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Eyewitness - Pilot - Review: "Touched by Trauma"

Eyewitness is a crime story adapted from the original Norwegian “Øyevitne”. The pilot was directed by Catherine Hardwicke and written by staff writer Jennifer Coté and creator Adi Hasak. "Norway's incredible show EYEWITNESS follows a horrific crime story through the unlucky and unlikely eyes of two innocent witnesses,” said Dawn Olmstead, Executive Vice President, Development, Universal Cable Productions."

A woman is driving her in her jeep and listening to a radio broadcast as she passes by a “Welcome to Tivoli NY” sign. Through her windshield, we inspect the dark and gloomy Twin Peaks-y town that “Eyewitness” is set in. Helen is the first character we are introduced to and within the first few minutes of the pilot, we learn she’s the Town sheriff (a nice twist on the usual male sheriff trope in the genre. She’s very stern and solemn, reflecting her surroundings, but lights up whenever she's around her foster child.

On the surface, Helen and her husband are the perfect American couple with a farmhouse in the countryside. Following the tense unravelling of the murder, there’s an extreme long shot of them happily canoeing. During breakfast, he offers some of the exposition for the audience and we learn Philip has been with them for 6 weeks and is not allowed visitations to his mother until she’s clean.

When Helen visits the crime scene at the cabin she meets the FBI agent who’s come to take over the investigation. (Like Dale Cooper on Twin Peaks). Helen tells her husband that for the first time since she came her she’s felt a sense of purpose and meaning and he gets upset because she would rather be spending time with dead corpses than him but oh well, he’s a really boring guy so I don’t blame her. He's clearly not happy with her work and there's always tension whenever she has to leave to chase down a lead. Her partner, on the other hand, is a lot more enthusiastic and is not sure where to even begin with the investigation because there’s never been a murder before in this small bleak town.

Even though she's supposed to not get involved she is, of course, becoming obsessed with the mystery. So when she gets a number from Tony, she lies to her husband and is on her way to meet the person at the other end of the line. The FBI agent meets her there and Helen tells her she knows the scene was staged. “If there is a killer, are you gonna be the one to find him?” she taunts her and brings up something from Helen’s past which seems to trigger a painful memory.

We don’t know what the full story is yet (The pilot's episode name is a reference to it) but near the end of the episode Helen visits a storage unit and unpacks evidence from a previous murder case of hers as well as a box of Clonazepam prescribed to her name.

We follow the boys riding on Lukas’s bike to a dirt road. After Philip takes videos of Lukas doing “sick whips” for his channel (oh teenage years!), they end up at a remote lake house. They take off their helmets and then their clothes as they start kissing on whoever’s bed that is. We don’t know what their relationship is until Lukas pushes Philip away. Their performances were very angsty and sort of stilted. As Philip struggles with his rejection and assures him “no one’s gonna know about this” (which means eventually everyone will).

They’re both very different from each other: Philip is the introverted teen with incredible hair and a cool leather jacket. In the pilot, the focus is more on him and his relationship with Helen as well as his biological mother. He spends the rest of the night after the murder outside her apartment and they catch up. He tells her about his boyfriend and she embraces him with a smile.

Lukas is the spoiled rich boy type who enjoys fooling around as long as it’s not in public because he doesn’t want to be “that guy”. When Philip tries to approach him at school, after the night of the incident Lukas attacks him. So by this point, I have to wonder why Philip still chases after this asshole. His hair and bone structure are far superior. The teens are grappling with two main problems: a murder (obviously) and keeping their relationship a secret. I guess the metaphor could be that keeping a secret this big is very dangerous and insidious.

A car pulls over outside the lake house Philip and Lukas have been sleeping in. They both hide, Philip under the bed and Lukas in the closet. (Oh the Irony!) The gang we were introduced to a few minutes ago walk in and the murder they’re about to bear witness unfolds. The shirtless man that the gang abducted gets hold of the gun and a massacre ensues.

One of the men falls right next to the kid, with a pool of blood forming around him. The killer finishes them all off and finds Philip hiding under the bed but before he can do anything he gets bonked on the head by Lukas. He runs out with Philip and they throw the gun into the lake. So many mistakes being made and their fingerprints are just all over the place! 0/10 covering up skills.

On the day of the murder, the gang makes a stop at a gas station. One of the guys borrows someone's phone and makes a call letting the person at the other end know what’s going to happen. He’s panicking because the gang has someone in their truck and are about to kill him off. We later find out that this Chris, the informant who leaked information to the FBI agent. He was also the husband of the agent's sister but for now, that storyline is in the periphery.

Instead of being killed off, however, the guy they abducted shot all of them and staged the crime scene before going on the run. Whoever he is, he’s committed to tying up all loose ends from that night, including Philip. He tracks him down and in the final minutes of the episode, they lock eyes as they recognise each other on the bus,

First Impressions:
For a premise that relies heavily on them, the two central teenagers introduced in the pilot are not particularly captivating. What feels dated and overdone is the way this LGBT couple is presented.

As far as positive LGBT representation goes, a storyline about two male white teens, one of which doesn’t want to come out in fear of being ostracised would have been interesting 10 years ago. In fact, I wanted to check when this show was supposed to be set, seeing if I could justify it but they were all using smartphones.

The murder mystery introduced was sadly not very engaging either. We know who died, we know who did it so now we’re waiting to see why.

Everything scene of this show buried under a heavy layer of greyscale as if the sombre music and dark tone weren't menacing enough.

Favourite shot/scene:
The cinematography of Eyewitness was really good. Lots of beautiful long shots and creative use of space. There was a shot which showed us the two adjacent rooms in Helen’s house, as she walks from the bathroom to the hallway and gets an onscreen text.

Favourite quote:
“A major challenge with teen children is sometimes they’ve been touch by drama they neither acknowledge nor know how to talk to you about”

Grade: 2/5
I don’t know how well it compares to the original Norwegian thriller (Øyevitne) but while the premise sounded very intriguing, the pilot did not keep me hooked me. As always, thank you for reading and make sure to let me know what your thoughts were. What did you enjoy the most and what could have been better?

About the Author - Nick Manesis
Nick is a Neuroscience student in Brighton, one of most sunny and hip places in the UK. Most of all he loves badgering his friends about Adventure Time, Pretty Little Liars, Grey's Anatomy and the rest of his favourite TV series. Member of STV since June 2016 and could not be any happier now that he gets to write TV reviews. Goes under the alias of "holyvanderjesus" on Disqus, Tumblr and Twitter.
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