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Eric is an eccentric ride through a man out to change himself 

Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady, Suffragette) created this six-part mystery-thriller miniseries about 9-year-old Edgar Anderson (Ivan Morris Howe), who goes missing one day on the way to school after a rancorous argument between his parents, Vincent (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Cassie (Gaby Hoffman). Was he abducted? Did he run away? That's for Detective Michael Ledroit (McKinley Belcher III) to figure out. (six approximately 55-min. episodes)

click to enlarge MISSING When their 9-year-old son goes missing, unhappy couple Cassie (Gaby Hoffman) and Vincent (Benedict Cumberbatch) find their troubled relationship deteriorating, in Eric, streaming on Netflix. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NETFLIX
  • Photo Courtesy Of Netflix
  • MISSING When their 9-year-old son goes missing, unhappy couple Cassie (Gaby Hoffman) and Vincent (Benedict Cumberbatch) find their troubled relationship deteriorating, in Eric, streaming on Netflix.

Glen It's 1980s New York, There's an apparent garbage strike. The AIDS crisis is in full swing. Crime is rampant. The homeless population is swelling out of control. The corrupt city government is more interested in clearing out the poor to gentrify and make room for more condos. This is the backdrop of young Edgar's life, made more precarious by his mercurial and alcoholic father, Vincent, creator of a popular kids TV puppet show, Good Day, Sunshine! Vincent's caustic behavior lands him in trouble at work. The show he created with Lennie (Dan Fogler) has flagging ratings, and the bigwigs at the network on are breathing down their necks. When Edgar goes missing, Vincent—who we learn has a history of mental illness—begins to spiral. He soon goes on a quest to find Edgar with the help of an invisible 7-foot-tall monster puppet named Eric. Is Eric the key to finding the missing boy?

Anna Cumberbatch does an incredible job portraying Vincent as a whip-smart and wholly tortured soul. His parents are uber wealthy—his father Robert, (John Doman), is a big developer—and they seem to still live under the impression that their only obligation to their son is to throw money at whatever problem seems to be in his way and quickly resume ignoring his existence as soon as possible. It isn't a fun spiral to watch Vincent go down as he slips further and further into both addiction and delusion. But there's something there that made me wish for a win for him—maybe it's because the win would mean Edgar makes it home, or maybe because it would mean Vincent demonstrates a father/son love he was never given during his own childhood. There's corruption and deception around every corner of this story, and it sure stayed compelling. Hats off to Hoffman as well for her portrayal of Cassie; she gave a raw and vulnerable performance.

Glen A couple of times the Leo Tolstoy quote "everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself" comes up. It's at the heart of Vincent's journey. He looks around and sees injustice at every turn, but all that leads to is his own perceived victimhood. Instead of fixing the world, he needs to fix himself, and his drunken, quixotic quest with Eric is his chance to face his demons, stop blaming his parents or his network bosses or the world, and start taking responsibility for his own shortcomings as a parent and a person. Equally compelling is Detective Ledroit's storyline. He too feels treated unfairly, and he's sick of the corruption and homophobia within the NYPD. Both Vincent and Ledroit want to fix the world, but they only have the power to change themselves. Sometimes tapping into your inner monster is the only way you can find the strength to do the right thing.

Anna It seems to circle around to embracing the things in ourselves we are running from and finding somewhere for them to live. There are many points where Vincent is utterly unlikeable. He's cutting and mean, and whatever charm those who know him saw in the past seems well gone. However, in the end, he finds a way to rediscover himself and find a space for being a father in a way he has never known before. Eric helped Vincent to find Edgar and helped Edgar share a part of himself he was scared to with his father. All in all, it's a pretty touching tale that focuses on the messiness and beauty of being human. Δ

Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and freelancer Anna Starkey write Split Screen. Comment at [email protected].


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