Third-episode verdict: Eyewitness (US: USA)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Sundays, 10/9c, USA

On the face of it, Eyewitness isn’t a hard show to understand. An adaptation of NRK Norway’s Øyevitne (Eyewitness), it sees two teenage boys witness a horrible murder of a gang of criminals out in rural New York state. The killer gets away but knows someone witnessed his crime. However, the two boys would rather no one know what they saw or that they were even together, so don’t tell anyone.

And that’s basically the plot for the first three episodes. It’s complicated somewhat at the end of episode two by the revelation that the murderer is actually (spoiler alert) the new local head of the FBI and that the foster mother of one of the boys is the local sheriff. It’s also diluted by a side-plot about the fact the two boys are gay, but only one of them has really come to terms with this. But that’s more or less the show.

Which is what’s hard to understand. So used am I to big twists, plots within plots, hugely serial storylines involving large ensemble casts that something so ordinary, so regular, so meat and potatoes is hard to fathom. What’s the selling point? What’s the big reason for watching? I can’t see it.

Sure, it’s a bit edgy, with some nice direction by Twilight‘s Catherine Harwicke. The evil, unstoppable, Terminator-like bad guy in a position of authority from whom the boys are trying to escape is also a hebephile – because he wasn’t evil enough – which is unusual. There’s a LGBT storyline that for a change is not about pretty lesbians but pretty boys, which is also unusual. There’s an obvious The Killing vibe to the whole piece, with just a touch of No Country For Old Men, with the community grieving and the sheriff in particular struggling to cope while El Terminator cuts a swathe through the population of local teenagers with ruthless efficiency. There’s also a bit of moral compromise, with a local FBI agent having to cover up her sister’s involvement in the case.

And all of this would work very nicely with a Norwegian accent and two hours of daylight, but in a sunnier, more hopeful American context, everything feels very vanilla and apple pie rather than claustrophobic and exposing of the horror deep in the core of the human spirit. It’s not bad, but it’s also not a huge step above the average episode of Law & Order.

I might keep watching for the prettiness of the direction, but Eyewitness is probably a show that worked a whole lot better as Øyevitne than as Eyewitness.

Barrometer rating: 3
Would it work better with a female lead? N/A
TMINE’s prediction: It’s an anthology show, so everything changes at the end of the season, so it might get a second chance if it’s lucky.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.