Apple TV+ has quickly garnered a reputation for producing high-quality series' and, judging from the first two episodes, Bad Sisters could be another hit for the streaming service. This dark comedy created by Sharon Horgan (but adapted from the Belgian series Clan) sets up a fun mystery with equal measures of laughs and thrills.
The show opens with the funeral of John Paul Williams (Claes Bang), husband to one of the five Garvey sisters, Grace (Anne-Marie Duff). Grace is obviously distraught after a tragic accident takes John Paul away from her, but her siblings aren't upset at all. No one is, frankly, and there's a whiff of foul play in the air too.
Through extended flashbacks we see how much of a monster John Paul was, not just to Grace but to everyone. He's a rich man who revels in control and delights in getting inside people's heads. Bang is perfectly cast as the manipulative abuser the Garveys refer to as “The Prick”, who casually makes horrific remarks and ‘jokes' but uses his tall stature to terrifying effect when something or somebody pushes the wrong buttons. While it can be fun to sneer at this villain, the effect his emotional (and sometimes physical) abuse has on Grace and her sisters are all too real – making for some horribly powerful moments.
We also see in these flashbacks how the four Garvey sisters feel they're losing Grace to him and dream about the day he dies – and maybe how they could speed that process up. What makes Bad Sisters particularly compelling as a mystery is that we don't know exactly how John Paul died, and while the show strongly alludes to the sisters being the ones who bumped him off, there's still a feeling that it may have been an accident all along.
Each sister is wonderfully realised through witty writing and endearing performances. Eva (Sharon Horgan) has the most screen time as the alcoholic who acts like the big sister of the group, frequently butting heads with John Paul who also happens to be her work colleague. Becka (Eve Hewson) is the younger, free-spirited sister of the bunch, Ursula (Eva Birthistle) has some secrets of her own related to her marriage and Bibi (Sarah Greene) seems to have the strongest hatred towards John Paul of them all. Together they have some great chemistry. While they sometimes bicker as families do, they have a bond that can't be broken and together will do anything for Grace. Maybe even murder.
While these first couple of episodes introduce and develop some interesting arcs for each individual Garvey sister, Becka, Ursula, and particularly Bibi feel a little undercooked compared to Grace and Eva. With a further eight episodes in the season, hopefully more light will be shed on their personal motive for hating John Paul and on their character in general.
Back in the present day, matters are complicated further by two life insurers (Brian Gleason and Daryl McCormack) who will do anything to stop paying out a massive life insurance policy to Grace for personal reasons that quickly become clear. These first episodes do a great job of setting up the personal stakes in the present and the big questions of the past.
Whilst Bad Sisters doesn't do anything new, it does everything extremely well and is sure to hook audiences in. With snappy dialogue, a fun mystery to unravel, and some surprisingly effective drama, Bad Sisters is off to a great start.
Bad Sisters streams weekly on Apple TV+ from August 19th