Content warning: this story contains discussions of childhood abuse.
Stan’s dreamlike new series Eden leaves much unexplained. Named for its setting of a fictional coastal town, each of its eight episodes are told from the perspective of different characters – the consistent through-line being the strange disappearance of a young woman.
Written with tonal references to David Lynch’s mind-bending classic Twin Peaks, Eden’s ever-twisting story nevertheless stands apart from other mysteries in how its story was built from the characters up.
The series begins through the eyes of Scout (Sophie Wilde), a 20-year-old aspiring elite cellist who’s just returned to Eden after a year studying at Juilliard in New York City. When Scout reunites with her best friend Hedwig (BeBe Bettencourt), there’s newfound chemistry between them – one Scout acts on and Hedwig tries to avoid.
Jumping back and forth through time, viewers learn the causes for Hedwig’s disappearance through the characters who orbited her life in Eden. Among them is Andy (Cody Fern), a wealthy actor and recovering addict whom Hedwig befriends; Drysdale (Claude Jabbour), an insecure, dangerous cop caught up in a drug ring; and Katia (Rachael Blake), a cult survivor who acts as a parent figure to Hedwig.
Series creator, executive producer and writer Vanessa Gazy collaborated with Skins co-creator Bryan Elsley and Every Cloud Productions and led a writing room made up entirely of women. “Jess Brittain, Anya Beyersdorf, Clare Sladden and Penelope Chai are all individually gifted writers,” Gazy tells NME.
After you watch Eden, read NME’s spoiler-heavy interview with Gazy, who unravels the show’s carefully entwined character threads. She also answers pressing questions about the series’ speculated cult presence, its representation of addiction and trauma, and the evolution of its love story.
There’s one shot weaved into each episode of Eden that depicts women in white cloaks walking over a headland. I read that as a cult Katia escaped from – is that correct?
“Yes, that’s one interpretation. I think about it that way as well. But I can also step back and go: it’s Eden, you know? Strange things happen. Or there are strange goings-on, there are people in the hills. This is just another snapshot of a general strangeness and a feeling of the mysticism that lives in this hinterland.”
Did Hedwig have romantic feelings towards Scout? Were Scout’s feelings reciprocated?
“At first, my feeling was that Hedwig is one of those people who everyone looks at through a sexual lens – she can’t escape that. It’s like: she thinks she’s in a platonic friendship, the person confesses their love. She just wants something that feels untouched by that.
“But as the dynamics started playing out on screen, it felt very clear those characters were falling in love. It’s this really beautiful burgeoning love story, which so tragically gets cut short. And I think that’s become one of the most poignant elements of the show.”
A character that stuck with me was the cop, Drysdale. What drives him?
“Drysdale, from my perspective, is one of those men that has a lot of stored rage. He grew up in the town without all of the opportunities that he sees around him. Eden is a town full of money, and there’s a real class divide: there are upper-class, movie-star mansions and there are the kids who live in a squat, but they find their joy within that community.
“Then there’s someone like Drysdale who is stuck in the middle. He grew up there; he feels ownership over the town. He sees what’s going on and it makes him angry, and not angry in a productive way. Angry in a toxic way that makes him want to grab, and take, and try to get a piece of this for himself.”
You can definitely see that rage coming through in his obsession with controlling others.
“Yeah, exactly. I think everyone in Eden is on a spectrum. Moral ambiguity is something that we definitely play with in Eden. And I never wanted to fully put anyone in the evil pile or anyone in the purely innocent pile, but Drysdale is on the low end of the spectrum – he’s almost completely irredeemable.”
Speaking of spectrums, I noticed there’s an economic spectrum in the representation of addiction in Eden. There’s Andy’s addiction, which he can get resources for, and then there’s Michael who is isolated by how his addiction makes him react to people. Were themes of wealth disparity coming up while you were writing?
“Absolutely. I mean, Hedwig is a product of her parent’s addiction in some ways. She’s a lot more than that, but I wanted to show that there’s still so much love in that family. Michael’s everything is Hedwig. He’s done his best and she doesn’t hold it against him.
“Then you’ve got Andy – and I think Hedwig is in the middle of those two characters. She’s seen this kind of addiction in her childhood and the damage that it does. She sees that [Andy is] a victim of that same addiction, but I think she then sees the unfairness of exactly what you’re describing: Andy gets to go to this Wellness Centre, live in a big house. He has the opportunity to help himself. And Andy’s got a lot of trauma as well. Everyone is nuanced in the show and I don’t see Andy as a bad person either, but I think Hedwig does run out of sympathy for him when she sees that, you know…”
“Yeah, the possessiveness. And, again, that male rage. That anger comes out and it makes her go: ‘You know what? I’m not going to be the one to save you. If all of these millions of dollars can’t save you, then good luck’.”
I read this book called Trauma And Recovery by Judith Herman. She was influential, particularly in the ’90s, for her trauma research, and she writes about how some kids who’ve been exposed to childhood abuse take on the baggage of those around them or become a fixer. And I see that in Hedwig.
“Trauma is a huge theme that runs through the show, and Hedwig’s trauma is this ever-present [thing] that is with her all the time. But she’s a brave soul. And, as you’re saying, she cares for other people. Eden is this oppressive place for her; despite all the beauty, despite the fact that for so many people it is this complete paradise, she’s just trying to find ways to get out. And she concocts this plan that ultimately goes wrong. But I don’t want anyone to ever judge her for that, because she is a survivor – she’s trying to survive.”
Eden is streaming on Stan now