'Bodies' review: Bends time, along with your brain

The writing's on the wall for DS Hasan... if only someone could make out what it says in the first place. Photos: Handout

Bodies. A lot can be made of them, whether they're warm, at rest, in motion, problematic in threes, or just plain snatched by pod people.We bet, though, you haven't had to wrap your head around a mystery like the one that's front and centre of Netflix's Bodies for a while... well, except maybe while bingeing Loki.

Set in four different times – 1890, 1941, 2023 and 2053 – this miniseries has four police officers across the years finding the same body in the same alley with the same wound and in the same pose.

Oh, the humanity! The sameness! Is a time-travelling imp at work, confounding law and order throughout the decades? Did someone fall asleep at the Time Variance Authority? Is Jobu Tupaki still messing with the multiverse?

The answer may soon become apparent to anyone familiar with genre fiction, illustrated/prose/filmed or otherwise, but even the uninitiated can enjoy the payoff by paying a bit of attention.

'OK, at least from this angle, the scene is SFW.' Photos: Handout'OK, at least from this angle, the scene is SFW.' Photos: Handout

Bodies, based on the acclaimed 2014 DC/Vertigo limited series by the late comics/TV writer Si Spencer, requires your undivided attention but rewards the attentive in many ways.

First, there's the diverse array of coppers over the years: 1890's Detective Inspector Hillinghead (Kyle Soller, Andor), ready to take on the rich and powerful to make his case; 1941's Detective Sergeant Charles Whiteman (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd), on the take from the rich and powerful; 2023's DS Shahara Hasan (Amaka Okafor), whose job has taken a lot from her; and 2053's Detective Constable Iris Maplewood (Shira Haas), who takes little joy from her dystopian world governed by an enigmatic recluse.

In his first big project after writing for shows like Torchwood and The Frankenstein Chronicles, Bodies creator/showrunner Paul Tomalin keeps a firm grasp on the time- and brain-twisting threads of the story as both plot and (some) characters bridge the intervening years in ways both expected and quite unexpected (in a delightfully low-tech way).

The differences in the four investigators' personalities and circumstances, mixed in with the central mystery, are compelling enough to keep us involved through the show's run.

But it's veteran Stephen Graham (Gangs Of New York, This Is England, Line Of Duty Series 5's unfortunate undercover cop) who wraps everything up tightly with a bow on top, in a dual role of which the less is revealed here, the better.

'The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled? Hah... Keyser Soze's got nothing on me.''The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled? Hah... Keyser Soze's got nothing on me.'

Suffice to say that Graham's turn as a driven, grandly ambitious visionary – tempered with a sad sort of longing to be loved that gets a skewed symmetry at the moment he pulls off a great con job in one time period – truly imbues Bodies with soul.

Never mind that said soul is also a little twisted and utterly ruthless in achieving his vision; yeah, that makes for the most compelling kind, after all. On top of which, everything about his scheme seems to be reliant on a whopper of a lie he tells... himself. Kudos also to young Graham Howell as a tortured individual connected to Graham's character.

Solidly acted and written, Bodies is from that rarefied part of streamed entertainment's upper atmosphere that challenges the brain and hooks the emotions, delivering some hard gut-punches along the way.

Its revelations may not always match the expectations and build-up, but it still leaves room for a fair bit of speculation on the viewer's part when the final credits roll. Were those plot holes, or part of a temporal paradox – and then, bootstrap or Newcomb's, causal loop or plain old time loop?

Like Sarah Connor said in The Terminator's closing narration: God, a person can go crazy thinking about all this.

Welcome to Crazytown.

All eight episodes of Bodies are available to stream on Netflix.

8 10


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