‘Bad Sisters’: Family Drama Is Taken to Murderous Heights in Wickedly Dark Comedy Series
Families are complicated, and none more so than the Garveys, the five siblings in Apple TV’s dark dramedy-meets-thriller series “Bad Sisters.” Sharon Horgan, who co-created the series, a Dublin-set adaptation of the Flemish drama “Clan,” also stars as the eldest sister, Eva. The next eldest sister is Grace (Anne-Marie Duff), who is grieving for her recently deceased husband, John Paul (Claes Bang), when the story begins. Flashbacks follow Grace’s own four sisters as they conspire to do something unthinkable, murder their own brother-in-law.
Each sister has more than one reason to loathe JP, whom they refer to as “The Prick.” The one they all share is his despicable treatment of Grace. Thankfully, we do not see him repeatedly beat her up or anything like that. His abuse is more psychological and insidious. Bang delivers a top-notch performance as this outwardly respectable family man who belittles his wife, chipping away at her self-esteem and making her feel guilty when she voices a desire to pursue any career or hobby outside of the home. In a powerful scene that comes off as a punch in the gut to poor Grace, a good woman who is devoted to her family, her 12-year-old daughter, Blánaid (Saise Ní Chuinn), tells her she’s embarrassed of her because she is not as accomplished as the mothers of her friends. It’s unfair to compare a full-time homemaker to a human rights lawyer, but Blánaid’s words cut her mother like a knife.
In present day, there is a parallel story involving a pair of insurance agents, half-brothers Thomas (an over-the-top Brian Gleeson, who seems like he belongs in another series) and Matt Claffin (Daryl McCormack). The brothers have their own dysfunctional family issues to work through, and the pressure is on, as their late father was a scammer who left them with nothing, and a potential payout to Grace of JP’s life insurance would break them. This is why Thomas becomes hellbent on proving that he was actually murdered. Like a bumbling detective in a cheesy film or procedural series, he goes about interrogating Grace’s four sisters, with Matt forced to watch, having no idea how hot on the trail his high-strung brother really is. Complicating the investigation is Matt’s budding romance with the youngest Garvey sister, free-spirited Becka (Eve Hewson), who he has no idea is a Garvey until after they both catch feelings.
The sisters’ individual reasons for hating JP are revealed one by one in the first five episodes. Eva (Horgan), who has been a maternal figure to the others since their parents died in a car accident, has to deal with him taunting her for being infertile. He blows up at her for buying Blánaid a bra, and by the time she starts helping to plan the murder, she does not even know the extent he is going to in order to sabotage her at work, as they are colleagues up for the same promotion. He is arguably worse to Ursula (Eva Birthistle), a married mother of three whom he catches having an affair, as he not only attempts to expose her to her husband, he also tricks her into sending him a photo of her vagina. Bekah, meanwhile, hates him for cowardly backing out of funding her message studio. But Bibi’s (Sarah Greene) hatred for JP is the most intense, as he is responsible for her losing an eye.
Alone, none of the sisters’ vendettas against JP on their own are enough to warrant a death sentence, but combined, along with his treatment of Grace and the revelation that he has had a lifelong habit of torturing animals, make the case the the world would be a better place without The Prick. Still, it is harder to get behind the idea that the women are potentially risking their own freedom by committing murder. What transpires is a seductive murder mystery that is reminiscent of “Big Little Lies,” except instead of going to multiple school functions and fundraising events, the ladies here mostly get together to think up ways to kill a man without getting caught. The strong performances from a cast that is not very well-known on this side of the Atlantic, along with the Irish setting, inject originality into the series. Finally, the bond between the sisters raises the stakes more than if they were just a group of friends who met at a PTA meeting.
“Bad Sisters” episodes 1-3 begin streaming Aug. 19 with new episodes premiering Fridays on Apple TV+