TV: Bodies

Adapted from a Si Spencer graphic novel, Netflix’s timeloop mystery Bodies (2023) scores plenty of points for production values, committed performances, and overall atmosphere. While it isn’t quite as ingenious as it aspires to be, it’s certainly a commendable, highly watchable effort.

It also has a juicy high-concept hook: in London, four different detectives from four different timelines somehow end up investigating the same homicide. This scenario is set up in an enticing pilot, where a victim turns up dead in an alley in 1890. There, Detective Inspector Alfred Hillinghead (Andor’s Kyle Soller) is called to the scene to investigate the mystery, which involves a nude man with a gunshot wound in the eye, but without a bullet or an exit wound. Elsewhile, in 1941, corrupt inspector Charles Whiteman (The Great’s Jacob Fortune-Lloyd) is blackmailed by one of his criminal contacts to cover up a murder during the Blitz—but it’s the same victim. In 2023, it’s Shahara Hasan (Amaka Okafor) who catches this impossible case; in 2053, it’s Iris Maplewood (Shira Haas). The narrative follows the four protagonists’ actions in parallel, ultimately revolving around a world-shaking individual (played across timelines by Stephen Graham and Gabriel Howell) who is using time travel to shape the future to his personal liking—with devastating collateral cost.

Eight episodes seems to be a popular season length these days, and that feels like the right choice for Bodies—just long enough to juggle the timelines and explore and the idea without overdoing it. The show looks terrific, building out the past, present, and future of its London setting with effective set design and costumes. The mystery is involving without being surprising; it’s the kind of premise that practically demands a certain amount of intricate brilliance, but the series doesn’t rise above clever contrivance, and the direction painstakingly spells out much of what the viewer will quickly discern. Still, there’s a certain emotional satisfaction to the story, which elicits fine performances from its leads, each character mindfully developed to emphasize the prejudices they face and the period-specific challenges they must overcome. Bodies is far from perfect, but succeeds in enough ways to make for an entertaining watch.

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