Behind Her Eyes
So … that happened.
Let’s start with a show of hands: Who figured out Behind Her Eyes’ twists (credit due; there were indeed two of them!) before they were revealed? Okay, now keep your hands up if you managed to figure it all out without having read the book?
I’m guessing nobody’s hands are still up. It’s not your fault!
Next, SPOILER ALERT, just to have us all on the literal and figurative same page SPOILER ALERT, I’m now going to SPOILER ALERT spell out exactly what Behind Her Eyes’ twist endings MAJOR SPOILER ALERTS turned out to be SPOILERS AHEAAAAAADDDDD …
Once someone has mastered the art of astral projecting, like Adele and Rob and Louise have, apparently one can not only leave one’s body and go traveling around; one can also inhabit someone else’s physical being and stay in there in perpetuity, so long as that corporeal shell you’re hermit-crabbing doesn’t die. In other words, you can live in a body that wasn’t yours to begin with and just pretend to be that person, which is what Rob has been doing since his post-rehab visit to Adele’s estate. This whole time, we thought we were watching a Louise-David-Adele love triangle, but we were actually watching a Louise-David-Rob triangle. Back at the estate ten-ish years ago, Rob and Adele agreed to try swapping spirits. Rob’s spirit traveled into Adele’s body and has been in there ever since, while Adele’s spirit was killed inside Rob’s body because he had booby-trapped it. Before their experiment, he’d gotten himself just high enough on heroin to immobilize Adele once she entered his form (poor girl had no hard-core smack experience!) before then administering a fatal overdose on his former physical self. In the present day, Rob ultimately repeats that exact same stunt with Louise, whose spirit is killed inside Adele’s body. David and “Louise” drive off into the sunset together as newlyweds, and David’s none the wiser that he just married Rob a second time and has actually never been married to his first love, Adele.
My lips were curdled into a sneer the whole time that ending unfolded. It’s not that the ending was unexpected. It’s that, I believe, the ending was cheating.
Look, a movie or a show can’t just switch genres two-thirds of the way through. Like I said in my first recap, the expectation was set from the jump that this would be a suspenseful, psychological thriller. And yes, it would also explore the characters’ dreams, but that’s fine and in-bounds because dreams happen in the real world; astral projections don’t. Somewhere in the fifth episode, Behind Her Eyes said, “Guess what? This is actually sci-fi make-believe!” The enjoyment I’m supposed to get from watching this whodunit should come from playing cat and mouse with the story itself, but the story changed the rules without telling anyone and started playing cat and flying sprite instead. For most of this series, there was nothing fantastical about the plot or the way the story was told and then the fantastical stuff became the whole crux of the entire thing.
I keep thinking about Gone Girl and if it turned out in the end that Amy, I don’t know, just had the ability to make herself invisible and hadn’t actually gone anywhere at all? I keep thinking about The Sixth Sense and how that film boasts arguably the best twist ending ever, precisely because Haley Joel Osment gives away the secret in the first act — he sees dead people! — but the story still manages to completely conceal its climax.
I will now reveal a twist ending of my own: I finished reading the book. I had to know if Behind Her Eyes ended the same way in its original literary form. Spoiler alert: It does.
Both times I’ve now had to grapple with this ending, on the page and on the screen, my brain yelled the same question: So the whole thing was just Being John Malkovich?!?
I feel cheated in other ways, too. Rob — who was the most sympathetic character, I felt — murdered the one person he claimed to have ever truly loved. He turned on her in an instant, with seemingly no remorse, because why? Because David’s hot, and he wanted access to a more upper-crust life? Best friends don’t kill best friends, not when there are other options. I feel like Adele would’ve never let Rob go without. Hell, I’d even give Rob a fighting chance of convincing Adele and David to open up their relationship for a throuple arrangement.
Speaking of other options, Louise couldn’t fucking call 911 (sorry, U.K.: 999) when she saw that Adele’s house was on fire and knew that Adele was suicidal inside it???? She decided instead to prop herself up against the burning building and make herself fall asleep so that her spirit could go check on Adele? Why? She didn’t know at the time that you could swap bodies; all she knew was that you could see things. What good is seeing someone inside a burning building if you can’t actually do anything about it? David is gonna have to prescribe me some pills, because these questions are making me fucking crazy!
Also, this show killed its only mom, and that just doesn’t sit right with me. Maybe I am too Pollyannaish for whatever kind of amoral romp Behind Her Eyes wants to be, but you can’t murder a mother just for the sake of your cutesy ending. When Louise spoke her last word — “Adam,” said through Adele’s body — it really did twist my gut. I guess I’m grateful that the show elicited an honest emotion from me, but it ruined two good characters’ lives (three if you count Adele; four if you count Adam!), and for what?
There were some fun and funny and clever and likable moments in this episode — I’ll give it that. I laughed at the fact that Rob/Adele vandalized Marianne’s house with the word SLUT (that’s so, like, ’90s after-school special) and snorted when Rob/Adele told Marianne she was just “a miserable old twat with only a cat for company.” (By the way, in the book, Rob/Adele killed Marianne’s cat!) I really enjoyed what David was like before Rob killed Adele, so youthful and comfortable with himself; if there’s nothing else believable about Behind Her Eyes, I do buy into the young love David and Adele once had. The way “Louise” dresses after Rob has taken over her body made me smile; it’s exactly how Rob/Adele would put together an outfit using Louise’s sunny-colored wardrobe. (“Louise” even modifies her hairstyle to be more like Rob/Adele’s blunt-cut bob.) I was amused by the continuation of Rob/Adele’s knife motif/fixation, even if knives had nothing to do with anything in the end. I thought overall, strictly from a writing-exercise standpoint, this was a strong book-to-show adaptation. All the decisions about what didn’t make it into the series were sound, and it was all stuff that wasn’t needed. (In case you’re wondering, there was a very minor story line about an abortion; Adele was pregnant at the time of Rob’s body-swap, but he-as-Adele insisted on getting an abortion, because gross! ladyparts!)
Despite how shortchanged I feel by the ending, I don’t want to shortchange the ending of this recap. So I’ll end on a cliffhanger of my own, one that will hopefully be fun for y’all to chew on (if, that is, you feel compelled to keep thinking about this show at all):
Who (or what) started the fire that killed Adele’s parents?