Bad Sisters seems like it’s a sweary, boozy sitcom about sisters doing rebellious things.
It’s also a disturbing drama about abuse and murder, set in the moving postcard that’s Dublin.
This unique hybrid of tones is the result ofhiring prolific sitcom creator and actor Sharon Horgan (Pulling, Catastrophe). Her effervescent characters are one part chaos, two parts charm and three parts moral gray area.
The intriguing format of the show places us in the aftermath of a murder, then jumps back in time to turn over pieces of the puzzle. It’s both a whodunit and a howdunit.
A man named John Paul Williams (Claes Bang) is the victim of the murder. The show gives pretty strong justification for his demise. Plainly put, John Paul is misogynistic, racist and sexist, traits he barely disguises behind a handsome husband veil.
John Paul is married to Grace Garvey (Anne-Marie Duff), the second-eldest of five Garvey sisters: Eva (Sharon Horgan) is the oldest; Ursula (Eva Birthistle) is the middle child; Bibi (Sarah Greene) is the second-youngest; and Becka (Eve Hewson), known as Baby Becka, is the youngest. Eva and Becka are about 20 years apart, and their mother-daughter dynamic epitomizes the Garvey tribe: at one point Eva jokes she could kill Becka. At another, she’s dropping everything to race to Becka’s side.
Orphaned as children, the sisters form a support network that includes the service of murdering evil husbands. The sisters observe how John Paul has ground wife Grace into a meek mouse. At one end of the monster spectrum, he locks her in their house, claiming he’s protecting her. At the other, he ostensibly kills their daughter’s cat — and guess who takes the blame?
It all escalates as John Paul drags each one of the Garvey sisters into his life-ruining vortex. To survive — and to free Grace from this sophisticated prison — the Garveys devise various creative ways of killing John Paul without being caught. The failed attempts are many. The high jinks of incompetent killers are peak bumbling entertainment.
The question is: who of the siblings successfully murders John Paul? Or is it all of them together?
The present timeline produces more mishaps as the Garveys dodge the investigation of equally blundering life insurance agents. The agents are desperate to prove the murder and avoid sinking their struggling business with a huge payout. The investigators are also siblings — brothers — so they too know the feeling of suddenly becoming blind to the law if it means supporting their loved ones.
When Bad Sisters premiered onin August, it dropped episodes weekly. Now you can wolf it down in one go. Bad Sisters mercilessly compels you to do so. Each episode ends with a bombshell or a cliffhanger, then struts into the end credits to songs titled Hot Knife or Kill Kill Kill.
Not to mention that P.J. Harvey’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Who by Fire plays over the opening credits. Submerge yourself in the haunting anthem, but keep an eye on the objects placed strategically on screen, all related to how the murder unfolds.
Bad Sisters was originally planned as a 10-episode limited series, an adaptation of Belgian crime comedy Clan. It wraps up everything with a neat bow, but the impact of the Garvey sisters lingers beyond. No matter how dark their situation becomes, the Garveys are endlessly watchable. From coping with blistering trauma to laughing at the absurdity of their predicament, the effect is intoxicating, sitting you right at the dining table, close to the warmth.
On Tuesday, Apple TV Plus renewed Bad Sisters for a second season. The first delivered one of the most satisfying finales imaginable, so it would be a feat to replicate that for season 2. Still, writer Horgan deserves full faith. It would be a coup even if season 2 was just the Garvey sisters watching TV, Gogglebox-style.