Let me just cut right to the chase here. Imagine an unimaginably great thing happening to you once in your life, and then it’s over. You still cherish the memory, but you know for a fact that it won’t ever happen again. Of course, you wish you could forget it all and experience it once again, which is also impossible. Now put Dark, the now iconic German series from Netflix, on that podium. If you are a fan of that show like I am, then do believe me when I tell you—it has happened again. Behold, we have a successor to that show! It happens to be the latest science-fiction murder mystery series from Netflix, titled Bodies, which is conceived by Paul Tomlin, and the origin happens to be a graphic novel of the same name, written by the late Si Spencer. This one is in English, and it’s actually very British if I have to be more specific, and that only increases the charm of it.
The beginning of Bodies is quite humble, like any other detective series. The year is 2023, the same one that we are living in at the moment. On a very random day in July in London, one Detective Sergeant Sahara Hasan comes across the dead body of a young, thirty-ish, pale-looking male. There’s not a stitch of clothing on it; a strange little symbol on the left arm, just above the wrist; and most interestingly, a bullet hole in place of the left eye. Sounds intriguing? Well, let me spill a little more here, and trust me, I am not at all spoiling the fun you are going to have while watching it. So here’s how it goes: the story moves back to the year 1941 in London, and the city’s under the ravages of the Second World War. In the midst of that, a certain Jewish detective, Charles Whiteman, is asked by a mysterious caller to pick up a body and deliver it to a particular address. The body happens to have the exact same appearance as the one that detective Hasan has found. No clothes, same symbol on left arm, bullet went through the left eye—everything is exactly the same, including the face. But the series isn’t done with us yet, as we soon find ourselves in the year 1890, in Victorian London. This time around, it is another detective, Arthur Hillinghead, who finds the body—the same one, obviously. There is one more remaining catch, which is that they all find the body at the exact same place: Longharvest Lane in East London (don’t Google; it’s fictional).
Ludicrous as it may seem, the central mystery of Bodies is extremely palpable. Whose body is it? How is it appearing in separate time periods? Instead of trying for anything particularly unique, the story plays out in a conventional manner. It feels like watching an onion get peeled, layer by layer. And the series doesn’t hold back when it comes to giving answers. You don’t have to wait until the final episode to find out what the deal is, as you get most of that by episode 5. That is a considerably risky move, but also a bold one, as the series gets enough time to properly explain how things went down and deliver a proper, neatly tied-up finale that works out wonderfully as an exciting final chapter. A lot of credit for that lies in the writing of Bodies, where each character and their individual arcs are fleshed out with the utmost care. Quite often, a series or movie with a plot as dense as this one forgets to make its characters feel like actual human beings, but that’s not the case with Bodies. You get to feel the plight and frustration of Hasan and Hillinghead in their respective time periods. The situation is never really favorable for the detectives, but Whiteman’s carries an inherent smugness and sassy attitude, which makes the character stand out. There is another timeline, by the way, this one in the year 2053, in which “Unorthodox” breakout Sira Hass plays detective constable Iris Maplewood, who, as you expect, finds the same body—but there’s an interesting twist.
The future timeline is another risk Bodies take that pays off real good. Granted, it looks mostly like “the future” in science fiction shows and movies, but it is not just a gimmick. Serious stuff goes on in 2053, which is as exciting as the happenings of all the other three eras. In fact, it is the future timeline (and detective Maplewood) that plays the most important role in terms of concluding the story. For anything that has a time-travel concept, maintaining subtlety is always a big challenge. I liked how Bodies, instead of trying to be smart here, blatantly put their time-machine thing (they call it something else though) out in the open. But they also manage to keep everything else so grounded that it does seem all too real to not believe. What further helps the cause is the legendary Stephen Graham, who plays the central antagonist. Instead of being a caricature or generic villain, Graham’s character presents an argument here and compels you to consider taking his side. There is a clear motive behind all the things the character does, and it makes all the sense in the world.
I am quite a nerd when it comes to hard-boiled detective fiction. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration if I said that watching fictional people try to solve a mystery on my screen often gives me goosebumps. I also have an affinity for anything that involves meddling with time. Naturally, Bodies turned out to be a match made in heaven for me, and I ended up having a field day at the office. Now, in case you’re wondering if the series is flawless, I must tell you that it isn’t. There are times when Bodies does feel like things are getting out of hand, but the important thing is that it always recovers quite stunningly. That’s why the imperfectness of the series doesn’t really matter in terms of the big picture. Bodies is probably the most exciting series to appear this year, and I can see it becoming a pop-culture sensation in the near future. It totally deserves to be one.