Review: Hulu's 'Shut Eye' Starring Jeffrey Donovan and Emmanuelle Chriqui
Shut Eye, the newest series for Hulu, is not a bad show. It is, however, a boring show. Not so boring that it’s unbearable, but it shouldn’t be on anyone’s must watch list. To its credit, it is a competently crafted, written, and acted show. I know that sounds like faint praise, but it shouldn’t be. If you need a show on in the background, Shut Eye is perfect. Just enjoyable enough to pass the time, but not so engrossing as to be distracting from whatever cleaning/cooking/wrapping you need to get done. Which is basically all I can say without getting into deep spoiler territory. And on that note …
Being a boring show is Shut Eye’s biggest sin, but that only tells part of the story. The show was basically bursting with plot points, and none of them seemed to land. Let’s just run down a few different elements the show was working with:
- Former magician who is now working as a psychic.
- For a family of Romani who are basically their own crime syndicate.
- Enter the hypnotist who wants to work for main psychic.
- And who accidentally gives Fake Psychic real psychic powers.
- And then starts sleeping with Former-Fake-Now-Real-Psychic’s wife.
- Mind control drugs.
- Another extramarital affair.
- A client who is a murderous crime boss.
- Specialist doctor who wants to help with FFNRP’s head injury by giving him ‘shrooms.
- Another client who is super rich and could mean an out for FFNRP and his family.
- FFNRP’s son who is running a drug ring in the hopes of impressing a girl.
- That girl accidentally dying because of an overdose of mind control drugs.
- And finally, weird underage arraigned marriage between Romani children to make peace over the murder of Cousin Lou.
- Isabella Rossellini just chewing the shit out of the scenery all over the place.
Did I get everything? Or maybe close to everything? And bear in mind that there are only ten episodes?
Instead of making the show feel high stakes, everything feels stifled. None of the plot lines have a chance to grow because they’re all stepping on each other’s toes. At times this is because the writers rightfully understand that they have to resolve each of those many plot lines to at least an acceptable level. But at other times, it’s just sloppy writing. A key plot point in a later episode hinges on Charlie retrieving an iPod set to go off in a client’s house before the client’s (disbelieving) husband discovers it. So a big goddamn deal is made about entering through one specific window because it’s been propped open with a stick thereby disabling the house’s security system. And, of course, as soon as he enters, Charlie accidentally knocks the stick out of place. Which should have armed the alarm system. Which should have meant some level of danger in getting out of the house undiscovered. And what do we see? A dangerous race against time where Charlie has to turn off an iPod. That’s it. Literally. Nothing about sneaking out of the house, nothing about outwitting the system or the homeowners, no cleverly planned ruse to explain why he’s there. Nothing. It cuts to a scene the next day with no explanation.
That scene alone could seem nit-picky, but it’s an issue every time any sense of danger comes up. None of the peril feels real. I’m not concerned if the Wife is going to get caught burying a dead girl because there’s absolutely no sense of suspense. And the scenes don’t even function as character development. Why is Wife and Wife’s Lover burying the son’s maybe-girlfriend in the middle of some redwoods instead of going to the police like a sane person? Who the fuck knows? Why is Charlie resigned to work for the Romani family even after they disfigure his sister? Maybe because she sucks? Why does it feel like a couple of writers rewatched Stir of Echos and decided to add some hokey fortunate teller nonsense to it? Because I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what happened.
Again, this isn’t to say Shut Eye is unwatchable, it’s mostly a waste of a lot of talent. Even Jeffrey Donovan’s admittedly off-putting charm isn’t being put to good use. If you happen to catch a cold and need to spend a couple of days in bed, it’s probably your best bet. Otherwise your better off with Archer reruns.