of how we can control our dreams and unlock mindfulness like some kind of superpower. This comes in handy for Louise throughout the show, as she struggles to balance her night terrors with trying to be a decent mom who gets to mess up every once in a while.
To be clear, the problems in Behind Her Eyes aren’t just in its provocative nature around the final episode. No, the show is certainly a bit trite in its handling of flashbacks and major reveals, most of which are either unsurprising or underwhelming. For much of the show, your imagination will probably conjure up explanations and backstory that far outshine the actual reasons for why David and Adele have gotten to this place of unrelenting dread in their marriage. Only the final twist is difficult to see coming, but that’s only because the show doesn’t really do anything to set it up (it quite literally comes out of nowhere). Even while binging the show, it’s pretty easy to see where this narrative is headed and what some characters are really up to, so when the ending finally comes, it lands with a bit of a thud. That said, it ends on quite a staggering cliffhanger for what is purported to be a limited series. If Netflix green-lights a second season — and it’s pretty likely they will considering its instant popularity in the U.S. — perhaps these characters will finally get the second chance they so clearly crave.
Behind Her Eyes is now available to stream exclusively on Netflix.