Eyewitness: An Updated Twist on a Classic Thriller

Art by Sarah Chen

Combine a triple homicide with unrequited love and you get “Eyewitness,” a crime thriller released on October 16 through USA Network.

Although “Eyewitness” is based off of a Norwegian show, “Øyevitne,” it has its own spin to it. Instead of the series taking place in Norway, it takes place in upstate New York, where city boy Philip Shea (Tyler Young) moves when former city cop Helen (Julianne Nicholson) adopts him.

There, he meets Lukas Waldenbeck (James Paxton), the high school golden boy, and they immediately hit it off. However, the plot thickens when the two teenage boys witness a triple homicide while getting intimate in a secluded cabin.

They manage to escape, but the murderer catches a glimpse of them. Because they’re both in the closet about their sexualities, the boys decide to keep this as their little secret. However, the murder eventually catches up to them when Helen, Philip’s adoptive mother, takes over the case. Now, the boys have to deal with the pressure of knowing what really happened while also avoiding the killer.

The plot is compelling, but it lacks suspense. You already know who the murderer is, so the rest of the series is just a game of cat and mouse. The FBI can’t seem to catch the guy, and with each episode, they stray further and further away.

There are also many subplots that help contribute to the feeling of “Eyewitness” being a small town soap opera. One of the FBI agents’ sisters deals with her husband’s death at the cabin, and the show also explores the drama of drug dealing.

There is also the subplot concerning Helen and how she deals with being Philip’s new foster mother, as well as the subplot of how the murderer deals with the FBI. Although these plotlines involve different characters, they become intertwined and they all lead back to the big murder case.

While multiple subplots confuse the main plot, the quality of the acting makes up for it. Paxton portrays the inner fight between his impulses to come out and being happy with Philip or to stay in the closet to save his reputation. His chemistry with Young onscreen is undeniable. You can feel their passion whenever they connect. When they cry, you want to cry; when they laugh, you want to laugh, too.

Something particularly special about “Eyewitness” is its use of calm scenery and faded, bleached colors. This helps shape the mood of a suburban, washed out town in the outskirts of New York City.

The most interesting part of the show is its LGBTQ+ representation. While primarily a crime and mystery drama, the series also centers around two gay teenagers. Philip wants to come out of the closet soon, but Lukas doesn’t, partly because of his homophobic father and also because of his popular status at high school.

Philip is prouder of his sexuality and hopelessly in love with Lukas, willing to do anything to help Lukas, who does not want to come out yet. This creates a wedge in their relationship. Add in the murder and their relationship becomes even more strained.

“Eyewitness” is different in that it shines the spotlight on Philip and Lukas instead of having them as a side plot to score representation brownie points.

It’s a relatable show for the many teens currently closeted or struggling with their sexualities. It comforts them to know that there are other people dealing with similar struggles and raising awareness.

“Eyewitness” has all the elements of a classic rural crime drama, but takes a stance to show that the LGBTQ+ community should not be its own subgenre in the television industry, but instead be incorporated into any drama or comedy.

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