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10th May 2024

Netflix’s new Irish mystery thriller series makes for a darkly fun watch

Stephen Porzio

irish mystery series bodkin released on netflix

The ‘Irish invasion’ on Netflix continues with its new West Cork-set show.

Earlier this week, JOE wrote about an “Irish invasion” on Netflix as the homegrown projects In the Land of Saints and Sinners, Kin and Obituary all landed on the streaming service’s top 10 charts.

This looks set to continue with Bodkin, a new comedy thriller series with a central mystery involving several quintessential Irish things – the Catholic Church, the Troubles, old Gaelic celebrations to name but a few. And though not as wholly successful as Apple TV+’s similar in tone Irish-set show Bad Sisters, the latest Netflix original’s intriguing premise and fun performances will probably make it an appealing watch for fans of similar investigative stories.

Bodkin centres around Dove (Obituary’s Siobhán Cullen), a tough investigative journalist whose latest scoop had some intended tragic consequences. To get her out of their hair, her newspaper teams her up with Gilbert (Will Forte), a cheery US one-hit wonder podcaster, and Emmy (Robyn Cara), Gilbert’s young assistant with goals of breaking into the industry herself.

Together, the trio have been assigned to head to the titular fictional town in West Cork to cover the return of its Samhain festival. This is because the last time the event was held, three people went missing – two of which were never found.

While Gilbert seems content to just report on the festival and gather a few spooky stories about what could have been the cause for the disappearances, Dove starts digging deeper. Soon enough, the three have uncovered some bombshell revelations. But in doing so, they put themselves in great peril.

This already seems like it would be enough to fill out a series but, ultimately to its detriment, Bodkin is utterly packed with plot – we haven’t even mentioned the hippie commune based in the central town, the trafficking ring operating out of it as well, the tech millionaire (Charlie Kelly) whose returned to the area to host the festival and the podcasters’ chauffeur (Chris Walley) who seems up to no good.

Often such plot diversions and red herrings slow the momentum of the show and detract from the simple if effective premise of this central trio discovering the sinister underbelly lurking under what appears to be a quaint, idyllic place.

Also, the difficulty of making a comedy thriller is that the two elements can often feel opposed to each other. And indeed, sometimes Bodkin can struggle to strike a consistent tone. For example, Dove is essentially a parody of a hard-nosed reporter (to Cullen’s great credit, she manages to make the scowly, sweary character so fun). But as the series goes on, much of the emotional weight of the show relies on the viewer believing in the journalist as a real person.

Similarly, it’s hard to tell whether Gilbert’s po-faced, solemn narration that bookends episodes is a parody of true crime podcasters or something audiences should be taking seriously.

If you can look beyond these issues, however, there is lots to like in Bodkin. Its West Cork locations look great, particularly in the genuinely high-octane finale helmed by veteran Irish director Paddy Breathnach (I Went Down, Rosie), where the series’ central mysteries are resolved in a satisfying manner.

It’s also incredibly fun to witness the murderers’ row of Irish character actors who make an appearance throughout Bodkin – many of whom are given big meaty monologues and scenes to sink their teeth into. Some notable standouts include Pat Shortt as a local farmer, Fionnula Flanagan as a sinister Mother superior, David Pearse as a surprisingly aggro hippie and Lalor Roddy and Pauline McLynn as late-in-the-game antagonists. Newcomer Clodagh Mooney Duggan also leaves a big impression as a local mortician with whom Dove has a will they/won’t they with.

But the show is really stolen by the great David Wilmot as a Bodkin resident laying low in the West Cork town after a dark past whose peaceful existence is threatened by the podcasters. Believable delivering honestly quite beautifully written monoluges on the virtues of Guinness, spontaneously dancing to Cyndi Lauper but also beating a man half to death with a stapler – he’s equally charming, funny and terrifying and anytime he is onscreen, he gives the show a pep in its step – helping it nail the blend of comedy and thrills its striving for. He is the main reason to tune into Bodkin.

Bodkin is streaming in its entirety on Netflix right now.

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