Behind Her Eyes: Unnecessarily Supernatural

By Judah Clayton

WARNING: This article contains significant spoilers for the series Behind Her Eyes. I wouldn’t go any further if you haven’t watched it yourself! Also, Behind Her Eyes handles subject matter like drug use and suicide. Please take care of yourself when watching it!

Behind Her Eyes is a relatively new supernatural thriller on Netflix. I thought, for the most part, it was pretty good. The story was engaging (even though the characters took a while to warm up to) and I really felt every emotion along with the main cast when watching. However, Behind Her Eyes has one major flaw: its supernatural elements. This show did not need to be a supernatural thriller, it worked fine as just a normal thriller. I’ll touch more on that after going over the basics of the show first.

The story centers around Louise, a Black single mother caring for her young son Adam. She finds herself at a bar, alone, and soon runs into a man named David. They don’t know each other but are instantly drawn to each other like moths to flame. The chemistry is a little rushed with Louise and David—they kiss the first time they see each other. Anyway, the next day Louise finds out that this guy is her boss…her married boss. She feels really awful about the whole situation and swears him off. What makes it worse is that she coincidentally runs into her boss’ wife (Adele) almost immediately after. The two talk and strike up a friendship, and all the while Louise is still sleeping with David. To David, Louise is something new, exciting. Dare I say exotic? It really plays up on the secretary screwing the boss stereotype, and sometimes I feel that Louise being a Black woman is only used to further portray “differentness,” how different she is from Adele and David that allows them reprieve from their own relationship problems.

Totally normal drama so far, right? A woman torn between the friendship she feels for a woman and the lust she feels for a man. Of course, the more Louise looks into the relationship between David and Adele, the more toxicity and resentment she finds. The more the viewer screams at her to not get involved with everything, the more entangled she finds herself. We discover a lot about David and Adele’s relationship, and for a few episodes the story becomes more about their struggle than it is about Louise’s involvement in it. I don’t want to spoil too much of it, because I really think you should watch it for yourself, but the relationship is fubar. David is cold to his wife. He can’t say “I love you” to her. He has control of her belongings, where she goes, and who she sees. There is of course some deep dark reason for this—there always is in shows like this—but it doesn’t make his actions any less shocking to a first-time viewer.

There are multiple nightmare sequences sprinkled in the episodes. These are Louise’s nightmares; she sleepwalks and has a history of night terrors. The cinematography is particularly striking in these scenes. It’s composed of several unsettling little scenes (vignettes almost) spliced together. Images like a spilling pill bottle, her son running away screaming, the walls moving. I’m sure analyzing these scenes through some sort of psychoanalytic lens would reveal so much about her character, but this is a TV show and I’m a sociology major, not a psychology major. The most I’ll go into is that it’s probably about how much of her life revolves around her son. She gets him ready for school, takes him there, waits for him to come back home on the days she isn’t working. Before her involvement with Adele and David, her world is her son.

This is how the first three or four episodes go on. David and Louise have sex, David and Adele argue, Louise and Adele talk and strengthen their friendship. So, when episode five rolls around and smacks me in the face with some supernatural thriller stuff, I’m completely thrown off-guard. Adele and Louise have talked about lucid dreaming before, which, okay, fine, that’s not that supernatural. People have lucid dreams all the time, and the ability to control a dream is something everyone’s heard of. Louise even demonstrates the capability of lucid dreaming, using it to free herself from her night terrors. This is fine, it fit in with the theme of the story and didn't catch me too off guard. But then there’s the astral projection.

In a flashback, Adele talks about how she astral projected (astrally projected?) with a friend from rehab, Rob. The show depicts their souls floating around the manor that Adele lived in, and when they wake up they fully remember where they’d been in the house, and that the other person was present. Again, I thought this was fine. I thought it was maybe some metaphor I didn’t understand about the relationship she has with Rob compared to the relationship that she has with Louise, since she teaches Louise to do the same thing. But it’s not.

Final warning: I’m about to spoil the end of the show. If you really want to see it for yourself and see how it ends, stop here and come back when you’re done.

The astral projection, as it turns out, is not some metaphor or tool used to draw parallels between the characters. Instead, it’s a plot device. Near the end of the show, “Adele” uses her astral projection to take over Louise’s body, before murdering Louise (in Adele’s body). When I saw this, I had to go back and rewatch it, and then I checked the title to make sure I was watching the right show. For a drama about the sordid history of a couple that has fallen out of love, this came out of literally nowhere. But then it gets even more confusing. Adele is apparently Rob (her old friend) that used the same technique to take over and murder Adele (in Rob’s body) many years ago. So by the end of it, the person that’s alive in Louise’s body is Rob. We never even got to really know Adele. Serious “Get Out” vibes from this ending.

Now, I’m not mad at the twist. I think the twist ending was fascinating; I just think it would have been a better ending for a movie that implied earlier on that it was going to be taking its supernatural elements so seriously. Of course, the lucid dreaming was a plot device, but it served Louise in a way that was grounded in reality. There was no evidence that any of this was going to lead to body-swapping murder. It took me out of the show. By episode 5 I was already saying “this is too much” with the astral projection, so I was completely checked out by the time episode 6 finished.

I think what made me so reluctant to like this ending was that there were other interesting ways this could have ended. David was essentially about to confess to a murder he didn’t commit, why couldn’t we have seen where that would have taken us? There were so many other ways that this could have ended that would have been so satisfying to me as a viewer. This one just came, confused me, took my wallet, and ran away.

Of course, I do think Behind Her Eyes is worth watching. It’s an interesting psychological glimpse into the lives of three fictional people, with depth of character that means you may see yourself in their actions. They’re all frustratingly human, in the sense that they make poor choices and suffer the consequences of those choices. If you can look past the ending (or maybe you enjoy it!), I think it’s something worth taking a look at. What did you guys think of the show?

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