(Massive spoilers for Behind Her Eyes, including the ending, will be found below.)
Netflix made last weekend a big one for “complicated” lady characters with the return of deranged Rosamund Pike in I Care A Lot (a dark comedy that mostly hit the mark) and various characters in the Behind Her Eyes (a limited series that aimed to be genre-bending but feels like genre-trolling). The former story remained grounded in reality because, seriously, I really do not want Rosamund Pike to approach me in several decades and declare that she’s my legal guardian. We also saw a surprise ending where Rosamund’s character got exactly what she deserved (although being business partners with gangster Peter Dinklage can’t be all bad). Whereas the latter story seemed initially thrilling, but oh boy, the finale was not good. What started like a cautionary tale with delightful trashiness turned into something else, and it wasn’t a fun roller-coaster of twists that served a purpose. Instead, the finale drove like a semi-truck that veered off a highway, screeched down a cliff, and skidded into the ocean.
Behind Her Eyes transformed from a semi-enjoyable infidelity thriller into supernatural shenanigans. We were supposed to believe that the “astroplaning” of souls could explain trashing the series-long premise of an unstable, jilted, stalker-y, medicated-by-her-probably-gaslighting-husband woman, who felt destined to burn it all down at the end. She did that, only Adele wasn’t really Adele; she was Rob. And then Louise wasn’t Louise; she was Rob, too. There was some bonkers body-snatching going on all along, and David-the-abusive-husband was suddenly a victim, married to two different women who were really Rob? It’s not a good look; in fact, there are homophobic shades in crafting the story’s true villain as an inexplicably vindictive gay junkie, who made a habit of inhabiting women’s bodies to have sex with the man of his dreams.
Not only did all of that happen, but the ending aims to be a clever “gotcha” and turns into an enormous mess. This presumed (for nearly five episodes) to be the tale of a single mom’s (Louise) observations that made us alternatingly fear and sympathize with Adele, who’s the wife of David, a passive-aggressive psychiatrist. He’s a philanderer and hooked up with Louise, who was unaware of his married state until the next morning, when he turned out to be her new boss. Louise kept sleeping with him despite befriending Adele, and the entire trio was shady as hell. Adele seemed suspicious, David seemed terrorizing, and Louise was, at best, selfish with seriously bad judgment (she believed she could save Adele despite secretly betraying her supposed friend).
Then there’s all that damn astroplaning. Everyone can astroplane in this show except for David (that cad!). All of the other souls got to have fun while he was glowering in the corner. We didn’t know why he was glowering (and later, this did not make sense), but we ended up with a double-twist that hoped to be a double-gotcha but turned into a double-laugh from the rafters. It’s a body-snatching story that’s even sketcher than the way Wonder Woman 1984 brought back Steve Trevor, and Behind Her Eyes doesn’t pull off any delicious; rather it’s a confounding show that makes no sense for the following reasons:
– Rob betrayed Adele, who would have done anything for him. This was a weird one, and it reminded me of Season 3 of The Crown‘s portrayal of Michael Fagan, who snuck into Buckingham Palace and into the Queen’s bedroom. A lot of creative license went into that portrayal with Fagan re-written as a working-poor man who could barely survive under Margaret Thatcher’s economic policies. Adele’s a lot like the Queen here: wealthy and empathetic yet, suddenly, she’s murdered by Rob, who steals her life, so he doesn’t have to go back to his miserable one. (Not incidentally, both The Crown and Behind Her Eyes were produced by Left Bank Pictures, so yep, this is all pretty eerie.)
– A trio of unlikable characters all turned out to be victims, and the funny/likable dude was the villain. Nope, I’m not buying it. After several hours of watching David cheating on his wife; Adele stalking the lover; Louise f*cking both husband and wife over; we’re supposed to feel sorry for all of them. All of this happened after we saw Adele-Rob shove Rob-Adele’s body into a well; Adele-Rob scaring the hell out of a cafe owner (and spraypainting “SLUT” inside this woman’s home) because she was nice to David; and Adele-Rob passive-aggressively chopping veggies while finding amusement in surreptitiously shooting up with heroin and astroplaning all over the place for sh*ts and giggles. Adele, David, and Louise all act like terrible people, but the true evil display is Rob stealing bodies and f*cking with people, like when Rob (as Adele) purposely upset David with forest murals to remind him of the murder-well scene.
– Those final moments? Get outta here. Behind Her Eyes tried to paint itself into an ending similar to Jordan Peele’s Us, where a child recognizes that there’s clearly something amiss about his mother, that she’s inhabited by a presence other than her true self. Yet where Peele’s ending stood as commentary about how the “Other”-ness that Americans fear can essentially be found in ourselves, Behind Our Eyes contains no such profundity. Instead, it’s simply infuriating. God only knows how many more bodies Rob will inhabit over time, or whether producers will decide to extend this limited series with a second round, in which Rob finds more victims to stalk and possess while David’s unzipping his fly all over London. Enough!
– Am I taking all of this too seriously? Perhaps, but it’s not cool to claim “genre-bending” as an excuse to move into the body-snatching sub-genre essentially without warning. It’s also a little disheartening when an apparently schlocky limited series, which is supposed to be fun, carries a scandalous air for several episodes before pulling a hard-right turn into an unbelievable (and yes, problematic) ending. Maybe we should do away with body-snatching stories in 2021 altogether. No good can come of removing people’s agency and sexual consent while doing the deed. Also, here’s another real crime: Rob butchering the hair of every woman he possesses. Not fantastic, man.
— Yagazie Emezi (@YagazieEmezi) February 21, 2021
‘Behind Her Eyes’ is currently streaming on Netflix.