Review: Shut Eye, season 1

KaDee Strickland and Jeffrey Donovan in Shut Eye

Shut Eye, a Hulu original series, is one of the more creative and surprising things I’ve seen in a while. Everything about it is unexpected.

Jeffrey Donovan in Shut Eye

Shut Eye boasts a big cast of characters. The leading family, in this drama full of families, is Charlie Haverford (Jeffrey Donovan), his wife Linda (KaDee Strickland), and their son Nick (Dylan Schmid). They also get an occasional hand from Charlie’s sister Sylvia (Leah Gibson).

The Hoverford family specialize in scams around psychic abilities, tarot readings, and fortune telling. They manage a number of fortune telling storefronts in the LA area.

Isabella Rossellini in Shut Eye

Their boss is Fonso Marks (Angus Sampson). The Marks family is a traditional Roma family headed by the matriarch Rita (Isabella Rossellini).

The Roma (or gypsies, as they are often called in this series) run all the fortune teller type businesses in the area, but the Marks family aren’t the only ones on top. Another Roma family run by White Tony (Zak Santiago) are competitors.

It’s a Vision

Charlie gets badly beaten up. He has serious head injuries. Before he’s healed, Charlie and Linda run into a woman named Gina (Emmanuelle Chriqui). Gina hypnotizes Charlie and tries to get him to hire her for one of the storefronts.

The combination of the head injury and the hypnosis do something to Charlie. He begins having strange premonitions. He sees future events. He has visions. The effects of the visions on Charlie and his family are an ongoing motif through all of season 1.

They initially blame the vision problem on Gina. To rid themselves of Gina, Charlie and Linda go to her motel. Linda burns her with a cigarette. They tell her to get lost.

Later Linda goes back alone. Linda and Gina begin a steamy affair. The number of complications in the plot that arise from this affair are many and varied. There are unexplained drug deaths, scamming the scammer episodes, and problems with the rose garden all because Linda “has an itch that needs to be scratched sometimes.”

Help me, Doctor

Susan Misner and Jeffrey Donovan in Shut Eye

Charlie goes to a neurologist, Dr. White (Susan Misner). She puts him through every test known to science and can’t find anything physical that would explain what he describes to her as “time out of joint.”

Dr. White is a bit of an edge case herself. As the episodes roll along, she suggests psilocybin, immersion therapy, and other rather unorthodox treatments. Eventually she believes that Charlie’s receiving visions from God or the universe like Nostradamus. The clincher was when he told her she was pregnant before she knew it herself.

The Clients

Charlie eventually comes to see his strange visions as a way to help people and make them grateful for his services – to the tune of big money.

David Zayas and Jeffrey Donovan in Shut Eye

He tells a gangster named Eduardo (David Zayas) that his son is deaf, not autistic. This is actually true – Charlie “heard” it in a vision while in the hospital. Eduardo is grateful. Very grateful. Fortunate, since Charlie and Linda get into a mess that requires the help of a grateful gangster.

Mel Harris and Jeffrey Donovan in Shut Eye

Nadine (Mel Harris) is rich. Charlie figures out a way to bilk her out of $1.7 million. Well, nothing goes according to plan and a lot of things happen to that 1.7 million bucks before season 1 is over. But out of all the crooks and liars in this series, Charlie always comes up with the most creative ideas for grabbing the loot.

Who can count the plot twists?

Charlie and Linda’s son Nick falls for a girl named Emma (Roan Curtis). To impress her he does some less-than-legal things. Emma, through no fault of her own, lands the whole family in trouble.

A detective (Sonja Sohn) visits the Haverford regularly – about the fortune tellers, about murdered folks who collect around the Roma families and by extension the Haverfords, about drugs in school, about missing people.

There’s a big gypsy wedding with Fonso’s daughter and White Tony’s son. Although they are both about 14, they’ll be wed to stop the war between the two families.

There’s a lot going on in Shut Eye, and much of it is a surprise.

I liked the Haverfords, even though they were crooks and con artists. Like their Roma bosses, the Haverfords put a lot of stock in family and family togetherness. Charlie was not the greatest crook – he had a moral streak that cost him money frequently. Linda was the one with the ambition to make the big money.

I’m a big fan of Isabella Rossellini (#EldersRock) and loved seeing her in this role as the powerful matriarch. I also enjoyed watching Jeffrey Donovan as he grew more and more desperate to understand what was going on with him. He has a one-size-fits-all stupid grin that he used in unfathomable situations that I found charming.

Leslie Bohem created and wrote Shut Eye. There are two seasons, each with 10 episodes. Hulu did not renew Shut Eye for a 3rd season. I haven’t watched season 2 yet, but I intend to. I really enjoyed season 1.

Have you seen season 1 of Shut Eye? Did you have a favorite surprise or character?

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