The new USA Network show “Eyewitness” starts off with a familiar scene: two teens kissing at night in a cabin in the dark, secluded woods when trouble appears. In a matter of mere seconds, they find themselves witness to a violent murder when members of a local gang break into the cabin with a hostage. The teens manage to flee but decide to keep what they saw a secret. That’s where “Eyewitness” sets itself apart from other television shows these days.
The two teens in the cabin are Philip (Tyler Young), the new foster kid in town, and Lukas (James Paxton), the golden boy motocross racer who can’t admit to himself that he’s gay and most definitely doesn’t want his friends or family finding out about the time he spends with Philip. Philip reluctantly agrees to keep what they saw a secret so as not to lose what he has with Lukas. But their charade becomes a lot more dangerous when they realize that the murderer is now determined to track Philip down and eliminate him since he had seen the killer’s face that night.
The story is further complicated when Philip’s foster mother—and the town’s sheriff—Helen (Julianne Nicholson), takes on the case and more bodies start piling up. Philip and Lukas struggle to reconcile what they saw and what they’re keeping quiet as the pressure mounts on them to tell the truth. Meanwhile, their relationship with each other and other people start to fracture into something more hostile.
What really sets the show apart from other thrillers is the depiction of Philip and Lukas’s budding relationship. Lukas is determined to keep his relationship with Philip a secret while also not telling anyone about the murders. This ultimately puts him and the people around him in a very precarious situation.
Lukas’s journey is different from other coming out stories. Lukas himself is vehemently opposed to the idea of even being gay despite his obvious feelings for Philip. “Eyewitness” adeptly depicts Lukas’s struggle in trying to reconcile who he thinks he should be and what makes him truly happy, highlighting his internalized homophobia. As the pressure mounts from both secrets—what Lukas and Philip witnessed and Lukas’s feelings for Philip— Lukas’s perfectly structured life begins to unravel before him. This leads him to make some very rash and unhealthy decisions, even looking down on Philip for being gay and taunting him when they are in public.
It’s not a depiction often seen, and it’s one that paints a particularly complex portrait of Lukas; in one case he gets into a fight with Philip at school after Philip tries to talk to him in public, only to kiss him later in private. In turn, Philip is also conflicted, lying to his foster parents about the murders and not wanting to break Lukas’s trust—a trust he starts to doubt when Lukas continues to ignore and push him around in front of other people.
Overall, the characters and their own desires, some deeper and more secretive than others, are what make the show so engaging. Although they are relatively unknown actors, Young and Paxton bring a layer of humanity to their characters, who are messy and flawed but ultimately lovable, and whose relationship you can’t help but root for along the way. “Eyewitness” is more than just a typical game of cat-and-mouse; it’s a show that most certainly stands out on its own.and whose relationship you can’t help but root for along the way. Eyewitness is more than just a typical game of cat-and- mouse; it’s a show that most certainly stands out on its own.