Sunday, October 23, 2016

REVIEW: 'Eyewitness' - Philip Freaks Out About the Killer Being Back in Town in 'Bless the Beast and the Children'

USA's Eyewitness - Episode 1.02 "Bless the Beast and the Children"

As Philip and Lukas find haunting proof that the killer's alive, Helen struggles not to let the case affect her marriage with Gabe. A new head of the FBI task force is revealed.

Second episodes are tricky largely because they follow the same pattern as the premiere. It's a way to reaffirm what the narrative stakes are for the series before really starting to throw the twists at the audience. And yet, Eyewitness didn't have the best premiere. Plus, it could be really frustrating watching it follow the same pattern every single week. If every episode only aspires to a few basic things, then it could be very lackluster and lame to watch. Philip and Lukas flirt and kiss a little bit, a threat to their secret comes up that amplifies their angst, they agree not to say anything about the multiple murders in town and they end even more hopeless about their lives. That's not exactly an exciting main story arc. It's going to be so annoying to watch the show keep coming up with plot complications to explain why Philip and Lukas simply don't tell Helen what they know about these murders. Keeping their relationship a secret is the core spine of their dynamic and the whole series so far. And yet, it's hard to understand why it needs to be a secret in the first place.

It's understandable that coming out as gay is different and more difficult to do in small town USA. It's not like the city life Philip came from where his mother can accept him for who he is despite her own problems. But the show hasn't done a good enough job explaining why this is so difficult for Philip and Lukas right now. It hasn't focused too much on this town and how the community views the subject. Lukas' dad pops up every once in awhile to complain that his son is being too lazy and not respecting the 100-year-old tradition of their family. But that's not enough to fuel this major secret that's of huge concern to the overall plot. Do Helen and Gabe even know that Philip is gay? Do they care one way or another? Where is the pressure in this relationship? The pressure and tension largely comes from the killer who may be hunting them down. But again, their silence comes out of their sexuality. The coming out process is scary and unique to each individual. The show just wants to have a broad discussion about it though. It's this secret that can uproot lives and lead to parents disowning their children. It doesn't want to paint a specific picture of what being gay means to Philip and Lukas personally in this community.

More importantly, the show is just so erratic with Philip and Lukas' actual relationship. They are still able to ride around town going unnoticed by the community. They can make out in the woods and sheds with very little fear that they will be discovered. It's the same kind of energy that defines Lukas' relationship with his girlfriend, Rose. She thinks she can just give him a blow job in an open field with no worries about anyone seeing her. The depiction of sex on this show is off for some reason. It's not hot or alluring. It's not appealing. It feels like a necessity of the plot. It's not something that defines the characters. It's not about them chasing what they want and giving themselves over to another person in the most intimate way possible. Instead, it's a way to complicate the main murder mystery. It's a way to give a unique perspective to this type of show that has been seen a million times already. But the internal logic doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Philip didn't want anything from Lukas unless he could commit to him. But then, seeing the killer again is enough for Philip to forget all of that and run back to Lukas' embrace.

Philip foolishly thought the killer was dead for some reason. And now, he recognizes him right away on the bus. He even recognizes the immediate threat to Tommy. He knows that the killer is tracking him down based on the jacket and nothing more. It's certainly a leap that Philip makes. It's correct but he has no reason to let his guard down knowing the killer is still out there. Instead, that's exactly what occurs. All it takes is for Lukas to kiss Philip again for him to loss all ration. That's odd considering he knows how torn Lukas is about all their relationship. He gives in because he wants to feel comforted. But him getting drunk and smashing car windows with Lukas is the kind of stupid mistake that actually gets Tommy and his girlfriend killed. The killer really was tracking Tommy down with the intention of killing him to cover up his crimes. Tommy and his girlfriend are dead because Philip and Lukas did nothing. They knew the killer was still alive and hunting their classmate. They still chose to keep their secret. The deaths hit them hard after learning what happened. They know it wasn't a drug overdose like it appears. They know they have to do something about these killings. But instead of racing to the police precinct to tell Helen the truth, they instead race to Lukas' farm to stop the big turkey hunt. It's a lame ending that plays on the emotions of the audience for no reason whatsoever.

This show really does set out to offer some cheap thrills and nothing more. It's played as a big and tense moment when Helen shows up to question Lukas about his bike while Philip is hiding. It's suppose to keep the tension high and the core secret at risk of being exposed. And yet, Lukas and Philip are later discovered together. They didn't want anyone to know they were friends. But then, they were caught drinking with their parents wanting to know the truth. Of course, the parents don't really press for answers from either of them. Helen just accepts Lukas' story about why he was at the cabin in the woods the day of the murder. He didn't hear anything because of his helmet. She tells him to be careful on the bike and that's it. And later, none of the parents want to know what Lukas and Philip were thinking because they suddenly get sick. After that, they are too distracted by the deaths of their classmates to be concerned about what they did the previous day. It's the adults shrugging off their actions as the stuff moody teenagers do. That does make sense but it doesn't completely work in the context of the show. Everything falls apart as soon as someone starts questioning either Philip or Lukas. It's just that easy.

The hour also sets out to introduce more plot complications to keep the main narrative sustainable for ten episodes of television. So that means a truly weird and awful introduction of a one-note mob boss who is upset about his drugs and money going missing. The actual events of the central crime are so murky. Who can reasonable explain what actually happened there on the night in question? It's just important that Philip and Lukas saw a crime. It's less important to understand why it happened. The show wants to have it both ways but it is really struggling in that regard. It wants Helen to investigate the crime and find new layers of the mystery. It also wants things to be simple enough that everything would work out if Philip and Lukas just spoke up. But again, the show is just building to these big moments that play as important but largely just feel silly. At one point, a bomb goes off and Helen gets caught in the explosion. It's important that she is put in harm's way because of this case. The show didn't have to go to that extreme to prove it. Additionally, the episode closes with the killer being revealed as Agent Kane who works for the FBI and has been appointed to lead up this new task force. It's an ominous tease for the future. But it means nothing because Kane has literally done nothing except lurk around this town and kill people for these first two episodes.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Bless the Beast and the Children" was written by Adi Hasak and directed by Catherine Hardwicke.
  • Helen is also upset because Gabe invites Philip to their weekly card game at the police station. She thought of that as their time that wouldn't change even though they now have a kid. That's such a weird moment that does nothing for any of the characters.
  • It's slightly amusing to watch the only other cop in town actually be excited by this murder case. It's the reason why he became an officer in the first place. Helen still has a lot to teach him but he is very eager to learn.
  • Helen is also coerced into committing perjury just so Agent Davis' sister can keep her baby. Why would she do that? Just to get the information Davis is withholding from her? She doesn't seem like the woman who would compromise her values like that.
  • Plus, Davis' sister, Sita, is just too ridiculous to function on this show. Last week she pulled a gun on a man and had her baby taken away. This week, she just randomly finds a bomb in her apartment and knows exactly how to detonate it later on.
  • Kane masturbates to a picture of a 15-year-old girl he is in love with. That's such an awkwardly directed scene. It goes in and out of focus to avoid getting too graphic. It's a way for the show to be edgy while upping the ickiness factor. It just doesn't work at all.