When Sarah Pinborough’s thriller novel Behind Her Eyes was first published in 2017, it was promoted with the hashtag #WTFThatEnding and a sticker promising “the most shocking ending you’ll read all year.” The new Netflix miniseries based on the book has now been marketed with the same approach: The streaming service has been touting the trailer with the words, “Behind Her Eyes is a new thriller based on the best-selling book… yes, the book with *THAT* ending.”
If you’re anything like me, that information probably has you wondering, “OK, what ending?” The basic plot—a woman, Louise (Simona Brown), becomes entangled in a love triangle as she sleeps with her new boss, David (Tom Bateman), but also becomes friends with his wife, Adele (Eve Hewson)—seems pretty par the course for an erotic thriller, so what’s the big deal? And is it worth watching the whole thing to find out? Luckily, I’ve just watched all six hourlong episodes so you don’t have to.
Wait. Before you spoil anything: Should I watch this thing? Is it worth it?
Not in my opinion, no. The ending is as nutso as promised, but that doesn’t mean the series is any good, or that it’s worth six hours of your life. And you don’t have to take my word for it: Most early reviews seem to agree.
Fine. Spoil away. What is this ending?
Adele, who is actually Rob (Robert Aramayo) in Adele’s body, switches bodies with Louise via astral projection, kills Louise-in-Adele’s-body, and gets married to David as Louise.
Uhhhhhhhh. You’re making me feel like the Confused Math Lady meme.
I know. It’s OK. Let me handle this for you.
So the backstory here is that, when Adele was a teenager, a fire broke out at her family estate, killing both of her parents. Adele was rescued by David, the son of a farmer on their grounds. To deal with the trauma, she was then sent to a rehabilitation facility, where she met Rob, a junkie. The two of them became fast friends, with Rob becoming extremely protective of Adele. However, when Rob meets David, he immediately falls in love with him, and after Adele confides in Rob that she’s able to astral project and teaches him how to do it, Rob convinces her that they should try astral projecting into each other’s bodies. Once they do, Rob-in-Adele’s-body injects Adele-in-Rob’s-body with an overdose of heroin, thereby killing her, and dumps the body formerly known as Rob into a well.
So Adele is actually Rob the whole time?
Exactly. And Rob is so unwilling to let anyone else have David that, in the end, he takes over Louise’s body as well.
Hold up a second. Who’s Louise again?
Louise is the series’ main character. She’s a receptionist in a psychiatrist’s office. She first meets David at a bar, where the two share a connection—and a kiss—before she discovers the very next day that he’s her new boss. She meets his wife, Adele, shortly after that, and then … well, I’ve told you.
You said Rob and Adele had to agree to switch bodies—how does Rob get into Louise’s body?
It’s not that the two parties have to be consenting, but that the body that the soul is going into must not be occupied at that moment in time.
So Louise can astral project, too?
Rob-as-Adele teaches her how to. Louise suffers from night terrors, and as she and Rob-as-Adele become friends, Rob-as-Adele gives her Rob’s old journal, which contains tips on how to control one’s dreams.
Meanwhile, Rob-as-Adele, perceiving Louise as a rival for David’s affections, does everything he can to make Louise believe that David is a bad person, telling her that he thinks David murdered Rob.
So Rob-as-Adele is basically framing David for his own murder?
Right, or the murder of his body, anyway. It’s only afterward that Louise figures out astral projection and realizes that Rob-as-Adele has been lying, and that the reason Rob-as-Adele knows so much is because he’s been watching everything unfold (signaled in the show via a high view and the faint sound of a sigh).
Wait—so Rob is able to use astral projection to watch anything he wants, Eye of Sauron–style?
Pretty much. The only restraint is that he can only astral project to places he’s been before.
OK. So what happens after Louise figures out that Rob-as-Adele has been trying to frame David?
Louise tells David, and it all ends in a big final confrontation at David and Adele’s house. First, Rob-as-Adele, who is obsessed with David, fears that he will lose him, and so sets the stage to kill himself: He sets the house ablaze and shoots up with a large dose of heroin while he’s still inside.
Meanwhile, because Louise is a good person, she goes to the house and, upon seeing that it’s on fire, tries to get in. Failing to open the door, she astral projects. As it happens, Rob-as-Adele is also astral projecting at that very same moment and goes into Louise’s “empty” body. Louise then goes into Adele’s body but can’t handle the heroin that Rob-as-Adele has taken. Rob-as-Louise takes advantage of the situation, managing to break his way into the house and shoot more heroin into Louise-as-Adele’s veins, thus killing her.
(If all of this seems complicated, I’m actually leaving a lot out!)
Doesn’t anyone notice that Louise seems different?
Well, considering that David and Rob-as-Adele have been married for a decade without David suspecting anything (he’s basically chalked up their failing marriage to “Adele” being crazy), David probably isn’t going to realize that there’s anything amiss about “Louise” either. Also, who’s going to believe that people can actually switch bodies? That said, Louise’s son clearly realizes that there’s something wrong with his mom.
So is part of the twist that this erotic thriller is really a science-fiction thriller?
Sort of. The trailer doesn’t make explicit that the series involves astral projection, let alone body swapping. And while the rest of the plot is pretty standard erotic-thriller material, by the second-to-last episode, it becomes clear that there are supernatural elements: You start to see the characters’ souls float out of their bodies as orbs of light.
Can I ask another question? The movie is called Behind Her Eyes, and it seems like part of the haunting, #WTFThatEnding twist is that “behind her eyes” is … a man. Is this thing transphobic?
I would not say it’s transphobic, mostly because I wouldn’t say it’s a trans storyline at all: It’s not that Rob wants to be a woman; it’s that he’ll do anything to be with David.
So is it more of a “predatory gay man” thing? That old trope?
I would not say this is an especially positive depiction of gay men, no, if that’s what you’re asking.
What if reading this description of the show actually made me want to watch it?
I won’t stop you, though if you want to watch a body-swap thriller that’s tighter, more fun, and in some ways more progressive, may I recommend Freaky?