Wine-swilling women, a dead husband, suspicious investigators, a coastal town and flashbacks to the past? No, I’m not talking about Big Little Lies, but rather the new Apple TV Plus series Bad Sisters. It’s a darkly funny, biting, satirical comedy/murder mystery that comes from Catastrophe co-creator Sharon Horgan.
After the end of Catastrophe, Horgan signed a deal with Apple. Bad Sisters is her first project and is based on a Flemish series called Clan. It’s already one of my favorite new shows of the year and has earned a perfect 100 percent Rotten Tomatoes (opens in new tab) score, joining a number of other highly-rated Apple TV Plus shows.
The 10 hour-long episodes follow the five Garvey sisters, of whom Horgan herself plays the eldest, Eva. It all start as Grace (Anne-Marie Duff) is dealing with the unexpected death of her scumbag husband, and she’s the only one of them who is grieving. Eva and the others, in fact, toast to his demise. Turns out, they plotted his death! At least, jokingly. Did they actually kill him, though? A nosy insurance adjuster wants to find out.
Here’s what you should know about the very good Bad Sisters, which you can watch with an Apple TV Plus subscription (opens in new tab).
What is Bad Sisters about?
Bad Sisters revolves around the Garveys: the aforementioned Grace and Eva, Ursula (Eva Birthistle), Bibi (Sarah Greene) and Becka (Eve Hewson). After the premature deaths of their parents, they vowed to always protect one another. This promise comes into play when Grace’s husband, John Paul (Claes Bang), mistreats her.
The show starts on the day of John Paul’s funeral, then toggles between the present and the past. Months earlier, on Christmas Day, John Paul prevents Grace from joining her sisters in their annual ocean swim. Outraged, the four other Garveys contemplate an early death for John Paul, first of a natural cause like cancer or a burst ulcer. Then, they begin joking about braining him, feeding him to pigs and tampering with his brakes.
Then, he does actually die. Insurance agent Tom Claffin (Brian Gleeson) shows up at the funeral to snoop and ask questions, in a bid to avoid paying out the life insurance. When asked about her whereabouts on the night of John Paul’s death, Grace says she was with her sisters.
But that’s a lie. The other four Garveys begin to panic, though Eva counsels calm. They have to hold it together for Grace: “She can’t find out what we did.”
What did they do? Time will tell.
Why I’m loving Bad Sisters
Horgan’s razor-sharp sense of humor is what helped turn Catastrophe into an award-winning cult hit. In Bad Sisters, she dials the humor up from somewhat dark to pitch black. Sometimes, the jokes are laugh-out-loud funny, while others are more subtle and witty.
The show is also a very effective whodunnit, slowly unfurling all the red herrings and twists that are typical of the genre. Over the first three episodes, which premiered together, you see that each of the Garvey sisters has their own reasons for offing John Paul apart from how his mistreats Grace (and they aren’t the only ones). The show deftly dribbles out clues and information, leaving you breathlessly waiting for the next big revelation.
But the best part of Bad Sisters is the characters (along with the actors who portray them). The five Garveys are all interesting, relatable and sympathetic, from timid Grace to free-spirited Becka. They’re so different from one another, yet their bonds are so strong. They bicker and banter and love each other fiercely. Already, I feel like an honorary sisters who would be willing to do whatever it takes to protect the others.
I also have to give a special shout-out to Claes Bang, who does a fantastic job of playing such a massive scoundrel. I want to punch his face so hard — which is exactly how it should be.
Bad Sisters reviews: What the critics say
The critics are also loving Bad Sisters with me. It’s been “Certified Fresh” with a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critics consensus reads, “Dark secrets are a family affair in Bad Sisters, a riotously funny murder mystery that makes fine use of its gifted ensemble while exemplifying creator and star Sharon Horgan’s penchant for salty warmth.”
Variety’s Caroline Framke (opens in new tab) writes, “As dark as the subject matter gets, the series maintains a canny eye for the ridiculous, injecting laughs in the least likely of moments.”
Allison Keene at Paste Magazine (opens in new tab) notes, “Mixing a mystery and thriller with humor—and doing it well—is no small feat. But [Bad Sisters] manages it with aplomb.”
And Empire Magazine’s Olly Richards (opens in new tab) says, “One of Horgan’s best, Bad Sisters manages to be both a clever murder-mystery and a hilarious farcical comedy, played by an absolutely killer cast.”
Should you watch Bad Sisters?
If you’re looking to watch something smart, hilarious and moving at the same time, Bad Sisters fits the bill. As far as dark comedies go, it’s right up there with Severance, The Bear and Barry season 3. Same goes for time-hopping mysteries like Only Murders in the Building season 2 and The Afterparty. And it certainly belongs in the conversation about the best shows of the year.
Just keep a pillow around to punch whenever you see John Paul on screen.