English, Review, Series, UK, USA


Eric, written and created by Abi Morgan and directed by Lucy Forbes, is a discerning, powerful and emotionally charged examination of 1980s New York under the guise of a raw and tragic mystery-thriller. The web series consisting of 6 episodes is currently streaming on Netflix.

The miniseries, set in New York of the 1980s follows a dysfunctional couple – a creator of a popular children’s show, Vincent Anderson (Benedict Cumberbatch), and devoted mother, Cassie Anderson (Gaby Hoffmann), whose son, Edgar (Ivan Morris Howe) goes missing on his way to school. The search for Edgar not only disintegrates the couple’s individual sanity, but its investigation led by officer Michael Ledroit (McKinley Belcher III) unearths a deeper web of corruption, deceit and conspiracy that plagues the city.

It is very easy to be overambitious and overcomplicate themes and narratives when dealing with episodic formats, especially when they are as heavy and intense as in Eric. High praise to Morgan and Forbes for creating a multi-layered narrative that admirably balances character development with the raising of pertinent cultural issues of 80s New York, never diluting or favouring one over the other. The sense of moroseness that looms for the show’s entirety never feels monotonous or routine, and is so brilliantly positioned by the makers that one can’t help but feel strong empathy and sorrow for all that each character goes through. The series inventively draws attention to the ongoing dialogue on mental health using Vincent’s newest creation at work, Eric (a walk along monster puppet straight out of a children’s book), as a tool that subtly acts as an allegory for the numerous ‘monsters’ that exist in one’s own mind – feelings that render people unable to function freely, proving highly counterproductive to their overall growth and welfare.

There are a few applaud-worthy calls that both Morgan and Forbes make to give the plot its novelty. One is that Eric is set in the 80s, which creates natural roadblocks in the investigation that wouldn’t be possible in today’s digital age. Next, the plot is set against a rather tense period in American and New York’s history where police brutality, poverty, bureaucratic corruption and vice was at an all-time high, added to which the shoddy management and uncertainty surrounding the AIDS pandemic led to extreme levels of prejudice, racism and classism against minorities, immigrants and those toiling in penury resulting in several attempts to ‘clean up’ cities to ease civil unrest (which usually meant framing innocent people as perpetrators). Due credit to Morgan for making sure that none of her characters are exempt to all that unfolds in the background, and whether they acknowledge it or not, it very much shapes who they are as individuals and their modus operandi. That said, there are moments, although scarce, that feel slightly and noticeably contrived and are put in place merely to elevate the suspense quotient and for ensuring that all subplots are congruent to the larger picture.

Creativity that stems from a place of intense emotion when combined with a neglected childhood, narcissistic tendencies and professional success creates a mixture so toxic that it often becomes a detriment of the individual’s well-being. Such is the case with Vincent whose nasty, alcohol-ridden and arrogant-creative-genius demeanor becomes intolerable not only to those around him, but even to himself. As he descends into a downward spiral, his negative inner voice – a walk along puppet monster, Eric (incidentally his newest creation at work), comments on and analyses his personal failures further damaging his mental stability. Vincent is filled with ample contradictions, but the most interesting of these is in the way he deals with Edgar. Although he wants to spend time with him and be a good father, Vincent is torn between and to an extent, jealous of the love he gives his own son – something he unsuccessfully longed for his father to give him. As a result, there is an inconsistency in his interactions with Edgar (and with all those he loves), finally creating a distance between them.

Cassie comes with her own baggage and agenda. It is shocking to note how it only takes adverse situations for people to realise that their own sense of security, worth and identity doesn’t need to come from others, particularly in a patriarchal society. Although Cassie and Vincent’s strained dynamic feels incredibly real and pinpoint accurate, her dynamic with Edgar could have been better worked out – one understands why she is reacting the way she does, but when together with Edgar, her ardent love as claimed for him doesn’t come across too convincingly.

The most thorough, intriguing and complete arc however is that of Officer Ledroit. One can hardly fathom how tough and pressurising it must be to simply function at a basic level as an African-American queer NYPD officer, let alone be great at their job. Ledroit has a strong moral compass and a sense of righteousness that feels overly idealistic at first but on understanding his background, feels well justified. Morgan does an exemplary job of creating a character that feels anything but token, and also gives Ledroit an emotional depth and personality that goes well beyond his ‘queerness’. To him, each victim is far more than a statistic and with his own partner succumbing to AIDS, relates to the feeling of loss and impending doom that the victim’s families feel.

First rate performances, clever direction and sharp and detailed writing are the driving force behind Eric. The series largely follows a linear structure and although starts off strong, it does somewhat plateau midway through being cause for concern only to rise again and finish well. The rhythm and pace over the course of all six episodes is exciting and keeps the viewer hooked, especially in the beginning of episode 6 where integral revelations regarding the investigation are brought to the fore. In the climax however, the resolution of the Anderson family comes off as peevishly Bollywood-esque and the issue of racial bias is slightly over-reinforced which may come off as repetitive to some.

Mention must be made of the nuanced and diligent production design and the cinematography, which leaves no stone unturned in taking the viewer back to 1980s New York by using simple yet effective camerawork, nostalgic film grain and a vintage aspect ratio (1.66:1). The sound design is discreet, with more attention being given to foley and incidental sounds. Thankfully, the background score is minimal and sensibly applied only to the extent of heightening overall impact. The songs incorporated are partly in relation to the events unfolding, and are partly employed to evoke a feeling/vibe and work well within the series’ context.

All things considered, Eric is an engrossing, plaintive and poignant ride of thrill and mystery which is mildly reminiscent of The Deuce (2017), Serpico (1973) and Mare of Easttown (2021) all rolled into one, as it dutifully accomplishes its objective of contributing to and enhancing a genre that feels highly banal when not done right.


English, Thriller, Drama, Color

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