One theme regularly explored in TV and movies is that of the dark underbelly which exists in small town America. USA’s “Eyewitness” doesn’t break the crime genre mold here — with its investigative story that takes place in Tivoli, New York — but with a few intriguing details, the series does stand out where it needs to.

Sunday’s (Nov. 27) episode of “Eyewitness” found law enforcement taking one step forward and two steps back with regards to this seemingly open and shut case. Lukas (James Paxton), having identified the man he believes to be the murderer, finds new comfort in his secret life with Philip (Tyler Young).

eyewitness agent ryan kane Eyewitness stays focused on three important characters

But while it seems the elusive frying pan — that is now lurking at the bottom of the lake — is the missing link in connecting the DNA evidence to Agent Ryan Kane (Warren Christie), the real compelling component of the show seems to be  the subdued performance of Julianne Nicholson as Sheriff Helen Torrance.

Nicholson isn’t new to television — she was previously seen in the short-lived series “Red Road” — but she brings to “Eyewitness” a sense of compelling realism and toned down focus. Reminiscent, in a way, of AMC’s “The Killing” — although Mirielle Enos’ Sarah Linden was a much more troubled character — Helen provides a clear window into the process of solving the town’s triple murder, while also doing her best to raise Philip as her own.

eyewitness lukas phillip Eyewitness stays focused on three important characters

And since this is a small town, of course, Philip is directly connected to the bloody crime. In its interconnectedness, the other highlight of the story finds Philip in a secret romance with motocross hopeful Lukas. Keeping their relationship a secret — because homosexuality and small town America don’t mix — adds a necessary sense of urgency to the tale as it continues to unfold.

As the killer gets closer to tying up his final loose end, it seems that Helen is also one step closer to finding the missing piece to this ongoing puzzle. While everything seems to be right under everyone else’s noses — which can sometimes make the story a bit muddled in its own twistiness — it’s the relationship between the two boys and the role of Sheriff Helen Torrance that helps keep the series a worthy drama contender.

“Eyewitness” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on USA.

Posted by:Aaron Pruner

When he was a child, Aaron memorized the entire television lineup, just for fun. He once played Charlize Theron’s boyfriend in a Japanese car commercial. Aaron’s a lover of burritos and a hater of clowns. TV words to live by: "Strippers do nothing for me, but I will take a free breakfast buffet any time, any place."