Netflix’s Bodkin Is Another Bonkers True Crime Comedy with Strong Irish Flair

TV Reviews Netflix
Netflix’s Bodkin Is Another Bonkers True Crime Comedy with Strong Irish Flair

It’s fair to say that Irish culture has been having a bit of a renaissance in recent years, both on the big and small screen. To pick two off the top, The Banshees of Inisherin and Bad Sisters were both pinnacles in their respective genres two years ago, conveying an inimitable milieu with dry and dark humor that’s richly rooted in the Irish way of life. So Netflix’s brand new seven-episode series Bodkin—a cross between true crime drama and small-town comedy—fits the bill perfectly as another narrative drawing from the thematically fertile ground of The Island of Saints. And as its intricate plot reveals, there might be more sinners and criminals in Ireland these days than innocent and good-hearted people with nothing to hide.

Bodkin begins in pretentiously characteristic true crime fashion: with the deep voiceover of an American man recording a mysterious intro that intentionally says very little very well to pull you in. His name is Gilbert Power (Will Forte), whose podcast about his marriage falling apart has become an overnight sensation recently, which no one (including himself) expected. But before we’re introduced to his almost constantly dumbfounded expression face to face, we meet Dove (Siobhan Cullen), a proper investigative journalist working in London, who finds the key informant of her latest story hanged in his apartment. 

In the light of this horrible tragedy, Dove is adamant to keep going and expose the truth, but her editor at The Guardian says she needs to stop and keep her head down for a while. So he assigns her to an unrelated job in the tiny town of Bodkin, Ireland, where she joins Power and his overly-eager rookie assistant Emmy (Robyn Cara) to help them make a podcast about a 25-year-old mystery. A cold case in which three people vanished during the town’s Samhain festival, aka The Irish Night of the Dead.

As hard as Dove fights to wrap this trip up quickly and go back to her real job, she soon realizes that there might be an actual story here, too. Though most of the locals are excited to see the trio of podcasters bringing new blood into this sleepy town’s boredom, they also lie through their teeth to protect their own and prevent the truth from coming out. Their secrecy fuels Dove to dig deeper while also giving Gilbert an excuse to break his own rules and make another hit podcast (which he desperately needs to solve his financial and marital problems). And Emmy, wrapped up in all this, discovers that she needs to be more confident and determined if she wants to make it in this field and become successful—someone people look up to the same way she looks up to Dove and Gilbert.

The mystery and the myriad of secrets that keep multiplying as the plot thickens is the hook here to grab viewers, but it’s the characters and the lived-in, moody-yet-funny vibe that you’ll stay for until the end. There’s sparking chemistry between our trio, at first stemming from the clashing of American and Irish culture but later becoming more and more personal. Gilbert, Dove, and Emmy are just as messed up inside as some of the townspeople they’re investigating, and they’ll have to confront and interrogate their own conflicted feelings as much as they do their suspects. And the road to get there is filled with a bunch of bonkers happenings, including murder, yoga nuns, children with guns, surreal sightings, and a lot of Guinness consumed in the one and only pub in town.

Bodkin is a trip (both literally and figuratively) with some great deadpan humor and a rough-around-the-edges, small-town setting that offers a variety of goofballs, Irishmen and otherwise. If that’s your jam, you should definitely take it. Your mileage may vary depending on how immersed you find yourself in the murder case that grows more and more complex, but even if you become weary of it (like I have towards the end), there’s still a lot here to keep you engaged throughout these nearly seven hours.

My biggest complaint is that Bodkin’s excellent sense of humor starts wearing thin in the second half to get replaced by personal drama that wound up less interesting and amusing than what came before them. The series works best when it doesn’t take itself too seriously and pokes fun at true crime, podcasts, Americans, and even its pure-blooded Irishness. There’s something inherently funny about a rural, close-knit community and its reaction to visitors that Bodkin captures with flair. There are those who want to impress them, those who want them gone, and those who wish to befriend them. Hostility and amiability go hand in hand, as they should. But it’s hard to ignore that the writers bite off more than they can chew when they give their main characters a little too much personal baggage to deal with on top of everything else going on. But even if these storylines feel slightly too over-important, the series juggles them well for the most part, and uses them to deepen the protagonists’ individual arcs as the series moves towards its finale. 

I just couldn’t help but feel a little exhausted by the end—once all the twists and secrets are revealed—however, that may end up being the sweet spot for others who’ll undoubtedly be obsessed with the whodunnit and the family drama that takes center stage in the final episodes. Nevertheless, Bodkin is, by and large, a fun time that doesn’t reinvent the wheel but continues the trend of darkly funny and mysterious true crime stories.

Bodkin premieres Thursday, May 9th on Netflix.

Akos Peterbencze is an entertainment writer based in London. He covers film and TV regularly on Looper, and his work has also been published in Humungus, Slant Magazine, and Certified Forgotten. Akos is a Rustin Cohle aficionado and believes that the first season of True Detective is a masterpiece. You can find him talk about all-things pop culture on Twitter (@akospeterbencze) and Substack (@akospeterbencze).

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin