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While I’m not a parent, I can empathize with the fear of things happening to your children that are out of your control. I have four nephews that I’m close with and worry about on a daily basis, so I can only assume that worry is ten-fold for parents. How do you let your children go to school or walk out of the house, for fear of something horrid happening to them? It feels like this would be crippling, as the world continues to provide reasons left and right to reinforce this anxiety in parents around the world. It’s this parental fear that is at the core of Netflix’s newest psychological thriller, Eric, a six-part limited series starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

Created by Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady, River) and directed by Lucy Forbes (This is Going to Hurt, The End of the F***ing World), Eric follows the story of puppeteer Vincent in the 1980s, who becomes embroiled in the mystery surrounding the disappearance of his son on the streets of New York. Joining Cumberbatch, who also executive produces the miniseries, are Gaby Hoffmann, McKinley Belcher III, Mark Gillis, and Dan Fogler. Together, this team of creatives hopes to provide six hours of engaging entertainment, that brings the darkness of humanity to center stage for all to see. Eric is haunting and prolific, a series that I couldn’t stop watching until the credits rolled on the last episode.

[Warning: light spoilers from Eric are below!]

A parent’s worst fear comes to light in new Netflix miniseries Eric

Vincent (Cumberbatch) is at the top of his game when we first meet him in Eric. He’s the lead creative of a hit children’s educational series, similar in nature to Sesame Street. Vincent is the lead designer of each one of the puppets, who is tasked with having to find a new character to bring to the show.

Between his eccentric behaviors that run rampant in creative types, and the over-involvement of station management, a precarious situation is brewing. Yet, this pales in comparison to what’s happening in Vincent’s real life.

The disappearance of his son Edgar (Ivan Morris Howe) sends Vincent’s life into a tailspin. It wasn’t like he exactly had it all together, with overindulging in alcohol and drugs and fighting too much with his wife Cassie (Gaby Hoffmann), but losing his son pushes him over the edge. Understandably so, as any parent would be distraught if their nine-year-old disappeared off the face of the Earth one morning as he walked to school. Vincent’s behaviors become more erratic, pushing everyone away, and making him feel more isolated and alone.

Vincent (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Eric the Puppet. Eric (Netflix).
Vincent (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Eric the Puppet. Eric (Netflix).

However, Vincent has a plan, and in his head, it’s a good one. Prior to his son’s disappearance, Edgar created a puppet of his own, Eric, a loveable monster who is just looking for a home. Perhaps if he can put Eric on the show, Edgar will see this and come home. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but not everyone is sold, including his best friend and co-creator on the show, Lennie (Dan Fogler).

As Detective Michael Ledroit’s (McKinley Belcher III) investigation heats up, Vincent’s life falls apart. Can he find his son, or is this just a mark against him? He’ll need help to put the puzzle pieces together, which he receives in the form of the seven-foot-tall Eric puppet that comes to life in his psyche. 

Benedict Cumberbatch gives an award-worthy performance

I think many of us can agree that Benedict Cumberbatch is one of the most talented actors in the business. He initially came on my radar with Sherlock, starring him and Martin Freeman as that dynamic duo. Since that introduction, there isn’t a single movie I’ve seen with him in it that he doesn’t completely own the role he plays. Eric is no exception and, in fact, one of my favorite projects by him to date. 

Eric is unlike anything from Benedict Cumberbatch that I have seen before, with the exception that he carries over a bit of the narcissistic personality from Sherlock. In this miniseries, his character dances on a precipice between genius and insanity, which slowly tips the more you get into it. At times, I began to wonder how much of the psychosis was brought on by the disappearance of his child, or was it there all along? Cumberbatch’s performance gave me chills countless times, as I found myself stuck between empathizing with his emotions, and terrified of the destruction to his life he was causing.

There’s nothing like watching a trainwreck in progress, you just can’t look away. That’s what it’s like seeing Vincent descend lower into the madness, as Eric becomes a more influential part of his life. He’s obsessed with seeing the puppet make it onto television, but after a while, you aren’t sure if it’s truly to get his son back or to feed his own narcissism.

Evolutionary psychology states that people have children to become almost immortal, passing their DNA onto future generations. That’s the feeling you get with Eric and Vincent’s television show; they are his children, and his legacy means more to him than anything.

Eric and Vincent in Netflix's Eric
Eric and Vincent (Benedict Cumberbatch). Eric (Netflix).

Part of what makes Benedict Cumberbatch so amazing in this series is the entire supporting cast. Every character and actor has a moment to shine, an important storyline, and a reason to pay attention. My heart went out to McKinley Belcher III’s character the most, but that is dictated by my real-life experience. Gaby Hoffmann was also superb as the neurotic Cassie, who is lost without her son and dealing with the harsh reality that her human is off-kilter. This series hopefully comes with many Emmy nominations, as there are so many strong performances.

Eric is purposefully difficult to watch at times

As I stated earlier, the journey that Vincent takes in this series is a trainwreck happening before the audience’s eyes, but it isn’t the only story in Eric that is difficult to watch. Due to the topics discussed and the time period at hand, there’s a good chunk of the miniseries that is hard to watch. But that is part of the appeal of the show. It’s similar to watching any true-crime documentary, which makes you uncomfortable because they are stories that can happen any day in our lives.

A child we know could disappear at any time and there’s nothing we can do about it. Someone we know could dissociate from their reality due to trauma, and all we would be able to do is stand there and watch. Every aspect of Eric is grounded in reality in some way or another (yes, even the talking puppet), and as a viewer, you can’t help but feel uneasy when you watch it.

I binged all six episodes in one sitting, but I do wonder if Eric would be better with a break in the middle, as it does start to feel heavy near the end. As all the stories and tragedies accumulated in the back half, I started to feel slightly overwhelmed and needed to stress eat. Probably not the greatest coping skill, but you get the idea. I would suggest that to fully appreciate Eric, you need to be in the right frame of mind and that taking a break halfway through would be smart. Reset before diving back into a wonderfully written and insanely haunting series.

Netflix’s Eric is event television that you don’t want to miss

I’m a sucker for a well-edited trailer with creepy versions of pop songs, so when I first saw the preview for Eric, it caught my interest. Thankfully, the series lived up to the hype, exceeding even my wildest expectations.

Eric is for those of us who love true crime and a thrilling mystery to solve, as this psychological thriller won’t disappoint. So, if you’re looking for your next series to binge, take a chance on Netflix’s Eric; it’s well worth the time you invest in it.

Eric is streaming on Netflix. Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.

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Brian Kitson

Working hard to bring you the latest news and thoughtful analysis of all things nerdy!

Brian Kitson has 358 posts and counting. See all posts by Brian Kitson