Endings and Beginnings in Eyewitness “Mother’s Day” + Jennifer Coté Commentary [Exclusive]
I’m going to tell y’all a dirty little blogger secret. I’m not always able to go back and watch episodes live after I’ve pre-screened them for my preview. Eyewitness was one of those exceptions where I made damn sure to watch and live Tweet every week because it’s just been that good. The bonus was being part of the Twitter community who whole-heartedly embraced the show, its cast, and the Philkas. Y’all have been a blast. Note: This one is hella long, so get comfortable.
Tonight, we closed out the first season and I’m holding firm to the notion we will be getting a second one. While we got a lot of things tied up in a neat bow, there is so much to mine going forward. I’ll get to that below, but first, let’s look at how awesome the finale was.
Helen as Ripley
Alien‘s Ellen Ripley is the gold standard for women who give no f-cks about who they mow down and through to protect their loved ones, and tonight we saw Helen Torrance swallow her considerable panic and PTSD and flip into Ripley mode as she realized this son she wasn’t quite sure she really wanted was her son and his death was fairly imminent if she didn’t find him immediately. What follows is a series of fantastic scenes as she bails hell for leather forward, including into an FBI bust, backed up by Tony on shotgun.
She stops first, though, to recognize that Gabe has been a model husband through all of this. She tells him that she loved that the day they met he didn’t see any of the damage in her. He tells her he only saw her, and that he loves her. She tells him everything is going to be all right and then she kisses him goodbye.
And yet, she still can’t quite get there to pull the trigger on Kane when she first has the chance, which makes complete sense when she’s about 10 feet away from a convoy of armed agents. When she goes to see Kamilah, her mission is two-fold–what did she know/help me find my son, but she stops for a minute to commiserate with her. They’ve both taken very big personal leaps in being responsible for the well-being of another person. Helen’s fully on board now, homicidally so, but she acknowledges for Kamilah that she’ll have to make those big choices for herself, and getting the hell away from the badge is an excellent first step.
Gabe gets home as he hears from Helen that the boys are AWOL and finds Bo on his porch, drowning his sorrows because he’d somehow missed that his son is gay. He’s awash in anguish, in part as it reinforces how desperately he misses Lukas’s Mom. He tells Gabe that when she died, he thought how much he wished she was alive so she could tells Lukas she had died.
Gabe says he knows about Lukas, and Bo says he probably thinks he knows everything about his son. Gabe takes a drink and says says he doesn’t know anything anymore and sits down. In a callback to early Lukas, Bo wipes the bottle neck before he drinks after Gabe, and then sits down beside him.
All season, we’ve watched Ryan Kane put his life and actions in individual boxes: lead FBI agent, confidante to Helen, almost-paramour to Kamilah, predatory relationship with Bella, and mass murderer. There’s a hint during his polygraph that he came out the other side of some unspeakable things during a military deployment, and we can only guess the role that played in turning him into an elite-level sociopath.
Last week, he genuinely tried to get the hell out before he could do any more damage to himself or anyone else and then Helen pulled him back. And in a weird cosmic joke, she handed the boys right to him. He could walk away again, but he doesn’t. Instead, he commits himself to his original task of buttoning up all the loose ends. That brings him to Anne, who he kills with a hot shot in the most reverent way possible after he tells her who he is. Then he lures the boys to her apartment and kidnaps them.
From there, he compartmentalizes again, going to work for the bust and then losing his composure as the threat of exposure looms. It literally bubbles up to the point that he vomits all over the desk, and then brushes it off as stress. I loved that subtle touch of his body just completely overwhelmed by his racing mind.
When he has a choice again, to kill the boys outright or let them go, he goes for the middle path–leaving Lukas and taking Philip to force Helen’s hand, after she’s told him flat out she knows who he is and what he’s done. When she finally catches up with him, she’s overwrought with a familiar but new shade of panic. She finds them on the edge of the river, and Kane lets Philip go.
He revisits his own story of wanting to stop this path he was on. He tells her he couldn’t kill her boy. She says she knows, and finally unspools her own truth that she accidentally killed a baby she was attempting to rescue as they hid in a closet and she tried to stay quiet. When they’ve both finally said their piece, he levels his gun at her and she fires twice, dropping him. When she walks up on him, she sees he’d taken the clip out. He set her up to release him because he couldn’t do it for himself.
Afterward, Gabe runs up to Philip and Helen, and stops when he sees they’re safe. She turns to face him, clasps Philip’s hand, and walks away from Kane and all that he represented, and toward her husband.
Philip and Lukas
The boys get out of the hospital and away from Kane, buying a respite from everything with a time out in a “shit motel” (Tony). Lukas’s initial panic about being on the run again settles down when they sit on the bed and watch TV, stuck on a nature documentary, and just goof a bit–about the crappy broken remote and their junk food dinner out of a vending machine. Lukas remembers something else sweet about his Mom–a competitive game of stealing sugar packets from restaurants and counting them when they got home. Philip checks him on remembering her again, and Lukas says he didn’t think he did remember anything. The implication there is that he does remember her when he’s with Philip, when he’s his most true self.
Lukas kisses him and it escalates, but instead of the rapid fire making out we saw in the premiere, they take their time, working around the fact that Lukas is technically on the lam from the hospital after being shot and waking from a coma. They start to undress each other and change positions because Lukas can’t put weight on his arm. Philip confirms with him twice that he wants to go further, and he says yes. They keep kissing and Philip finally reaches for that condom. Lukas kisses him back and breaks with a perfect, happy laugh. They keep kissing and lock hands.
And then we pick up afterward, as Lukas says he wishes they could stay there forever, fully realizing they can’t. Philip finally calls Helen, who’s just found Anne, but she doesn’t tell him that. Instead, she sends Tony so she can go after Kane. And then things get dicey again as Kane uses Anne’s phone to summon Philip and he comes, with Lukas in tow. We don’t see Kane get the boys into the trunk, which was an interesting choice when we’d dreaded the repercussions of that encounter all season.
When Helen and Tony catch up to Kane’s car, they find Lukas in the trunk, bleeding out, and Kane and Philip gone. Helen takes off into the woods after them and leaves Tony to call 911. The paramedics arrive and get Lukas triaged and Bo races up to Lukas on the gurney, and all that terror and anger drops out and he tells his son he loves him.
One month later.
We find the Torrance/Shea family coming home, unloading boxes, but not that Buffalo ’07 box. There’s a mixup with the keys so they’re locked out. Philip says he’s skipping dinner because he has a date with Lukas, who walks up with his bike. They freely kiss and hug and Helen is glad to see, “He’s finally growing up.” The boys head up the road and banter like two teenagers not dodging a serial killer.
There’s a party, and Lukas might be ready to tell everyone about Philip–something Philip asks in the hotel room after they sleep together, deferring to Lukas about how they’ll navigate school and his friends. Progress. Except the starter’s shot on the bike, so they’re walking it. How fantastic that that is their only problem on a gorgeous day.
It’s not lost on me how super important their happy ending is for LGBTQ fans who weathered a brutal year. In my first watch of the entire series, I spent the back third fully expecting Lukas not to survive, so I was completely thrilled that he did. More of these stories, please.
Back at the house, Gabe serenades Helen and tells her he’ll always love her, until the end. She gazes out at the yard and this life, wrapped in the arms of an exceptionally decent man and then closes her eyes and we flash across this season’s moments of quiet bliss for them. She might not be completely ready for all that being wholly loved and accepted entails, but she’s certainly closer than she’s ever been.
When I chatted with series producer and writer Jennifer Coté, we talked about the things unseen and unsaid in the finale, and she says it comes down to a balance of show vs. tell, but don’t show everything, and trust that your audience is savvy enough to get there.
For example, they made a conscious choice not to do a full-blown sex scene when Philip and Lukas sleep together. “It’s very, very deliberate. Adi [Hasak] has always been a fan of cutting away from exposition or the traditional scene that you think you’re going to see. He likes a lot of British programming and shows like that will cue music over dialogue, that kind of stuff. We always had that going in the back of our brains being the taste choice,” she explains. “With certain things, the most delicious thing you can do [is set the scene in motion]. You don’t need to show the whole sex scene. Even though that’s not the purpose of a TV show or a movie, it works like a novel. It lets you imagine it.”
“The beginning [of their relationship] is so intense and physical with them. You’ve gone ten whole episodes until you see them in the hotel. We all–cast and writers included–felt like it needed to be a progression. They’ve been to hell and back together. At this point, it’s way more about love than it is gratuitous sex. In the beginning, all they had was a physical attraction to each other. Now they’re compelled to hold hands and take each other’s shirt’s off tenderly. There’s a whole other layer of where they are emotionally. Pulling back and focusing on the sensitive moments instead of the sexual moments pays respect to [that].”
As for the fans who might have really wanted to her Philip repeat his, “I love you,” and have it reciprocated. Coté says actions are more important than language where Lukas is concerned. “A lot of lies have come out of Lukas’s mouth over the course of this season, so for him, even more so than any of our other characters, actions speak louder than words,” she says.
“We’ve always made a conscious decision to have Lukas express his emotions through silent gestures, be it through giving Philip a Polaroid camera, walking out on a motocross sponsorship and giving Helen the gun, or finally by kissing Philip openly in front of people who know them. That says ‘I love you’ louder than any words ever could.”
We don’t see Kane’s confrontation with the boys, beyond the moment where they realize they’ve been duped into coming, and Coté says that was scripted, and logistics beheld them to that decision. “It was always meant to be that way. Strangely enough, it was perfect because on the day we were shooting, we had no time [at the location], so hilariously, it was perfect,” she recalls.
“Adi always asks, ‘Is this going to be entertaining? And if no, then why are we showing it?’ I think it’s more delicious to have the audience say, ‘Oh shit,’ for a moment and then fill in the blanks. [To leave them] wondering what happened to the boys is so much more powerful than seeing a violent action sequence in detail.”
Looking ahead to a possible second season, the show was first pitched as an anthology with the notion it might reboot every year with a different story. Coté says the thinking on that has shifted a bit, and the fans are a huge reason why. “If all goes well and we get a season two, we’re definitely leaning toward using the same cast and characters,” she says. “The fandom has spoken out loud and clear about their love for these particular characters, so we’ve already been brainstorming what journeys we’d want to see them go on next.”
Y’all already know I’m stupid in love with this show and the whole cast, so I hope that’s the path of a second season. I’d love to spend more time with these characters, with or without another crime at the center.
Thank you so much for spending the season with me here and on Twitter! If you missed any of our coverage, it’s all here.
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