Hannibal writer and producer, Steve Lightfoot, doesn’t hold back on the spookiness with his latest psychological thriller, Behind Her Eyes.
At first glance, it seems as though this new Netflix series simply follows a predictable and familiar love affair storyline. Yet, by the third episode, the show is transformed into an undeniably fascinating adventure that offers twists and turns at every corner.
The main protagonist of Behind Her Eyes is Louise “Lou” Barnsley (Simona Brown), a single mother living in the heart of London. The first episode opens with an incredibly all-too-relatable montage of Lou getting dressed for a night out. Her son, Adam, interrupts her while she goes back and forth between outfits. She’s dancing her way into a dress when he judgingly asks her, “What are you doing?”
This comedic relief was seamless and the audience could instantly connect with Lou. It’s this connection that entrances the viewer through all of the dark plotlines she falls victim to.
With Adam left in the hands of Lou’s neighbor, she heads off to a local bar, skeptical of whether or not she’s overdressed for the friend gathering. It’s quickly revealed that her friend has stood her up and that’s when we’re introduced to the troublesome but dreamy Scottish man, David (Tom Bateman).
While Lou is rushing out of the bar, she collides with David and his drink spills everywhere. Lou ends up buying him a new drink — a Macallan, a drink costing 12 pounds (equal to about $17) — and the two hit it off, exchanging a kiss at the end of the night before going their own ways.
The two are instantly shippable, David has a strange but irresistible energy. He’s closed-off but witty and seems genuinely interested in Lou’s stories. At this moment, the general premise feels rather predictable.
The next day, Lou arrives at work where she is the right-hand man at a mental services office and she heads to greet their new psychiatrist, revealed to be David. And of course, he’s touring the building with his wife Adele (Eve Hewson).
This limited series only has six episodes, each clocking in a little under an hour. While the show’s underlying plot appears to be a major cliche— Girl meets Boy, Boy kisses Girl, Boy is married, Boy and Girl start an affair— this British series takes a strange twist.
Throughout the thriller, it is clear that there is something odd about David and Adele’s marriage. They are rich and pristine, she wears these trendy monochromatic outfits and he’s a successful and caring doctor — a patient’s favorite. However, when their front door closes, their relationship troubles are overwhelming and it ends up saturating their interactions with each other and others.
Adele behaves almost robotically and takes multiple pills prescribed by David and under his close watch. He routinely calls to check in on her, making sure to call the house phone and not her cell phone, just to ensure that she’s not out and about.
Adele appears lonely and desperate for human connection, bombarding Lou on multiple occasions to take her to the gym or to grab meals.
They become friends and Lou confides in her that she experiences vivid night terrors. These terrors play out on the screen in eye-catching colors and show the imagery of pills falling out of someone’s hand and her son, Adam, screaming for help.
On one occasion, while Dream Lou was rushing to help her son, Real-Life Lou was sleepwalking and ended up scarily resurfacing outside on her ledge. Through Lou’s issue, we get to know Rob (Robert Aramayo), an old acquaintance of Adele.
A long time ago, Rob and Adele met in a rehabilitation hospital and he experienced similar terrors as Lou. To remedy Lou, Adele passes on Rob’s journal where he wrote his methods for coping and shares in detail how he’d “do anything” for Adele.
As the story develops, Lou is at a standstill between finding herself a life outside of mothering and continuing to be a responsible person— one that doesn’t have affairs while lying to their friends.
Her son, Adam, is away with her ex-husband and his new partner for a month-long vacation to France, and Lou is overdue for an “Eat, Pray, Love” journey of her own. Split between her newfound friendship with Adele and her passionate affair with David, she tries to have them both which, as one could predict, ends up coming back to haunt her (quite literally).
Adele is discovered to be a monstrous person who has a history of threatening and mentally tormenting others, and Lou is no exception. To everybody’s surprise, Lou refuses to give in without a fight even after being advised by another victim to “get away as fast as she can”.
What could’ve been a classic “been there, done that” story was completely transformed throughout Behind Her Eyes. The audience is given a front-row seat into the night terrors of both Lou and Rob, the latter of which is shown through flashbacks. This takes its viewers through multiple sequences of overdoses and monster attacks.
The show also drops a paranormal bombshell in the last few episodes, one that manages to be flushed out in such great detail that the series is fit to bear the responsibility of creating their own fictional universe.
Additionally, it employs stunning cinematography and aesthetics. As Lou goes through the motions and Rob’s journal tells the dark story of his drug addiction and his obsessive relationship with Adele, the show is able to experiment with many different settings.
The gloomy moments are dark and shadowy, with many taking place in a haunted house or amidst the tall trees of a mossy forest. To contrast those, the brighter moments take place in well-lit rooms and dreamy meadows.
In all, Behind Her Eyes is refreshingly original, it takes the fear and anticipation that one would expect from an episode of Black Mirror and matches it with the energy of an intense romance movie. But then it also sprinkles in a bit of paranormal and chilling scenes that’ll have you holding your breath.
The series is fast-paced and bingeable. The end of each episode leaves its audience desperate for more, as does its season finale. It graciously provides many fantasy-like settings to get lost in and the characters are very messy and deeply nuanced.
The show is one that certainly shouldn’t be judged by its cover because once the plot begins to unfold, it offers endless mysteries and is impossible to look away from.
Behind Her Eyes will hit Netflix on February 17.