Bodkin Review: A True-Crime Satire Riddled with Plot Holes

With shoddy plotting and chaotic pacing, the series falls far short of the thought-provoking satire that it aims for.

Bodkin
Photo: Enda Bowe/Netflix

Audiences’ thirst for true-crime stories over the last decade has led to a wave of satirical TV shows, including Only Murders in the Building, American Vandal, and Trial & Error. Netflix’s Bodkin is the latest series to throw down this gauntlet, promising a light-hearted critique of the entertainment-driven and exploitative true-crime genre.

Bodkin follows investigative journalist and Dublin native Dove (Siobhán Cullen) as she joins forces with American podcaster Gilbert Power (Will Forte) and his assistant, Emmy (Robyn Cara), to solve a decades-old mystery involving three missing people in the Irish town of Bodkin in West Cork. Sent to Bodkin against her will after a previous case went sour, the series finds the excruciatingly unlikeable Dove infuriated by her involvement with the podcast, which she sees as inane entertainment. Embittered by a mysterious past, she’s snobbish, rude, and incompetent, constantly frustrating the efforts of her relatively inexperienced colleagues.

Bodkin’s first few episodes feel artificially stretched out, as the sleuths take a nonsensical amount of time to discover basic facts that are already common knowledge in the town—like the identities of the missing people and their relationships to people around Bodkin. Then, just as the series appears to have finally reached a lively rhythm, it kicks into a manic second gear, with reams of new characters and batshit storylines about illegal eel trading and hippy nuns.

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Unlike Only Murders in the Building, though, the show’s comedic elements work against, not with, its whodunnit plot. And Bodkin lacks the charm of that Hulu series and there’s little chemistry between its main characters. Dove, Gilbert, and Emmy operate more or less independently of each other, only reconvening for the odd irritable exchange.

The sole believable human connection here is between Gilbert and Seamus (David Wilmot), an ex-gangster at the heart of the case. When Seamus promises to help Gilbert pay off a gambling debt, the two embark on a wild goose chase that blossoms into an unlikely friendship. It’s in these scenes—one criminally minded Irishman with an unexpected soft side alongside one protocol-following American with an unexpected tough side—that glimmers of comedic potential start to peek through, helped along by the introduction of the McArdles, an amusingly cartoonish family of gangsters who come to exact revenge on Seamus.

Ultimately, though, plot holes and narrative cul-de-sacs are the final nail in Bodkin’s proverbial coffin. Plot points, including a mysterious death partway through, are lazily explained away. Heinous acts don’t match up with the characters who supposedly committed them. Identities are discovered and then go unexplored. With shoddy plotting and chaotic pacing, Bodkin falls far short of the thought-provoking satire that it aims for.

Score: 
 Cast: Siobhán Cullen, Will Forte, Robyn Cara, David Wilmot, Chris Walley, Peter Bankole, Kerri McLean  Network: Netflix

Amelia Stout

Amelia Stout is TV researcher and freelance writer whose work has appeared in Londnr Magazine and Doris Press.

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