SHUT EYE Season One Review

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“They made four nails to use in the crucifixion. One for each of Jesus’s hands, one for his feet. The fourth was made of gold and it was for his heart. On the night before the crucifixion, a Gypsy boy stole the golden nail, so they crucified Jesus with only three. When it was over, God came to the Gypsy boy and told him that his theft had saved Jesus from the pain of a nail in the heart. To repay him, God gave Gypsies the right to steal without moral consequence. Stealing from Gypsies however, will fuck you inside and out.”

So Fonso Marks (Angus Sampson), head of the Marks family business, explains to Charlie Haverford (Jeffrey Donovan), a failed Vegas magician turned small-time psychic. The Marks family is a powerful Roma family that oversees all of the psychic parlors in Los Angeles and rules with an iron fist.

shut eye lady

Which is easy when you’re made of iron like this lady

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Soon after Fonso gives this warning to Charlie, Charlie and his wife, Linda (KaDee Strickland), decide to steal an exorbitant amount from the family, ignoring the drastic consequences. But while Charlie and Linda hatch their plans, Charlie starts seeing visions after an angry boyfriend of one of his customers beats him up. The visions, which are the basis for the show’s name (a “shut eye” is a magician/illusionist term for a performer who becomes so skilled at the trick of “mind reading” that they begin to believe they truly have psychic powers), continue through the rest of the series, but never influence the story nor give us insight into the events they reference. Instead, Charlie sees a vague vision of flames or water, doesn’t understand its meaning, the event he saw happens, and then it all makes sense. At least this is the pattern set up in the first three quarters of the episodes. Then, the established pattern changes so that he sees an event clearly and takes action to prevent it, but soon after that, the visions swiftly return to their vague, unhelpful glimpses. The lack of influence of Charlie’s visions on the story — except for that one convenient time — makes these scenes frustrating and boring to watch.

shut eye

Almost as frustrating and boring as seeing this thing on your screen

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Also frustrating and boring to watch is our main character. Charlie is already unlikable because he is a scam artist, a small time psychic who works out of his house and oversees a few other parlors as well. Though he doesn’t seem like a particularly awful guy besides the scamming, there also isn’t much to like. Sometimes Charlie seems uncomfortable with the way he manipulates his customers, but shows no real desire to change his ways. Charlie is lukewarm about everything, which makes the viewer long for him to take some kind of concrete direction. The only times Charlie does manage to take any initiative are when Linda, intimidates the poor sucker into taking action.

Linda is strong, proud, intimidating, and much more interesting than Charlie. A better version of this show would have cut Charlie out altogether and given the story to Linda. She is the one who has ideas and ambition for their business and a total lack of inhibition against risking it all for a greater reward. She’s ruthlessly goal-oriented and would do anything to protect her son. Linda is the character I want to get to know — not because she’s likable, but because she’s multifaceted. But the intelligent complexity of Linda’s character is marred by the confoundingly dumb choices she makes, including leaving a potent South American drug lying around her house where a teenage girl snorts it and dies on the Haverfords’ kitchen floor.

Though to be fair, if she told us to do something we’d snap to it too

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But despite all of the Haverfords missteps, scams, and bad choices, the stakes never feel real for them. They don’t go out of their way to hide their deception from Fonso, who we are led to believe will kill those who cross him. They don’t bother to hide their dislike for working for the Marks family, and both Linda and Charlie are more than happy to hide dead bodies and frame other people for crimes they didn’t commit. The Haverfords are not introduced to the audience as cold blooded killers or criminal masterminds, but by the end of the season they seem quite at home in those roles, with no growing pains whatsoever.

SHUT EYE wishes it could be the new GODFATHER, but fails in spectacular fashion. From its free use of the pejorative term “gypsy” to its inability to raise any stakes at all, SHUT EYE is an exercise in aggressive mediocrity. If you were planning on watching SHUT EYE on Hulu, it’s probably more entertaining to skip it and get some real shut-eye instead.

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

Nicole Barraza Keim

Nicole Barraza Keim is a graduate of USC's School of Cinematic Arts and fervent Trekkie. Her passion is promoting positive change in media by creating content about all types of women kicking ass! To keep up with Nicole’s reviews, follow her on Letterboxd at the link above.

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