Netflix's new limited series Bodies is a genre-bending, thought-provoking foray into the possibilities and paradoxes of time travel.
Adapted from the DC Vertigo graphic novel by Si Spencer, Bodies follows four detectives investigating the same murder victim across four distinct time periods in London - 1890, 1941, 2023, and 2053.
This ambitious premise allows Bodies to work as a gripping sci-fi thriller while also providing insightful social commentary on humanity across the ages.
From the opening scene, Bodies sinks its hooks in deep with an eerie cold open set in modern day as Detective Sergeant Shahara Hasan (Amaka Okafor) discovers a dead body in a dingy Whitechapel alley.
The man appears to have no identification, no clear cause of death, and no explanation for how he arrived there. Before we can ponder this strange scene further, the show then whisks us back to 1941 and the same location, where Detective Sergeant Charles Whiteman (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd) encounters the same inexplicable corpse.
It quickly becomes clear that something uncanny is at play, as two more detectives - Victorian-era Inspector Alfred Hillinghead (Kyle Soller) and future Detective Constable Iris Maplewood (Shira Haas) in 2053 - stumble upon the same peculiar case in their respective timelines.
Somehow this anonymous victim's body has appeared in the exact same spot over 150 years apart, presenting an impossibility that sets both the detectives and viewers on an enthralling quest for answers.
Bodies intrigues not just through its central mystery but also thanks to the richly drawn characters investigating it. The four lead detectives are each marginalized in their era's society, allowing Bodies to explore issues of racism, homophobia, sexism, and ableism through decades of British history.
Hillinghead hides his homosexuality, Whiteman faces anti-Semitism, Hasan contends with racist preconceptions, and Maplewood was paralyzed before controversial new technology allowed her to walk again at a steep cost.
Their outsider perspectives make them doggedly determined investigators, while also giving Bodies strong emotional stakes.
The show rotates episodically between the timelines, deftly establishing the distinct look and feel of each period. 1890s London is all gaslit streets and moody shadows, 1941 is suffused with the tension of nightly air raids, 2023 shows today's diverse metropolitan landscape, and 2053 presents a chilling dystopian future of authoritarian rule.
Bodies does an impressive job of worldbuilding across its disparate settings, aided by gorgeous production design and costumes. As the seasons progresses, more mind-bending connections across the timelines are revealed, leading to some genuinely surprising twists.
Bodies keeps you guessing right up until the emotional finale. While a few plot holes remain, the strong performances and captivating mystery make this a truly unique and binge-worthy series.
At the center of it all is the phenomenal Stephen Graham as the shadowy Elias Mannix, who appears in various guises across the timelines. Graham gives a masterclass in charisma and range, playing Mannix as both a sympathetic victim and malevolent villain at various points. His presence ties the whole series together.
The supporting cast is also stellar, including Greta Scacchi as Hillinghead's wife and Indira Varma as Maplewood's calculating boss. But Bodies rests on the shoulders of its four leads, who all deliver nuanced, compelling performances. Okafor makes for a wonderfully empathetic and determined lead as Hasan, the detective at the heart of unraveling the central mystery.
Bodies may frustrate viewers craving clear-cut answers about the mechanics of its time travel, which remains ambiguous. But perhaps this is for the best, as it allows the show to focus on its human elements. Bodies is less about science fiction and more about the interplay between remarkable people struggling to do good in their own times. It becomes a profound rumination on human nature and our ability to change, for better or worse.
The series takes its time building up the intricate plot, but patient viewers who stick with it will be rewarded with an addictive, thought-provoking viewing experience. Bodies ultimately succeeds thanks to its bold premise, strong writing and direction, outstanding acting, and insightful commentary on the interwoven nature of our shared human experiences across centuries. It is one of the most unique, gripping shows to come along in recent years.
A Visually Stunning Trip Through the Centuries
Beyond its twisty time-travel mystery, Bodies also impresses thanks to its stellar production values across every era it portrays. The limited series features top-notch cinematography, immersive production design, and gorgeous costumes that bring each period setting vibrantly to life.
Director Marco Kreuzpaintner brings a keen cinematic eye, using thoughtful framing and camera movement to amplify both the show's suspense and emotional resonance. Whether following detectives down shadowy Victorian alleyways, gliding through dystopian cityscapes, or holding on characters' conflicted expressions, Kreuzpaintner's nimble direction goes a long way towards realizing the ambitious scope of Bodies.
The show's production design team, led by Richard Bullock, thoroughly transforms locations around London to create an evocative sense of the past. They portray 1890's Whitechapel as a grim world of crooked cobblestone lanes, pubs shrouded in smoke, and candlelit police stations that feel straight out of a moody thriller.
The 1941 segments convincingly surround their characters with bombed-out buildings, sandbag fortifications, and wartime propaganda posters. 2023 showcases today's London in all its modern diversity, while 2053 presents a chilling authoritarian future of brutalist concrete buildings and pervasive technology used for control and surveillance. The production design's attention to detail across eras is remarkable.
Complementing these vivid backdrops, costume designer Rachel Walsh and her team outfit the characters in period-specific attire that perfectly captures the look and feel of each decade. The 1890s detectives wear striking tweed suits, long coats, and bowler hats. 1941 features wide-lapel suits, trench coats, and fedora hats reminiscent of classic film noir. Modern clothing in 2023 presents the range of current styles, while futuristic sleek leather and functional outerwear make up the 2053 wardrobe. The costumes help make the passage of time viscerally real.
From its intriguing premise to its nuanced characters to its gorgeous production values, Bodies stands out as a wholly original creation. This clever, emotionally resonant series rewards viewers who appreciate innovative storytelling and superb acting.
Bodies is simply great television - and television that could only be achieved in this current golden age of inventive, risk-taking shows willing to defy categorization. Bodies is a prime example of how streaming platforms like Netflix have expanded the possibilities of small-screen storytelling.
An Addictive, Binge-Worthy Mystery Spanning the Centuries
Perhaps the highest compliment one can pay to Bodies is just how compulsively watchable it proves to be. Despite its dense, complex premise, the show's masterful blend of mystery, drama, and science fiction makes it incredibly addictive viewing.
Bodies is the kind of series viewers will find themselves thinking about long after the credits roll on each episode, eagerly anticipating the next reveal in this twisty saga.
Bodies pulls off the considerable feat of telling a single story through four interwoven timelines, each following engaging investigators. Jumping between eras and detectives could have easily grown frustrating, but the showrunners sequence it in a way that feels surprising yet organic. Just when one storyline reaches a peak, Bodies knowingly cuts to another timeline at a juicy moment, dangling mysteries that leave you rapidly hitting "Next Episode."The show strikes a precise balance, providing satisfying moments of revelation in each timeline while also introducing new wrinkles to keep viewers hooked.
Whether it's a cliffhanger life-or-death moment for one detective, a major clue discovered in another era, or an illuminating bit of backstory that reframes events, Bodies continually gives you reasons to want to see what happens next.
The series ramps up the momentum as it goes along, the disparate threads slowly weaving together for a hugely satisfying payoff. As connections between the timelines click into place and certain characters' true motivations come into focus, Bodies builds genuine suspense leading into the final episodes.
The show's writers smartly keep some secrets until the very end, with certain reveals landing with stunning emotional impact in the climactic moments. For those viewers who may have found Bodies' layered plot overly complex at first, the payoffs of its final acts make the investment of time worthwhile.
Bodies is simply engrossing, addictive television, equally entertaining as a thought-provoking sci-fi mystery and a gripping character drama. Its genre-bending narrative and strong performances grab your attention, while its central conceit and thematic ambitions give you plenty to ponder. Bodies is the kind of series that stays with you long after watching. It's a show primed for bingeing and for heated discussion, one that richly rewards your engagement and leaves you wanting more.
This is television storytelling as compelling art.
Very well written. Keep up the good work!