A star rating of 4 out of 5.

Already in its initial premise, Eric seems like the kind of drama that will break your heart. It's a series centred around one father's search for his missing son, after all – how could it not? But quickly enough, you start to realise that the new Netflix series is far from being solely about this one emotional case.


In fact, Eric is a beautifully executed Trojan horse, luring us in with one premise and surprising us with so many overlapping themes – homelessness, the '80s AIDS crisis, racism – you'd think at one point it would fall victim to the way that some TV dramas can feel overcrowded.

Like a litany of spinning plates, however, Abi Morgan's expertly-penned series remains grounded in its central themes that only become more glaringly obvious the deeper we delve into the show's final episodes.

Eric follows Benedict Cumberbatch as Vincent Anderson, a well-known puppeteer and creator of the incredibly popular kids show Good Day Sunshine. Akin to Sesame Street, Vincent is the mainstay of the group and is brimming with ideas for how to make the show better, obsessively working on ideas but blowing off steam in nightclubs and drinking with his colleagues.

The idea of a show within a show is a novel concept here, providing an extended metaphor for the way Good Day Sunshine is also based in New York, a city that is hiding many murky secrets (and monsters) beneath its surface. Soon enough, the disappearance of Edgar plays out in a pulsating series of events, with suspicion being cast on some of those closest to him.

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Benedict Cumberbatch sitting at his work desk, sketching frantically as a big Eric puppet stands opposite him.
Benedict Cumberbatch in Eric. Netflix

Alongside Cumberbatch, Gaby Hoffman is hauntingly endearing as Edgar's mother Cassie. A mother in complete distress, Hoffman's emotional performance is a memorable standout as we see Cassie retrace Edgar's steps, avidly hand out flyers and clearly reach the point of no return when it comes to her own personal relationship with Vincent.

On the outside of it all, the Anderson's family life seems picture-perfect – living in a classic New York brownstone, both parents leading fruitful careers and having an artsy son that is clearly a natural young artist. But like the series as a whole, you dig deeper and realise that the Andersons are messier and more complicated than first realised.

Running in parallel to the central plot of Edgar's disappearance is also the case of another missing child, 14-year-old Marlon Rochelle. His case highlights the prejudice in the media when it comes to reporting on the missing cases of Black children and children of colour, but is one we learn a lot more about from the mid-point of Eric.

When it is presented, though, Marlon's story is one that is threaded with intent through the series, also opening up conversations about discrimination, wealth and who is deemed 'worthy' of public outcry.

It is a case that Detective Michael Ledroit (McKinley Belcher III) is also investigating in tandem with Edgar's disappearance, having moved from vice to missing persons, and brings more determination to his job than his boss would probably deem fit.

For many, Belcher will be a new face, but for fans of Ozark or Mercy Street, he brings a similar grounding energy but is simply a marvel in this series. Through Ledroit, we explore the hostilities and corruption within the NYPD, as well as the daily discrimination Ledroit faces being othered in the workplace. Belcher excellently takes on this complicated, enigmatic character, providing the through line of 'good' in Eric.

Gaby Hoffman and Ivan Howe sitting at a desk in their home as they sketch something together while smiling and being lit from behind by the sun coming in from the window.
Gaby Hoffman as Cassie and Ivan Howe as Edgar in Eric. Netflix

While Eric does suffer from a few slower moments that may cause you to lose attention, the moments that matter truly do grip you and refuse to let you go. The final episodes of the series are worth holding out for alone as we get insight into New York's homeless community, the current local government and the powerful handshake deals that are going on in the city that many are not privy to.

The '80s setting of the series brings with it a nostalgic brightness and toe-tapping soundtrack, which is aptly opposed by its gritty subject matter that will have you pawing through episodes trying to navigate clues and red herrings aplenty. The very nature of the flawless writing that underpins this series, though, from The Split's Morgan, means there are plenty of moments of quiet beauty as well as haunting tragedy in each episode.

But there's no denying that many people will likely tune into Eric for the fact that Cumberbatch returns to the wonderful world of TV to not only front the series as Vincent, but also serve an executive producer. His performance as the pained and struggling father figure is equal parts endearing and infuriating, fitting nicely into the dislikable protagonist trope that I, personally, am quite the fan of.

But acting as Vincent isn't the only thing Cumberbatch does in this series – oh no. He voices Eric, the human-size version of the puppet that Edgar drew. Often providing quite the witty quip to Vincent, Eric is the devil on Vincent's shoulder as much as his friend, but is integral in understanding Vincent's long history of issues.

McKinley Belcher III as Ledroit sitting at a table in a police station interrogation room with a stern look on his face.
McKinley Belcher III as Ledroit in Eric. Netflix

It's quite the format switch-up in such a hard-hitting drama to have a massive furry blue puppet appearing in shots next to the Academy Award-nominee but, surprisingly, it works.

Was I initially a little sceptical that it would water down the messaging of the series or perhaps, distract from the premise? Sure. But having watched it all, Eric is such an important extension of Vincent's psyche, as well as being a literal personification for the monsters that this series revolves around.

Eric sure looks like a monster, but is he? What does our idea of a monster look like and where have we gotten those preconceptions from? Those are just some of the questions that Eric's puppet form forces us to confront.

The puppet itself is brought to physical life by puppeteer Olly Taylor but is superbly voiced by Cumberbatch, who proves yet again why he can take on pretty much any role and here, expertly embodies two whirlwind complicated characters in one series. Eric, though, is on course to be a definitive favourite within Cumberbatch's extensive filmography – and that's truly saying something.

Once you've finished Eric, there's no doubt that you'll be left thinking about it for some time, partly due to the fact that the final episode feels like a whiplash of events where some other parts of the show can feel a bit more leisurely. It's a series that should almost end with a call to action or a group to debrief with, that's how fired up it'll make you.

In the first episode, Belcher's Ledroit asks his boss: "Doesn't that punch you in the gut?" as they have a fiery exchange over some of his own suspicions relating to the cases at hand – and really, that is precisely what Eric achieves.

Where packing on the emotion can oftentimes weigh other shows down with a sense of ingenuity or of being cringe-worthy, Eric packs a punch right where it hurts in the most thought-provoking of ways. It's brave and forthright in the themes it explores and hey, the inclusion of a puppet may stump many at first but it truly makes it a one-of-a-kind series.

Eric is available to stream on Netflix from Thursday 30th May. Sign up for Netflix from £4.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.


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