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Moment of Goodness

Philip Stands His Ground in Eyewitness “Buffalo ’07” 

Philip Stands His Ground in Eyewitness “Buffalo ’07”
Photo Credit: Christos Kalohoridis/USA Network

The final moments of “Buffalo ’07,” the pilot episode of USA’s Eyewitness, are where the series turned for me. Like I said in my preview, the romance at the center was a complete unknown going in, but then as it unfolded in the course of the first hour, I held my breath a bit, because there were a couple of times where it could have gone really terrifyingly wrong, and then, it didn’t. And I was hooked.

Lukas (James Paxton) is a violently closeted high school student who’s parsing through a ton of emotions when his new friend Philip (Tyler Young) makes a move on him and he finds himself reciprocating, with conditions. The old chestnuts that “nobody can know,” “I’m not gay,” etc., and then all of that is just suddenly capital NOT IMPORTANT in the scheme of things when their first tryst is interrupted by a triple homicide that they witness. Lukas acts in a moment of bravery for Philip and they get away before they become victims four and five.

And the bond of that is superimposed on top of all the other emotions they’re feeling, about what they witnessed, about surviving, about maybe killing someone, and about each other. When it counted, Lukas did the right thing, saved Philip’s life, and bought them enough time to escape.

Later on, when he finds out it’s possible the shooter has survived, Philip tries to talk to Lukas at school in front of his friends, and Lukas blows a fuse in a panic and takes a swing at Philip, knocking him to the floor. Philip keeps quiet about the true reason for the fight, and undeterred, shows up at the end of the episode in Lukas’s bedroom with the good news that they’re in the clear because he saw the crime scene photos and he thinks the shooter was killed. We know, but he doesn’t, that he’s wrong.

Lukas is relieved, and receptive to Philip kissing him again. He pulls him down onto the bed with him, and then just as quickly, turns it off, saying he can’t be this guy, that his Dad wouldn’t want it, and his girlfriend, Rose, wouldn’t want it. He tells Philip he doesn’t know him. Philip is annoyed and says he knows he’s a spoiled-ass rich kid, and Lukas throws it up at him that his Mom’s a junkie.

And now they’re both hurt, and ashamed of what they’ve said to each other. Philip tells Lukas he didn’t have to say that, and Lukas says the same about Philip’s barb at him.

Lukas apologizes and tells Philip his dad is out of town. Philip rolls his eyes a bit and Lukas comes back to the bed and kisses him again. It escalates and Lukas pulls Philip down and starts toward his pants. Philip snaps to, and bolts off the bed, saying No over and over and fixing his clothes. He tells Lukas he’s not allowed to not want to be seen with him and treat him like a freak, hit him in the face, and then use him as his bitch to fool around–that’s what Rose is for. “You’ve got to decide,” he tells him.

Lukas genuinely doesn’t know what to do with that, asking, “What’s there to decide?” Philip is over it and brushes past him and down the stairs and then waits a beat on the landing below to see if Lukas follows, apologizes, anything. He doesn’t, instead throwing himself onto the bed, lost, as Philip rushes out the door and goes home.

Where this turned for me is that I’ve watched enough shitty TV that I half expected the scene on the bed to turn into a beat down or a rape since Lukas was so aggro about wanting Philip in spite of himself. Instead, very, very thankfully we had an awakening as Philip calls him out on his bullshit and doesn’t allow himself to be taken advantage of. He’s telling Lukas no, and demanding more for himself, which is huge for a kid who’s on such uneven footing in a new environment.

He’s challenging Lukas to see him and to look at himself, and he’s pronouncing himself worthy of something more than a dalliance or an experimental experience. I loved that dynamic. It immediately made me want more of these two characters, and it made me marvel at such an emotionally raw portrayal of a first love that’s got so many things stacked against it.

Tyler Young and James Paxton are so, so good, y’all. Please watch this show.

Eyewitness airs Sundays at 10/9c on USA.

[Updated: The series ran one season and every episode is on Amazon Prime, iTunes, and You Tube in the US.]

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