Sunday, December 18, 2016

REVIEW: 'Eyewitness' - Helen Hunts Down Ryan to Protect Philip and Lukas in 'Mother's Day'

USA's Eyewitness - Episode 1.10 "Mother's Day"

Helen reels from her discovery that Ryan is the killer. When she learns Philip and Lukas are missing, she must race to find them before it's too late.

Eyewitness hasn't really been a great show. In fact, it's been a fairly routine one that uses familiar narrative structure and plot devices. This show never set out to change or challenge the norm. It largely just re-enforced everything. It was a season-long mystery show. It was USA going darker with its brand by trying to copy the success of other networks. That wasn't a bad idea at all. The network has just had greater success elsewhere with shows that have more original concepts - Mr. Robot, Colony, etc. But again, a show like Eyewitness has every right to exist. I reviewed every episode of the show - largely because I had screeners for the entire season. It was an easy show to watch. Sure, it could be picked apart with absolutely everything it did. That trend continues in the finale where some characters make decisions that don't make a whole lot of sense but keep the story tense. It's an odd show but one that has weirdly worked as well. There have been interesting performances - especially from Julianne Nicholson. Plus, the emotional dynamic between Philip and Lukas was a strong and distinct focal point. Those elements were enough to find pleasure in this story despite some major narrative shortcomings.

At the end of last week's episode, Helen had figured out that Ryan was the killer and that he was in the same hospital as Philip and Lukas. They were the only eyewitnesses to his crime who could help her get justice and closure. They were the rocks of her case. She didn't realize that until it was too late. Of course, the story needs to work from Ryan's perspective as well. The show tries to build empathy for him in this finale because this mess has just gotten too out of control for him. It didn't feel natural a week ago when he was planning to leave the FBI. And now, his guilt is finally catching up with him. That's largely the only reason Philip and Lukas survive this finale. The world spinning out of Ryan's control could be an interesting story. Here, it's largely used as a plot device in order for Helen to capture him. It's hard to sympathize with him because he has killed way too many innocent people. It's suppose to be a disorienting experience for him. But this mess is completely of his own creation. It all started because of his relationship with Bella. That was illegal and creepy. It led to everything that happened this season. And then, he just killed a number of people to cover up his crime. As far as Tommy and his girlfriend are concerned, their deaths ultimately don't mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. The same can also be said of Ryan killing Philip's mother here. It should feel important and emotional. Instead, it just feels like something the plot needed to do in order to bring Philip and Lukas to Ryan.

Philip is so smart for a good chunk of this finale as well. He knows to run as soon as he sees Ryan again. He knows not to go anywhere he typical runs to. Sure, he and Lukas just hide out at a motel for a little while. But that's enough of a good hiding spot for a few hours. It's completely ridiculous that Lukas is capable of making that trip. He just got shot and was in a coma. The show seems to be completely forgetting about that. It doesn't treat that as a serious injury. Lukas has pain on one side but that's about it. The audience is just suppose to forget all of that because Lukas and Philip finally have sex. That's a huge moment of intimacy for them as a couple. It's something the show has been building towards. The more intense the plot got the more the two of them needed this relationship. It was the only way they could cope with what happened. Sometimes, that bond was toxic. But ultimately, it's very sweet. Those emotions work in this finale. Plus, Philip is smart to call Helen afterwards to let her know where they are. He knows this moment won't be safe forever and they need the help from someone trained to handle a situation like this.

And then, Philip just becomes so stupid. He really hasn't been like that for most of the season. Lukas has been the erratic one in the relationship. Kamilah's mistakes lead to major consequences. Philip has had to deal with all of that. Plus, his lying has been annoying and forced. But he usually has a more rational head. All of that goes away as soon as he learns his mother might be in trouble. Ryan sends a text posing as Anne to lure Philip and Lukas into a trap. Philip only gets that message after he has told Helen where he is. Instead of waiting for the police to arrive who can then escort him to and protect him at his mother's apartment, he and Lukas foolishly leave without letting anyone know. Again, that just makes no sense given the characters' emotional state at the moment. It makes sense that Helen doesn't tell Philip that Ryan has just killed his mom. That felt appropriate. Philip has had a special bond with his mother. But it really hasn't been strong enough for him to act this erratically. It's as if the show knew it wanted this intimate moment between Philip and Lukas but also wanted a grand confrontation in the end with Ryan holding Philip at gunpoint in front of Helen. It's an effective final beat. But it's very manipulative getting to that point.

Once again, Helen proves herself to be a competent and capable police officer. She knows how to track down Ryan. Sure, she isn't able to save Anne. But she knows to contact Kamilah in order to find where the FBI drug bust is going down. Helen cannot let herself be overcome with panic because Philip and Lukas' lives are at stake. She needs to act. She cannot be crippled by doubt. She needs to save them because the FBI has been corrupted. Of course, it's a little silly that Helen just doesn't arrest Ryan when she shows up at the raid. She lets him go for some reason. That reason is because it allows for that final confrontation to happen. That's just a weak rationalization though. There just isn't a good reason for her not to assert all of her newfound claims in the hopes of finding Philip. It does play somewhat into her anxiety creeping up again. That certainly plays a part in the final confrontation. She's unstable on her feet while Ryan is calmly pointing a gun at Philip. She's the one with the big speech about her past mistakes costing her so much in the present. And yet, Ryan's connection to Helen was apparently strong enough for him to not want to hurt her anymore. So, he decides to commit suicide by cop instead of killing any more innocent lives. It's not a surprising outcome. Earlier in the hour, Lukas told Philip that as long as the killer was alive they would never feel safe. That basically foreshadowed his death. It's also weird that that moment is when Helen seemingly gets her confidence again. But it's all a good enough conclusion to this story.

Plus, it's just so great to see everyone happy in the end. Again, this is a story that has favored plot over character for every single episode. It's been more focused on the plot instead of making sure it all makes sense on a character level first. That has been so frustrating. And yet, connections to these characters still formed. It's nice that Helen, Philip and Lukas emerge from all of this unharmed. They are all alive to live their lives as normally and openly as possible. This whole situation forced Lukas' father to admit that he loves his son no matter what. It's made Helen and Gabe realize how much they need each other. Plus, things just become so simple and sweet when Philip and Lukas no longer need to lie about anything. This case has been resolved. Plus, they can date each other without any fear of what anyone else thinks. They've survived this and can be happy. That final scene between Philip and Lukas is just so sweet and simple. That's how this show needed to end. It may have compromised their characters way too many times this season. But they both deserved this kind of ending.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Mother's Day" was written by Adi Hasak & Kendall McKinnon and directed by Scott Peters.
  • There was a near-constant feeling throughout the season that Tony would become one more of Ryan's victims. And yet, he miraculously survives the season as well. There's a moment where he doubts himself as he and Helen go to get Ryan. But he pulls through in the end.
  • Meanwhile, Kamilah has officially been let go from the FBI. That is definitely the right decision. Yes, it was ultimately Ryan's fault for everything that happened. But she was a terrible agent. She never seemed to do anything right.
  • Also, Kamilah worrying about whether she'll be a good mother to Jake is just annoying. It's a plot beat the show hit numerous times but never really did anything with it. She didn't have a moment that proved that she could do this. It all just sets up a line for Helen where she is scared as well. Though Helen has reason to be. Her kid is in danger in that very moment!
  • Gabe and Lukas' father have a nice moment as well. A lot has been built up about how Lukas' dad will react to learning he's gay. Here, he drinks in the aftermath. But then, he still rushes to his son's side when he's in danger. So, he's still seen as a good parent.
  • I believe the plan with this show is for it to be an anthology series. So every season would focus on a different case with new characters. Of course, that's if the show will be renewed for a second season. That doesn't seem likely. The ratings haven't been great at all. It's not exactly screaming to be renewed because the narrative was so formulaic. But if it were, I'd probably watch it again.