Netflix’s The Eddy seems a simple proposition for a good, if extremely niche, series: drama about a jazz band and their manager, set against the backdrop of a dreamy, less pretentious version of Paris. The comparisons to Treme are undeniable, though, without the sociopolitical impetus behind David Simon series, Jack Thorne’s foray into the world of vibrant brass melodies and magnanimous piano riffs offered the potential for a more escapism-driven series about music, and the people who create it. Yet The Eddy, despite having eight-plus hours to do so, never really understands who it is or what it wants to be, ultimately just existing as a mish-mash of ideas and plots, barely held together by a pair of powerful lead performances, and just enough moments of creative clarity to keep me engaged through its eight-episode first season, waiting for a moment of harmonious clarity that would never come.
Every minute of The Eddy brings another plot, another distraction, another irrelevant drama bubbling to the surface: and all of that gets in the way of what atmosphere and chemistry The Eddy has.
But for all the beauty found in The Eddy’s performative moments, there is little soul to this series, about jazz club owner/absent father/terrible businessman/former ivory key god Elliot Udo, forced into an untenable position as club manager when his partner and best friend is murdered behind the club. Instead of leaning into the fundamental tenets of jazz – the harmony of shared improvisation, and freedom from convention – The Eddy instead tries to structure itself as a traditional prestige series, one that juggles multiple major plot points, while also carving out time for individual stories, centered around whatever character the episode is titled after (side note: we get an episode about the bar back, but not one for either member of The Eddy’s brass section, which is unconscionably silly).
That formal attachment to structure sucks the life out of every affecting moment the series has: just when you think The Eddy is going to lose itself in the music and culture of Paris, another dumb plot is thrown in the way, most at the behest of his daughter Julie, an intelligent young woman with a penchant for getting expelled, getting mad at everything, and apparently for being a rehabbed coke addict – something that is mentioned precisely 1 (one) time throughout the season, used almost as a primer for what can only be described as Julie having a manic episode (which nobody recognizes, and just chalks it up to her drinking and being mad about moving to France).
As the trigger for most of the season’s biggest plot shifts and developments – at least, those that aren’t related to the shadowy mob hunting down the club owner for missing counterfeit money, a plot that sadly spans the entire season – Julie becomes an insufferable agent of chaos every time she appears on screen, making the show’s central relationship a hard one to invest in (you know, with Elliot basically blowing her off every time she flies off the handle and does something destructive). There is a complex teenager, and then there’s Julie, who takes the “bull in a china shop” approach to literally every aspect of her life, in a way that is often maddeningly unchallenged by the world around her.
There’s just doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason behind much of The Eddy’s design; even with Andre Holland’s predictably enigmatic lead performance as an anchor, The Eddy never establishes itself as a series about anything but capital-d Drama, from Elliot getting arrested for his friend’s murder (because he keeps lying to a detective over and over, something HE KEEPS DOING after he gets arrested), to lead singer Maja’s attempts to leave the club and make a career “before it’s too late” (because, you know, she’s over 30 years old), to the two-thirds of an episode we spend watching the band’s bass player make sad puppy eyes watching his ex-girlfriend marry someone else. Every minute of The Eddy brings another plot, another distraction, another irrelevant drama bubbling to the surface: and all of that gets in the way of what atmosphere and chemistry The Eddy has, turning what could’ve been a melodic mediation on a life of creative expression, into another middling drama about People and Their Drama, in ways that are not only dramatically unsatisfying but consistently implausible (that poor police detective – The Eddy spends so much time making her look like the smartest idiot in the room).
With the amount of TV I watch on a regular basis, one would think the failings of The Eddy would make it an easy series to let go: but the more I think about what a layup this should’ve been, the more disappointed I am with the utter lack of identity The Eddy has by the back-patting sequence offered as a conclusion to the eight-episode first (and hopefully) only season. From Damien Chazelle’s direction (seriously: did his DOP put the camera on a fucking bobblehead for the two episodes he directed? It’s awful) to the utter waste of Andre Holland and Joanna Kulig’s venerable sexual tension (driven by their terrific performances, by far the best on the show), there isn’t an aspect of The Eddy that isn’t a huge bummer.
It’s still almost worth recommending to watch: episodes three and five are legitimately good, and there are plenty of moments throughout the first season that is worth seeing, just to watch Andre Holland chew through dialogue like a goddamn boss (also – extremely underrated on-screen smoker, something I always appreciate). However, I spent much of The Eddy like Whiplash‘s Terence Fletcher (to mention the only Damien Chazelle project I enjoy), screaming silently about how it time and time again, just couldn’t find my tempo – or any tempo at all, from its inability to give Paris any sort of personality, to the dramatic tropes it leaned into time and time again for its “crime” narrative. For some, its weightlessness may be welcome; as someone hoping for an evocative series about life as a creative, The Eddy was nothing but mind-numbing dissonance, one of the more unfortunately underwhelming series of 2020.