Eric Is a Mess of Outstanding Performances And Poor Choices

Eric still of Benedict Cumberbatch as Vincent standing in a subway beside the monster Eric.

Eric may have astounding performances, but too many missteps devolve Black lives as valuable for fighting corruption and saving white lives.

Eric is a series that moves past disbelief, feeling like a bait-and-switch. Had it labeled itself a soap opera, the antics would make more sense. Yet the series starts with parents unraveling because of their missing kid, then morphs into L.A. Confidential. However, in Eric, the rampant poor decision-making among all characters makes it impossible to discern one from the other. They are all written the same: foolish. So, Eric bypasses a story with heart or purpose and segues heavy-handedly into a sensationalized story meant to shock without purpose. 

Created and written by Abi Morgan, the series follows a father, Vincent Anderson (Benedict CumberbatchThe Power of the DogDoctor Strange), who connects with a puppet monster, Eric, when his son, Edgar (Ivan Morris Howe), goes missing. But the description downplays the more prominent elements in the series. While the search for “home” parallels throughout the unfolding events, it feels more happenstance than purposeful, as though creating a larger message would nullify the shallowness of the series. 

Eric Has Stellar Performances

There are plenty of issues with Eric. However, every single cast member gave a fantastic performance. Thanks to those performances, certain decisions from characters inspire screams of frustration. Some standouts include Ledroit (McKinley Belcher III, Marriage StoryOzark) as the person in the police department searching for their son. His character has many emotional nuances because of who he is to each person, and Belcher delivers a stunning performance. 

Benedict Cumberbatch and Gaby Hoffmann, who plays his wife, Cassie, are both excellent. Adepero Oduye (The Big ShortGeostorm), who plays Marlon’s mother, Cecile, is heartbreaking as she sits at the police station all day, hoping and demanding her son not be forgotten. But her character has little to do besides pushing Ledroit to search for her son. 

In Eric, Black Characters Move White Story

Eric still of Adepero Oduye as Cecile sitting in a police station.
Eric still. Courtesy of Netflix.

The series may tout thematic issues that engage with homelessness, corrupt city government, and police force—NYC ain’t change much—and how little value a human life has when it falls into the category of other. However, Eric acknowledges racial divides while falling into a status quo where Black lives, again, have no value. The missing Black child, Marlon (Bence Orere), only matters as his story connects to the larger story. He is only seen in glimpses, further diminishing his value. 

Black characters exist to propel the white story forward through one means or another. It lacks the awareness to do more with any character, save for the white ones. Arguably, Missing Persons’ officer Ledroit gets some life onscreen outside his police duties. But that could also be because his partner is white. 

The show brings topical issues of race and sexuality to the forefront but handles them with the same disregard. For those claiming it’s the realism of the period, a grown man walking around with a monster silences that. Picking and choosing the fantastical and realistic elements directly relates to the writer’s perception of people. 

Offensive Conflating Between a Predator and Homophobia

Eric still of McKinley Belcher III as Ledroit in a club.
McKinley Belcher III as Detective Ledroit. Courtesy of Netflix.

As the last episode comes to a head, there is continued incompetence from the self-destructive Vincent. However, the worst is the questioning at the station. As Ledroit questions a suspect in Marlon’s disappearance, Eric draws parallels between pedophilia and being gay with “Do you know how it feels to hide who you are.” Sir, one of you is a predator that needs to be under a jail. The other is a gay Black man who has to navigate a world that seems incapable of turning if they are not oppressing someone living their life. 

One Cannot Make a Statement Through the Default

Focusing on the importance of home and community does not work when the focal point remains the default. Eric raises all these issues with a system while pandering to said system through its traditional white lens. It also relegates Black characters as useful only relative to what they provide the white family. By the end of Eric, there are only two takeaways worth noting. First, when the lawyer Renata (LeTanya Borsay, The Knick) stated, “You want to know how to spell racist? NYPD,” she spoke a truth that still resounds. 

The second is that white people in this series need a permanent side-eye. If they’re not corrupt, they lack something basic to care about those around them: heart. Eric may have astounding performances, but too many missteps devolve Black lives as valuable for fighting corruption and saving white lives. Eric treats them as a means to an end, and the results are messy. 

2 thoughts on “Eric Is a Mess of Outstanding Performances And Poor Choices”

  1. Thanks for putting into words the unease I felt about the series. You don‘t have to be black to understand that the Series is trying to have its cake and eat it – to foreground racial injustice and to stick to the „only white people matter for the happy ending“ storytelling at the same time. As there wäre many stellar performances and ideas in the series, this is particularely painful to watch. Thank you for calling it out- a chance die better choices in the future.

  2. As a black man, I am sick to death of white commentaries saying I should think about something. Stay in your lane.

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