Saturday, April 10, 2021

Behind Her Eyes: Netflix Series Review

Behind Her Eyes

Netflix Series Review


Carolynn Kingyens

Warning, some spoilers are mentioned.

Recently, my husband had asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and without hesitation, my reply was simply, “a mom’s weekend.” The pandemic, in addition to remote schooling, has been hard for children and parents alike, especially when you all live in a cozy New York City apartment, including a dog and a cat, with parents who work from home as well. In addition to remote schooling, I’m cooking breakfast, lunch, dinner, and preparing snacks and drinks throughout the day, on demand. Alone time, during the pandemic, has become the ultimate luxury. And watching a trending show on Netflix, a near impossibility.

So with my husband and two daughters away having fun at a water resort in Pennsylvania, I settled into the next 48 hours with a plethora of possibilities. First on my agenda was watching a Netflix show while giving myself an in-home facial, always multitasking. I’d narrowed my choices down to three, which included the new Biggie documentary, I Got a Story to Tell, the Cecil Hotel documentary, what really happened to Elisa Lam anyway? and the much talked about, Behind Her Eyes. It was a hard choice, but decided to binge-watch Behind Her Eyes, a series based on Sarah Pinborough’s psychological thriller of the same name. The series stars the beautiful British actress, Simona Brown, along with the equally beautiful, Eve Hewson, Bono’s daughter of U2 fame, and the handsome British actor, Tom Bateman.

Behind Her Eyes is a bizarre love triangle that begins when Louise (Simona Brown) has a serendipitous run-in with David Ferguson (Tom Bateman) at a busy bar one evening, after her date bails on her. Louise is a single mother to a sweet seven-year-old son named Adam, played by impressive child actor, Tyler Howitt, and rarely has alone time as well. So when Louise accidentally spills her drink on David, she orders him a drink at the bar to compensate. They begin to chat, and there seems to be an immediate spark between the two. When they leave the bar together, they end up sharing a passionate kiss right outside before stopping and then leaving in opposite directions. Harmless, right? That’s what I thought, too, until the next day when Louise sees a glimpse of David with his regal-looking wife, Adele (Eve Hewson) sitting inside one of the psychologist’s offices where she works as an assistant three days a week. She learns from fellow assistant, Sue, actress Georgie Glen, that Dr. David Ferguson is now her new hot boss, and is married. What are the odds?

What the series does so well is the clever way it implants Easter eggs inside each episode. One such Easter egg, in the first episode, hints at David and Adele’s strained ten-year marriage, when after they arrive home from a dinner party hosted by David’s new colleagues, fellow psychologists, they become intimate. I use the word “intimate” loosely here. In fact, when Adele grabs his hand to lead him upstairs to their bedroom, David says something to the effect of just this one time. They start out in the missionary position until Adele tells David she loves him, which makes David stomach turn in disgust, and they soon change sexual positions so David no longer has to look Adele in the face. Ouch!

David begins to have a steamy love affair with his beautiful and very likeable assistant, Louise. Their love-making, simply put, is WOW, off the charts, especially when juxtaposed with he and Adele in the first episode. David’s newfound happiness with Louise is palpable. He begins to sleep in the guest bedroom, and comes home late at night and leaves early in the morning to avoid having to interact with his sad, yet beautiful wife.

One day, Adele bumps into Louise, quite literally, on her way home from dropping Adam off at school, and the two decide to have coffee at a nearby cafĂ©. Louise continues her affair with David while simultaneously developing an on-going friendship with David’s wife, Adele, unbeknownst to him, with the two of them often working out together, sharing a few laughs and even a few secrets. One such secret Louise shares is her terrifying night terrors, including some serious sleepwalking episodes. Adele opens up a little about her own bout with night terrors, and then gives Louise a blood red-colored journal that had once belonged to her good friend, Rob, who’d struggled with night terrors as well. Rob has cracked the code on how to beat night terrors and written his techniques down in the journal. Adele promises Louise that she, too, will finally have power over them. Intrigued, she takes Rob’s journal back home with her, and begins reading it.

It’s during the reading of Rob’s journal that the origin of Rob and Adele’s relationship is revealed. They’d met at a psychological boarding facility of sorts, a mental hospital more or less. Adele has just lost her parents to a fire and has sleep issues of her own while Rob has a heroin addiction combined with daily night terrors, a bad combination. Soon, Adele and Rob become best friends. And before they go their separate ways – Adele back to her partially burnt castle in the remote English countryside with her dashing Scottish prince, David, waiting for her and Rob back to his shitty life living with his sister and her boyfriend in a small public housing flat, shooting heroin everyday.

Rob’s night terrors always involve being chased by bloodthirsty zombies. Then one day he looks down at his hands, and realizes he is dreaming. He then visualizes an escape door, which he boldly walks right through and finds himself suddenly in his happy place –with pretty Adele in her castle-garden. Rob is finally in control, and he enjoys it very much.

The dream sequences in the series fascinates me since I’ve experienced sleep paralysis on several occasions, which is a whole other animal, but equally terrifying as night terrors. According to the Sleep Foundation’s website, “sleep paralysis is a condition identified by a brief loss of muscle control, known as atonia, that happens just after falling asleep or waking up. In addition to atonia, people often have hallucinations during episodes of sleep paralysis.” Many people, myself included, who have experienced sleep paralysis report feeling an ominous presence in the room with them.

Coincidentally, I’ve recently experienced my first lucid dream. Like Rob, I, too, looked down at my hands in my dream-state, and realized that I was, in fact, dreaming while still inside of an active dream. It’s beyond trippy. I remember walking down some suburban street in my dream when I noticed these dead, dry pointy leaves on the ground in front of me so I scooped them up with both hands and squeezed them, causing me pain. And when I stared down at my hands, after feeling the pain sensation from the dead, pointy leaves, I’d said to myself aloud, “This is a dream.” Then right ahead of me was a foggy mist so I decided to run as fast as I could, then I started to take flight just like Superman. It was amazing. I was flying, free and weightless. But I digress.

From reading Rob’s journal, Louise, too, learns how to control her dreams. She learns about a second door in her dreams, which allows her to astral project. The first time Louise astral projects she goes into her neighbor’s flat across the hall from her own. Her kind neighbor, and sometimes babysitter, is engrossed in an episode of Absolutely Fabulous on the telly, Brit slang for TV. The color of her astral state is a luminescent shade of green. When Adam can’t wake Louise because she’s on the Astral plane, he begins to cry out. Hearing her son’s cries prompts her to race back, in her astral state, to his bed, where she had fallen asleep next to him. She finally wakes up to her young son’s relief.

This is when some major plot twists begin to unfold, and we learn that it’s Adele, not Rob, who can astral project and control her dreams. She, in fact, taught Rob and not the other way around. Rob’s journal contains the secrets that Adele generously shares with him that not only helps him control his night terrors, but later helps him to astral project as well, allowing him to go essentially anywhere, temporarily escaping his shitty day-life. The only caveat to going anywhere is one must have visited the location beforehand in order to visualize it on the astral plane - cue to Adele’s visit to Louise’s flat early on in their friendship, and the odd way she walks from room to room while Louise’s back is turned as if she is scoping out her place.

Towards the end of the series, David wisely warns Louise to stay away from Adele, saying he doesn’t know how she knows everything she does. Unlike David, we’re, by now, clued in on Adele’s superpower, and how she’s able to become quasi-omnipresent. And the final few twists are nothing short of mind-blowing.

If you enjoy a good psychological thriller, and who doesn’t, then I recommend Netflix’s Behind Her Eyes. You will be mulling over this series for days to come, and may find yourself, too, browsing Reddit’s Behind Her Eyes sub-chats at 2 am, obsessively reading over viewer comments, who’d found even more hidden Easter eggs like that lone, sad-looking pigeon with a splash of bright green tint on its neck.

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