Benedict Cumberbatch (right) stars in Eric (Photo: Supplied)
Benedict Cumberbatch (right) stars in Eric (Photo: Supplied)

Pop CultureMay 31, 2024

Netflix’s new drama Eric is full of monsters hiding in plain sight

Benedict Cumberbatch (right) stars in Eric (Photo: Supplied)
Benedict Cumberbatch (right) stars in Eric (Photo: Supplied)

Don’t let your puppet issues put you off Benedict Cumberbatch’s intriguing new crime thriller.

This is an excerpt from our weekly pop culture newsletter Rec Room. Sign up here. 

What’s all this then?

Eric is Netflix’s new psychological drama created and written by Welsh playwright Abi Morgan (Suffragette, The Iron Lady, The Split), and starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Gaby Hoffman and McKinley Belcher III. Cumberbatch plays Vincent, a talented New York puppeteer whose son Edgar goes missing on his way to school one day in 1985. As the police search for Edgar, a grief-stricken Vincent becomes obsessed with bringing his son’s drawing of a monster named Eric to life, convinced that if he can get the monster to appear on his TV puppet show, he’ll be reunited with his son.

What’s good?

This is a show full of surprises. I came in expecting a weird puppet drama, but Eric is darker, grittier and more richly imagined than that. Yes, it’s a show about a troubled puppeteer who works on a cheery Sesame Street-type kids show called Good Day Sunshine, but there’s nothing quirky or whimsical about Eric. This is a serious crime thriller with moments of the surreal, and if you’ve been put off the series by any pre-disposed puppet issues, think again.

Cumberbatch is hugely compelling as Vincent, a father hell bent on self-destruction. After failing to walk his son to school on the day he disappeared, Vincent’s mental health unravels the point where he starts to see visions of giant puppet Eric, who follows him around as a constant reminder of his guilt and self-loathing. Cumberbatch isn’t the only strong performance here (although he is the only one doing a lot of wacky voices); Hoffman gives a heart-wrenching portrayal as Edgar’s anguished mother Cassie, while Belcher is quiet and stoic as the detective investigating the case.

Ultimately, Eric is a show of contrasts: sunshine and shade, hope and sorrow, life and loss. Vincent’s cheery puppet show is the antithesis of his cynical, miserable real life, while the detective investigating Edgar’s disappearance is forced to hide his sexuality from his homophobic colleagues, his partner slowly dying of AIDS at home. Edgar’s mother Cassie has her own secrets, too. Everyone in this show is wearing some kind of disguise, and they’re all hiding something. Only one of them is yelling at a blue-horned monster named Eric, though.

Vincent (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his son Edgar (Ivan Morris Howe). (Photo: Supplied)

What’s not so good?

There’s a lot going on in Eric, and the show takes us in too many different directions. This is more than just a missing-person story – it’s also a family drama, a police procedural, a crime thriller and a surreal psychological drama. It touches on police corruption, political corruption, racism, homophobia, the AIDS epidemic, homelessness, alcoholism and mental illness (monsters everywhere, get it?), all woven into a gritty 1980s New York landscape that feels so realistic, Eric could also be a true crime series.

But in the show’s efforts to recreate this rich and layered world, we’re taken far away from the original plot of Edgar’s disappearance, and I’m curious to see if all these themes can be convincingly pulled together by the end of episode six.

Verdict: Watch it

Don’t miss this one. Eric is a dark and intriguing drama filled with compelling performances and rich storylines that will surprise you. Cumberbatch should get his good suit ready for award season.

Eric is available to stream on Netflix. 

Keep going!