All 10 episodes of the Hulu series drop December 6.
Purple Hearts
Credit: Richard Foreman/Hulu

Magic. Is it the real deal or just a grift? Shut Eye, Hulu’s peek behind the curtain at the shady psychic parlor shops of Los Angeles, still seems stuck somewhere in between as it enters its second, 10-episode season.

Con man Charlie Haverford (Jeffrey Donovan) is still having visions that might legitimately be supernatural… or it could just be him seeing things. Following the big fat gypsy wedding that capped off the first season, the Romani families are now in chaos since Fonso Marks (Angus Sampson) killed White Tony (Zak Santiago), which landed his mother (Isabella Rossellini) in jail and made him a pariah among the Romani clans when they found out what he did. It also threw a chink in the Haverfords’ scheme, which was to crash the ceremony with a dead body and abscond with millions of Fonso’s money. Now Charlie is forced to host Fonso as his hostile houseguest, while he hastily maps out a new plan to bail his family business out from under Romani rule.

But as Linda (KaDee Strickland) becomes more eager to figure out what’s wrong with her husband, his premonitions are becoming more dire — and wacky. Charlie goes from seeing his own self with a dribbling gunshot wound in his chest to seeing a creepy puppet practicing karate moves. And like these visions, the show itself teeters between the darkness of this mafioso underworld and the sheer absurdity of it all without fully leaning into either. The result is a tepid con game. It’s fine, but it’s not something you’d anxiously return to each week — which might be why Hulu is dropping all the episodes at once.

The Romani underworld comes with its own rich history of traditions hiding behind those neon tarot-reading signs we all pass by on the street. Last season brought up concerns of racial stereotypes, painting these people as nothing more than grifting gypsies. This new season, so far, doesn’t do much to dispel that. The show seems to want access to this wealth of culture that comes with the Romani but, again, doesn’t fully take advantage of some of the more bizarre elements of a family that routinely uses spitting as a form of punishment.

Shut Eye is a complex web that juggles various side acts that often detract from the main through line of the show. This season, it appears to be everyone’s need to find an identity, a home. But this is ultimately diluted as we jump between Linda’s unraveling grief over the death of Gina, Rita’s secret meetings with a determined F.B.I. agent that ultimately don’t go anywhere in the first episodes, Nick’s con artist apprenticeship with aunt Sylvia, Drina’s unwillingness to consummate her arranged marriage with Lil’ Tony, and an excursion to a spiritual retreat that also might be a con. It’s difficult to gauge how most of this contributes to the larger game — if at all.

What keeps perking things back up are rare moments between the cast: Rossellini flaunting her matriarchal ferocity in front of the Romani families, another kooky image of a crow mascot dancing on a sidewalk, Donovan’s endearing presence, Strickland’s precise performance, and the show’s token gay guy (a token he may be) giving us one hilariously “sorreeeeeeeey” move I’ll be sure to use the next time I’m standing in a buffet line.

I just wish the show would embrace the bats–t insanity of it all. B–

Shut Eye
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