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Benedict Cumberbatch’s Netflix whodunnit Eric is the best show of 2024 – until it isn’t-Adam Miller-Entertainment – Metro

The thrilling drama features some of the most stand-out performances of the year.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s Netflix whodunnit Eric is the best show of 2024 – until it isn’t-Adam Miller-Entertainment – Metro

The thrilling drama features some of the most stand-out performances of the year (Picture: Ludovic Robert/Netflix)

Imagine Sesame Street meets a grisly Netflix true crime series following a child abduction and you get to Benedict Cumberbatch’s warped whodunnit, Eric.

1980s New York. On the surface it was the city full of dreams, magic and movies.

The reality is a city plagued with racism, homophobia, the HIV crisis and disparaging poverty which makes the backdrop of to Eric, the six-episode thriller about a missing child lost to the criminal underbelly of the Big Apple.

Vincent (Cumberbatch) is a manic puppeteer and creator of hit kids TV show Good Day Sunshine, essentially a carbon copy of Sesame Street.

While arguing with his wife Cassie (Gaby Hoffmann), exhausted by Vincent’s temperamental ego, their son Edgar (Ivan Morris Howe) walks out of the front door and takes himself to school, keen to leave his parent’s spat well behind him.

Only Edgar never makes it to school.

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Vincent spends the day clashing with his other Good Day Sunshine co-creatives bickering about how to make the happy-clappy show for kids a bit ‘cooler’ but returns home to find Cassie broken with Detective Michael Ledroit (McKinley Belcher III) sat at their kitchen table because their son has vanished.

Subsequently, Vincent and Cassie’s already shattered marriage completely collapses without their son to anchor them. Vincent turns to the bottle, every corner of his life is falling apart and during the acceleration of his psychotic breakdown he is woken from a deep drunken sleep by a giant, crude, blue cocaine-snorting puppet called Eric, designed by Edgar which Vincent is determined to bring to life in his TV show.

So much so he spends more time trying to introduce Eric into Good Day Sunshine than he does looking for Edgar while Cassie spends every waking hour she can on the hunt for their child.

The explosion of crime dramas has been overwhelming since Netflix seemed determined to leave no cold case unturned, the BBC and ITV is pumping out thriller after thriller and as someone who would once devour any show about a detective even if they’re devoid of any personality, I can now rarely bring myself to dive into another ‘mystery’.

Eric, however, feels special.

Vincent’s world unravels when his son goes missing one day (Picture: Netflix)

The seven-foot tall Eric is a creation designed by the young Edgar (Picture: Ludovic Robert/Netflix)

Created by Abi Morgan, whose writing varies from BBC drama The Split to Michael Fassbender’s erotically charged Shame, Eric is easily her most obscure work to date.

‘The real monsters aren’t under the bed,’ says Eric. Instead New York is a cesspit for monsters, from the racist and corrupt police force and the homophobia thriving during the HIV pandemic to addiction and greed running through the veins of the city.

Morgan’s ambitious visions of a kid’s TV show, the hellish underground city which is a home to the homeless, New York City in such a desperately miserable time during the 1980s all collide perfectly with the tension of a lost boy whose disappearance is a total mystery and his survival feels like a lost cause.

It has the promise of being the most pitch perfect show of the year – until suddenly it doesn’t.

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Edgar’s disappearance takes a back seat to Vincent’s unravelling, his manic spiral from scared father to reckless addict, spurred on by his imaginary monster Eric. Eric becomes increasingly unnecessary; it’s hard to tell if he wasn’t utilised enough or should have been written out entirely.

Cassie’s despair over Edgar while also gaining her power from leaving Vincent is actually a much more compelling narrative throughout the whole series, in part because Gaby Hoffmann’s performance is unmissable.

Throughout the course of a few days, Ledroit is confronted by the enormity of prejudice and criminality within the NYPD, the weight of finding Edgar dead or alive while his lover of seven years is swiftly losing his life to Aids. But he doesn’t break, he remains determined which while heroic does feel as though we miss out on what could have been a particularly powerful journey if we were given the opportunity to really see him feel.

Their three respective paths become central to Eric, more so than the case of Edgar’s disappearance but none of them are explored in enough depth to ever become more interesting than the tension around the missing child from the earlier episodes.

McKinley Belcher III plays Ledroit, the police detective who leads the search for Edgar (Picture: Netflix/YouTube)

Cumberbatch, Hoffmann and Belcher III are all still exceptional, however. Cumberbatch is always best at his most unhinged. Vincent is deeply unlikeable, his terrible decisions become increasingly more uncomfortable to watch but this is Cumberbatch at his peak.

Hoffmann is remarkable though, and really feels like the beating heart of Eric. Her performance is a constant gut-punch. Cassie’s vulnerability and completely shattered heart is compounded by the strength of hope, but never for a second does Hoffmann let go of all these polarising complex qualities and still manage to burst through with moments of genuine hilarity.

Eric is a great feat. Its vision is extraordinary are rare to find something so original not adapted from a book or reboot. It never stops being magical but the very promising start soon loses focus and several loose threads are resolved too quickly when otherwise it is on track to be a blinder of a limited series.

It is still one of the most enjoyable dramas I’ve seen for a very long time and at the very least come for Gabby Hoffmann and Benedict Cumberbatch who by far give two stand-out performances of the year.

Eric is available to stream on Netflix now.

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