Behind Her Eyes
Adele ended the first episode of Behind Her Eyes with a lie, telling her husband, David, that she was going to the gym. And she opens the second episode with a secret, asking Louise to refrain from telling David about their impromptu coffee date.
“He can be a bit funny about mixing work life and home life,” Adele offers up as a feeble explanation. “And us girls need something for ourselves.” Louise seems to see right through Adele’s peculiar demeanor, leaving the café as if she can’t wait to get away while rolling her eyes at Adele’s head-scratching request to keep their get-together on the down-low. It only gets worse when Adele immediately texts her an “It’s me!” message after Louise clearly had no desire to store Adele’s digits in her phone. It’s funny to see someone as elegant as Adele act borderline pathetic — but also, who is this broad?
Well, she was once the girl in the psych ward, which is where we cut to next. So far, this is the only milieu that conjures up any sympathy in me for Adele, even though it still doesn’t really help me figure out what her deal is. She and Rob, her fellow inpatient and now buddy, are hanging out together in the tree he was sitting in when they first met. A nurse comes and tells teenage Adele that David is on the phone for her, then teases Rob over his evident crush on Adele. His response? “I prefer cock … Big, fat, throbbing cocks!” Okay, then!
(Sidebar about Rob: He’s played by Robert Aramayo, a.k.a. Young Ned Stark on Game of Thrones. This guy’s got flashback acting gigs on lock!)
I had thought present-day Adele was again lying when she told David on the phone at the café that she was planning to go pick out paint samples, but it seems she actually did, because, in the next scene, she’s painting a wall in their bedroom. Now I know she’s downright certifiable because she’s painting a wall of her bedroom with no apparent paint prep while wearing all white!
We start to see that she’s painting a forest — a specific forest, it seems, one from her flashbacks. Is it the grounds of the psych facility? There’s a flashback shot of a well we haven’t seen before, then present-day Adele goes down to her basement (another well of sorts?) and retrieves a red notebook from a box of framed photos and other keepsakes. The name inside the notebook is Robert — Rob! — Dominic Hoyle. The notebook contains a set of instructions that Rob apparently wrote down:
Pinch myself and say I AM AWAKE once an hour.
Look at my hands. Count my fingers.
Look at clock or watch, look away, look back.
Stay calm and focused.
Think of a door.
In my previous recap, I told you I’d started reading Behind Her Eyes. Those instructions in Rob’s notebook compose the entirety of the novel’s first chapter, which is simply titled “Then.” All of the book’s subsequent flashbacks are likewise contained in chapters titled “Then.”
In this latest flashback, we learn that teenage Adele is wearing a watch she gave to David because “he can’t wear it right now,” suggesting that his forearm burns came from the same fire that presumably killed her parents and led to her institutionalization. In the present day, Adele tries to surprise David with her bedroom-wall paint job, prompting David to think back to that same well from Adele’s earlier flashback. “Why would you do this?” he asks her. And what I’m asking is: What exactly could Adele want to remember so badly about the forest that David simultaneously wants so badly to forget?
Adele texts Louise asking if she wants to go to the gym. Louise reacts as if she’d rather throw a baby shower for ol’ pregnant Lisa, but then David snaps at her at work, and that’s apparently enough for Louise to change her mind and accept Adele’s invitation. Their gym date takes place on Adam’s last day of school before summer break. Lou cleans up her flat before Adele comes over to pick her up
Okay. Hold on.
Who goes on a first friend date to the gym? Who, having made plans to go to the gym with a friend, is then picked up by the friend at her place rather than meeting at said gym? And who decides to further befriend her boss’s wife when the wife has said it must be kept a secret — and you already have your own secret, which is that you’ve kissed your boss/her husband??!?
I’m not buying this. I feel like Louise (my dear level-headed Louise!) would do anything she could to avoid hanging out with Adele. People find ways to back out of plans all the time. People find ways to back out of going to the gym all the time. And I know David was rude to Louise, but that moment wasn’t a big enough catalyst for me to buy that Louise went back to her desk and decided, I’ll show him — I’ll go work out with his bonkers wife.
After working out with his bonkers wife, Louise learns from Adele that David “saved my life, you know … the night my parents died.” Then Adele drags Louise back to her house so she can make it home in time for David’s daily call on the landline, and I feel ready to issue a verdict, which is that David is the bad guy. He did it all, whatever the hell “it” is or was. But truthfully, a big reason why I’m making such a judgment so soon is because I’m starting to get a little bored.
A couple of scenes later, after Adele has given Louise Rob’s notebook (because Louise admitted back at the café that she suffers from night terrors), Adam takes off on his monthlong holiday with his dad, leaving Louise with a lonely flat. She nearly breaks down from not having her son there. Now, to me, that’s a desperate enough impetus for, say, reaching out and accepting a suspicious new friend’s weirdo gym invitation. It’s probably even a believable enough rationale for Louise inviting David inside when he surprisingly shows up at her door later that night, and then for kissing him after making a meager attempt to get him to leave. In any case, they have sex, so … good for you, Lou? (Side (boob) note: They’re really good at angling people’s arms to obscure all the bare breasts during sex scenes on this show.) When David finally goes back to his own home and bed later that night, he doesn’t see Adele open her eyes, but we do, and she’s got a look in them that seems to tell us that she knows … something. She at least knows he wasn’t just out on the streets caring for the local junkies, as he keeps saying he’s going to.
Speaking of caring, how much are we caring for these characters at this point? Over the course of this episode, I felt like my reasons to care for them were starting to fade away, only to peak again once I started to suspect that maybe this is all David’s evil doing. (Again, whatever this is.) Maybe David killed Adele’s parents in the fire. Maybe David loved Adele at one time, but now that love is gone. Was flashback Adele crazy, or has David turned Adele crazy over time? But no matter what the backstory turns out to be, the hard-to-accept silliness of these people remains, making all of this pretty difficult to buy. Do you, reader, feel like you’re far away from being the type of person who’d make all of these stupid decisions? Because, not to brag, but I do.
Not only am I unsure whom I’m rooting for at this point, I don’t know if I’m rooting for anyone at all. Louise is the most obvious character to side with, but her decision to sleep with David while embarking on a friendship with Adele … it’s not that she’s gone in my mind from sympathetic to unsympathetic, so much as from sympathetic to uninteresting.
I think that’s what it is. All of this intrigue doesn’t feel fun. The show is going through the motions of what a psychological thriller is supposed to do — it is dutifully dropping a line of breadcrumbs, even if those breadcrumbs tell us bupkes so far — and that slow unraveling doesn’t feel pleasurable, just perfunctory. Like Adele taking her pills. We know we’ll get another dose of backstory, and then another, and then another, but do we really feel like taking our medicine is getting us anywhere, or making us feel any better about watching this show?