Netflix have a knack for adapting popular and best selling books into sure-fire hits. Case in point – last year’s sublime The Queen’s Gambit kicked up a serious storm to become one of the best shows of 2020. Based on the best-selling book by Sarah Pinborough, Behind Her Eyes is likely to kick up that very same sort of storm…but for entirely different reasons.
To begin with, this dark and twisted tale is beautifully layered, carefully sprinkled with a deliciously dark mystery that takes a conventional love triangle and spins that on its head, leaving lots of questions and simmering mystery.
Unfortunately that simmer begins to bubble over the pan and become a nightmarish, sticky mess toward the latter periods of the show. The writing really does take a serious nosedive and throws in some ludicrous twists that not only betray character motivations and arcs, it also renders the preceding episodes and tone completely useless.
This is Game Of Thrones Season 8 all over again, but instead of “kinda forgetting” about the Iron fleet, Behind Her Eyes forgets what sort of show it’s trying to be and flings itself willingly off the rails of sanity.
For the purposes of this review that won’t be divulged, especially as Netflix have kindly asked not to spoil anything. Suffice to say, this will almost certainly make or break your experience with this show and this reviewer – who was close to heralding this as one of the best shows of 2021 three episodes in – is confidently in the ‘break’ category.
It’s perhaps a more bitter pill to swallow than it should be because of how brightly this opens. The screenplay is beautifully written, with realistic dialogue between characters, naturally exuding exposition and grounding everything into three central characters (and one via a flashback) that feel like real people.
Our plucky protagonist here is divorcee Louise who heads out for a drink one night with her mate. Is her mate a male? A female? Who is this person? The fact that we’re not told for a while is a beautifully intriguing way to set the tone and when we do find out, it eventually leads to a chance encounter with a suave, handsome Scottish man named David. After spilling a drink down his top by accident, Louise offers to buy him another.
One drink leads to casual flirting, which in turn leads to a cheeky kiss outside. David has cold feet though, telling her he can’t do this and hurries away. The next day it’s clear why. It turns out David is new in town and has currently bagged himself a position as a Doctor at the exact same clinic Louise is working at. Not only is she now his secretary, but he’s also married to a woman named Adele. Uh oh.
Well, things quickly take a turn for the awkward when Adele bumps into Louise outside the office and the two form a bond together. With Louise caught in the middle of this flatlined romance, David and Louise dance around a will/won’t they romance.
Lurking in the shadows however is a far more sinister plot involving a forest, a foreboding well, ominous whispers and some terribly realistic and frightening dreams. These dreams even see Louise sleepwalking around the apartment at night.
At an arm’s length, these moments actually work quite well to heighten a sense of dread but as the series goes on, and that arm pulls these elements closer to the central story, Behind Her Eyes changes tone into something a lot more psychological and chilling. It’s here where this Netflix series nosedives in quality, undoing a lot of the good work done early on.
It’s perhaps more frustrating because there’s so many elements to like here. The acting from all involved is convincing and well worked, the central protagonists do a wonderful job bringing their respective characters to life, and there’s a real energy to a lot of these scenes that help keep the plot driving forward.
Unfortunately all of this comes undone with that final episode. As we all know, an ending can make or break a show and this one doesn’t just break its last episode, it completely implodes with a truly woeful finale that’s difficult to forgive after such a solid run up to that point.
Behind Her Eyes launches on Netflix worldwide 17th February 2021!