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Eric, feels like three potentially great TV shows which have been cut into pieces and sewed together to make one confusing, heavy but still acceptable TV series. Actually, the six-episode Netflix miniseries feels like The Wire, True Detective and Wilfred had a malnourished baby. Cassie is Benedict Cumberbatch’s wife in this show where he acts as Vincent a drunkard puppeteer who is angry all the time. In New York City in the 1980s, nine-year-old Edgar disappears around the same time that another child vanishes.

He goes mad from drinking and has dreams about Eric, a giant-like puppet that looks very much like Harvey made by his son when he was still alive. During this time Vincent fights against himself and for his job as well. However their story is less interesting than that of their detective Mike Ledroit who investigated what happened to them. He was an interesting character in his own right and McKinley Belcher III did such a good job playing him that you miss his part whenever it isn’t shown.

Still, Eric tackles its themes with great emotional resonance and artistry even though writer Abi Morgan tries to tackle too many issues within six episodes – corruption, bad parenting, homelessness, discrimination against the homeless, AIDS crisis among other themes. At last however it gets this across when we realize how much less visible monsters are everywhere.

The book starts out establishing immediately crucial relationship between Vincent and Edgar in “Eric”. Among his co-workers Vincent can be seen at work on children’s TV show using puppets whose career is coming to an end soon.It’s no surprise then that when Vincent stops juggling puppets for kids’ shows he becomes cynical again swearing at anyone who passes by him after a drink or two. He hides from his father in the costumes of these puppets whom he adores so much once they have left stage since he does not want to go home. This is a perfect example of the entire series.

On his way home, Vincent takes Edgar to buy alcohol as usual; after which he comes home drunk and argues with his wife, Cassie. It’s like a ritual. The next day, Vincent and Cassie are too busy fighting again and Edgar walks to school alone. Throughout the day she “phones” him at work but he ignores it because by then he will have gotten drunk or even come back with a bleeding wound on his hairline. Their flat was being visited by a police officer-Edgar had gone missing.

This marks the beginning of an epic journey that starts small (two parents and their missing child) and expands until it includes all of New York City in its scope. Mostly through Vincent, who becomes completely nuts when he descends into drunken madness with hallucinations about the towering puppet monster Eddie was sketching before his disappearance. Eric speaks with an angry voice and acts impatiently towards this man by scaring him whenever Edgar looks at him like a monster. But this is supposed to be funny only that it doesn’t belong here either. This has been done before from Harvey in 1950s to Donnie Darko in 2001and Jojo Rabbits in 2019; therefore it feels out of place here.

Luckily, this character, Vincent, gradually becomes less of a character throughout the series until he is reduced to a shuffling, itinerant vagabond for the last three episodes. Benedict Cumberbatch seems to be overdoing it in this role. His American accent sounds strange and his fury and “tormented genius” are all one-note no matter how much emotions he tries to fill into the part. I can’t stand him; and that goes for Cassie too. However, there’s one outstanding scene with Benedict Cumberbatch dancing wildly to Laura Branigan’s “Gloria,” intoxicated with alcohol and cocaine.

But there’s a great TV show inside Eric though and that’s the one featuring a police detective called Michael Ledroit played by McKinley Belcher III. The actor who is perhaps best known for his roles in Ozark and The Good Lord Bird does an absolutely terrific job as a gay African American man hiding his sexual preference from bigoted colleagues in an eighties police department that was rife with corruption.

Michael goes home to provide palliative care for his aging white boyfriend who has AIDS. Otherwise he spends most of his time at Gator’s club which is owned by an old flame of his (played passionately by Wade Allain-Marcus) who got out of jail and decided to go clean. He feels like the missing persons case from just about a year ago is related somehow to the nightclub, which has been gnawing at him every day since then. This isn’t really helped when the mother of the missing kid keeps calling him up over again and then sits in front of him at work all day long waiting patiently.

The fact that Edgar was white while another teenager who had gone missing around the same time was black (Michael referred to it as being ‘nearly’ 12 months ago), highlights how racialized Eric has become, something that hits you over head again and again. But the queer element is very subtly done and is tied in so beautifully with the theme of invisible monsters, which Belcher III embodies with every fiber of his being. He’s amazing here and watching him solve the case makes Eric.

Just to avoid spoilers on RIP IT APART, it’s fair to say that this show tries to chew too much at once; corrupt cops, dirty politicians, 80s NYC garbage legend, Post-Reagan homelessness/insanity policy AIDS epidemic pedophilia/sex trade etc. Vincent could have been written out completely; in fact Edgar’s story would probably have worked as a starting point for an epic tale of corruption. Yet Eric falls back on its worst habit: wasting time with Vincent and Cassie when we could have seen possibly great subplots built around them.

That said, however, the father-son connection and trippy puppet do help tie up some loose ends in Eric. It is a pity that this took so long though. And there are even periphery characters who are more captivating like Clarke Peters’ maintenance man from Vincent’s building George Lovett (great actor from The Wire). His co-star in that same series John Doman does brilliantly here as he only appears three times playing Vincent’s dad. More time spent on Michael relationship with someone dying or Gator his history would’ve been good.

And this, the central problem with Eric is actually Eric himself and the puppet monster he represents. The narratives of the show are heavily unbalanced. Vincent and Edgar’s father son relationship and their characters are less interesting (though almost irritating) than everything else. Then, all of a sudden, there are moments where Eric gets oddly sweet and cheesy about them feeling like Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romantic comedies.

Yet still, there is a brilliant police procedural that lies buried within Eric, told with great style and an awesome soundtrack to match it. It also puts McKinley Belcher III on everyone’s radar as an actor who has suddenly become a force to be reckoned with. Too bad there’s so much more going on here.

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