The Dec. 18 finale of USA’s “Eyewitness” has its twists and turns in the journey to finally taking down murderous FBI agent Ryan Kane (Warren Christie) — but by the end, things in Tivoli are once again smooth sailing.
The opening shot of the series — a lone canoe floating in water — also served as the final image. What we didn’t know is that Helen (Julianne Nicholson) and Gabe (Gil Bellows) were lying in that canoe, finally able to relax in calm waters. Helen has managed to stay afloat after the investigation, and is once again at peace with Gabe — but more importantly with herself, after launching into a full confession of her past while in a standoff with Ryan.
Of course, with the killer dead, Philip (Tyler Young) and Lukas (James Paxton) are free to live their lives again as well — and after everything that went down, they’re free for the first time to be themselves.
For other crime dramas, these outcomes would amount to nothing more than loose ends being tied up — but in the case of “Eyewitness,” these moments are the purpose of the series. The series gave viewers the identity of the killer at the very beginning, and while more information comes about who exactly Ryan is over time, there’s never a doubt about who did what. That choice turned everything this series could have been on its head: Rather than a show that wonders who the criminal is, it becomes a show asking how he’ll be brought to justice.
As similar as it is tonally to ITV’s small-town investigative drama “Broadchurch” and FOX’s US remake “Gracepoint” — which began with a crime shrouded in mystery, and slowly ruled out potential suspects as it went along — “Eyewitness” is quite the opposite of that format. It’s an inverted detective story — not unlike (believe it or not) “Columbo,” whose upfront reveal of the perpetrator led to the series often being described as not a “whodunnit,” but a “howcatchem.”
Still, make no mistake — “Eyewitness” was not simply a procedural. While the investigation was a compelling thread throughout the series, the show’s quiet focus was on the people. The murderer’s identity being clear from the beginning allowed the show to focus on its characters, and that’s just what it did. Over the past ten episodes, growth and changed unfolded in Helen’s battle with PTSD, Lukas’ battle with his identity, Philip’s with his relationship, and Kamila’s (Tattiawna Jones) with the fallout of her sister’s involvement in everything.
Results varied in the end, but positive and negative personal change was never in short supply. A renewal announcement has not yet been made on the show — but if “Eyewitness” is to be remembered for anything in the genre when it does go, it should be for this: When you eliminate the question of what happened, all that’s left to answer is how it affected those involved. We finally have our answer.