Bodies on Netflix review: Stephen Graham's twisty mystery grabs hold of you
Prepare for a lot of twists and turns.
Netflix's Bodies is almost impossible to define - and that's one of the best parts of it. Part mystery, part police procedural, part character drama, part dystopia (plus more parts we won't spoil here), it's a much-needed breath of fresh air.
Based on Si Spencer's graphic novel, the premise of the genre-defying show is simple - four different detectives in four different time periods find the same body and attempt to solve the same murder. But what ensues is anything but simple.
Through four different but interconnecting timelines, we're taken on a twisty journey focused through the lives of four very different detectives facing their own entirely different struggles but connected through their work on the same case.
At its best, Bodies provides emotional and tender journeys for our very flawed heroes with the four of them giving us a strong heart to the story.
Pulling that together is the ensemble cast, with Kyle Soller as DI Hillinghead, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd as DS Whiteman, and Shirley Haas as DC Maplewood.
Amaka Okafor is a standout as DS Shahara Hasan, who we come to know particularly well throughout the course of the series, putting her own spin on a the defiant copper determined to get to the bottom of the case. From her fleshed out backstory to her wit and relatability, she's the perfect character to hold the story together.
Meanwhile, it's a complete departure from form for Stephen Graham, who plays Elias Mannix/Julian Harker.
While the full extent of his role is being kept under wraps for now, writer Paul Tomalin described him as the "beating heart" of the series and it's not hard to see why - especially when you get to those later episodes.
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But while it's something different for him, Graham brings that same complete gravitas we've come to love to the series, pushing the story to that next level.
At times, Bodies is a double edged sword. It's the product of rich world-building from Si Spencer, brought to life admirably by writer Tomalin, resulting in pacy, exciting storytelling. Mercifully, while Tomalin hasn't ruled out further seasons, he has also given us a proper ending, something that's all too rare in today's TV landscape.
Balancing that rich storyline, a diverse cast of characters, four different timelines and a twisty interconnected storyline in eight episodes isn't an easy feat. It means we don't spend enough time with some of the characters - even some of our leads - so a few of those emotional punches don't hit as hard as they could. It also means some of those huge revelations aren't as mind-blowing as they could have been.
The scope of the story provides a similar problem - occasionally, it feels like it's trying to do too much and, by the end of the season, some of the threads are tied up just a bit too neatly and conveniently, with some elements towards the end being a little rushed.
But, for the most part, Bodies is beautifully told. Yes, there are twists and turns that will keep you gripped, but the real test of the show is the capability of its leading cast (tick) and whether it gives us some heart to ground the, let's face it, absolutely mad story (tick).
All in all, Bodies is well worth the watch. Just make sure you're braced for the ride.
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