Bad Sisters review: Sharon Horgan comedy is most fun you'll have all year
The Apple TV+ thriller is deliciously dark.
Sharon Horgan (Catastrophe, Motherland, Pulling) is a dab hand at taking the awkward, the painful and the difficult and somehow finding the light, the humour and the heart, so her decision to adapt Flemish series Clan makes total sense.
Like its predecessor, Apple TV+'s Bad Sisters revolves around the Garveys, a group of female siblings who have held on tight to one another from a young age following their parents' unexpected and tragic deaths. While certain traits overlap, the writing does a solid job of establishing their distinct personalities and giving all five women space to impact the narrative.
Eva (Horgan), being the eldest, took on the role of mother hen and still resides in their south Dublin-based childhood home overlooking the Irish sea, which remains a hub for Garvey sister gatherings. It's an awfully big house for just one person and when she's alone, it's a stark reminder of what she lost in regards to her own relationship history, and what she hopes to have again.
Becka (Eve Hewson), the youngest, has a sunnier disposition than her siblings, with her freewheeling, playful spirit an antidote to Bibi's stormier temperament. The second-youngest Garvey, played by Sarah Greene, is a formidable character despite her petite stature, and rocks an eyepatch as a result of an accident several years ago, the details of which we won't spoil for you here.
When Ursula's not fulfilling her duties as a nurse, she's needed at home as a wife and mum of three, which barely gives her (Eva Birthistle) a moment's respite. On the odd occasion she does wriggle free from her paid and unpaid labour, she takes a photography class, but that also comes with its own complications.
And then there's nice-as-pie, sweet-faced Grace (Anne-Marie Duff), who has slowly been withdrawing from her sisters' lives, the five becoming four. But while her siblings were just about able to grin and bear it in the past, recent events have left an especially bad taste in their mouths.
The reason for Grace's changing nature is her husband John Paul (Claes Bang), also known as 'The Prick', who is one of the most odious characters to ever grace the screen. Just a moment spent in his company and you can feel the slime seeping through the pixels and working its way towards you, Alex Mack-like.
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When he's not making jibes about Eva's inability to have children, or spying on his in-laws and threatening to expose devastating secrets for his own amusement, he's a controlling, domineering presence in Grace's life, exploiting her gentle nature to impose himself on her every waking moment and drive a wedge between the sisters.
The series seamlessly treads the fine line between amusement and unpacking the insidious nature of abuse that has no physical markers, but leaves one's emotional health in tatters. And Horgan herself has spoken about how much time and care was taken to ensure that the coercive control Grace suffers is not trivialised or diluted in pursuit of laughs.
When the sisters' rage reaches boiling point, there's only one thing for it: off with his head. Watching them drum up ways to murder their brother-in-law while gathered around a fire, the coastal winds licking the flames, is akin to observing the witches from Macbeth.
John Paul does, eventually, kick the bucket (no spoilers here, that's in the trailer), with the series playing out over two timelines – before JP and after. But in the episodes that were made available for review, we don't find out if the sisters succeed in their murderous aim, or if someone else gets to him first (the man's made a lot of enemies). Or how, exactly, he croaks, leaving an air of mystery hanging over proceedings.
The company who is handling John Paul's life insurance claim is also suspicious about the nature of his death and initiates its own investigation into what really happened, which ratchets up the tension for the Garvey girls.
Will John Paul have the last laugh from beyond the grave as Eva and co are carted off to the big house?
It's an absurd concept that lends itself extremely well to comedy – the sisters try and fail to kill him in a number of outlandish ways, with every miss rendering John Paul bigger and more unstoppable, like a final level boss in a video game. But Horgan and the writers' room have ensured that the series remains grounded by rooting it in the sisters love for one another. While most of us could not, however tempted, do as the family does (although who can blame them?!) their devotion to protecting their tight-knit unit, which has weathered so much, is universally understood.
Bad Sisters is a deliciously dark series you'll look forward to week in, week out, and one you'll think about long after.
The first two episodes of Bad Sisters are available to stream now on Apple TV+. Check out what else is on with our TV Guide, or visit our Comedy hub for more news and features. If you're looking for something else to watch on Apple TV+, we've got you covered.