REVIEW: Bad Sisters is the Irish murder-mystery series we've all been waiting for
This is one of those shows that will have absolutely everyone talking about it.
When the first trailer dropped, another outlet - I can't remember which one, but how I wish it was me who had said it - described Bad Sisters as "the Avengers Assembled of Irish acting talent".
Headed by Sharon Horgan - who also doubles up as screenwriter and executive producer - the show also boasts the likes of Sarah Greene (Rosie, Dublin Murders), Eva Birthistle (Brooklyn, Breakfast On Pluto), Anne-Marie Duff (The Magdalene Sisters, Shameless), Eve Hewson (Behind Her Eyes, The Knick), Daryl McCormick (Peaky Blinders, Fair City) and Brian Gleeson (Phantom Thread, The Bisexual).
Horgan is joined on scripting duties by Brett Baer and Dave Finkel - who have the likes of 30 Rock and New Girl on their resumés - and the entire thing has some heavy-duty, big budget Apple TV money behind it. No shade to some of the recent hit Irish shows like Derry Girls and The Young Offenders - not to be confused with recent hit shows that happen to be made in Ireland like Game Of Thrones and Vikings - but this particular series has that beautiful glossy sheen that we'd normally associate with some high-end HBO production.
Of course, all of that would mean very little if the show wasn't any good, so it comes with great relief to report that Bad Sisters is essentially Ireland's answer to the likes of Only Murders In The Building, The White Lotus and The Afterparty.
The biggest difference here is that while everyone involved knows how to delivery the laughs, they are accompanied with the constant knowledge that at the core of their story is a relationship based almost entirely of psychological abuse and gaslighting. Not the easiest concept to base a comedy around, but Horgan and co. pull it off with aplomb.
The show kicks off at the funeral of John Paul (Claes Bang, interestingly the only non-Irish performer in the main cast), the now-late husband of Grace (Anne-Marie Duff), who is hosting a post-funeral gathering at her home, accompanied by her four sisters (Horgan, Greene, Birthistle and Hewson). Also present are two insurance investigators (Gleeson and McCormick), who believe there might have been some foul play involved.
As we slowly learn, they have every reason to be suspicious, as it turns out the sisters did indeed kill John Paul, with the entire series playing out in two time-lines, back and forth between the present day and over a number of months leading up to his death. Grace's sisters, after years of suffering his verbal abuse and fearful that he will eventually do something truly awful to Grace herself, decide to take it upon themselves to take him out of the picture entirely.
So with the victim and the criminals solved right from the get-go, the central mystery of the show revolves around how they finally kill him off, with a number of attempts ending hilariously wrong, while also alerting John Paul to the fear that someone might be out to get him.
The dynamics between the five sisters is astoundingly spot-on, all short-hand conversations and mountainous meanings communicated in glances, and it all feels profoundly Irish; that mixture of both sometimes hating your siblings, but knowing you'll drop everything at a second's warning should they really need you.
The performances are all top-tier, with a special shout-out to Claes Bang and Anne-Marie Duff who have to sell an incredibly difficult tightrope walk of a relationship based entirely on mental torment, and somehow still make it funny. It shouldn't work, but it absolutely does.
It all ties back to that impossible ask, making a comedy out of domestic abuse and familial murder. We've always had a dab hand at making light out of the darkest scenarios - it is why there is always someone making jokes at an Irish funeral - but with this series, everyone involved has taken that to a new benchmark. While also, y'know, remembering to be constantly entertaining.
Plus you'll want to go for a swim in The Forty Foot immediately. Ireland never looked so enticing, and Irish families never felt so scarily protective.
The first two episodes will arrive on Apple TV+ on Friday, 19 August, with the remainder of the series arriving weekly on Fridays after that.