‘Bodkin’ Netflix Review: The Small-Town Investigation Drama Is Bland And Lacks Character

Small-town investigation stories, especially from rural England or Ireland, come with a lot of nuances and layers in regards to the stories. There are known and unknown characters, usual suspects, and an unexpected twist in the end. There were Broadchurch, Mare of Eastown, Midsomer Murders, Fargo, Unforgotten, Luther, Line of Duty, and The Woman in the Wall that covered this genre and delivered impeccable drama to keep the audience hooked. Bodkin, the brand-new Irish Netflix original, is all about the disappearance of three people from a town many years ago. Two decades later, three people came looking for answers, and one of them was a local. Created by Jez Scharf, the miniseries was released on the streaming platform on May 9th, 2024. 


The show is about Gilbert Power, an American of Irish origins who is flown down by the Guardian for his true-crime podcast along with the newspaper researcher Emmy to work with their top investigative journalist Dubheasa “Dove” Maloney. As Dove is dealing with the aftermath of the death of her informant after her expose of the national healthcare system, her boss assigned her to work with Gilbert Power on the disappearance of three people after the Samhain festival in Bodkin, Ireland. Dove dreaded going back to Bodkin as she grew up in a convent in the town, which made her a stoic person. Gilbert, on the other hand, is basking in the success of his podcast and is excited about heading to small-town Ireland to investigate and find answers regarding these disappearances, which would be excellent content for his production. Dove and Gilbert are two contrasting personalities, and their investigating methods are poles apart, but somehow, they manage to get into the muck to dig up skeletons of the past that will shake some leaves, and bring up some old forgotten tales and mistakes. Some locals are excited, while many others are not, as it would give the town a bad reputation. Did they solve the case which the local police could not twenty-five years ago? What are the kinds of secrets the three of them uncover?

These and many other questions are answered by the makers of this miniseries. Each episode is almost an hour long, and it helps the audience get to the bottom of the matter. The whole point of the mysterious investigative drama is to keep the audience on the edge of their seats and not divert from the original case. Sadly, the makers of the show deviated so much from the actual plotline that their efforts to circle back and create the excitement around the answers just fizzled out. If one looks at other shows based on this genre, the good ones at least stick to the main plot points and consider others to be just mere subplots.


In Bodkin, there are many plotlines introduced in the name of revelations, past traumas, crimes, etc., which made the viewing experience jarring. Case in point: the revelations about the three missing people and what happened to them were executed blandly and did not hold any genuine shock value. The show is painfully slow in its pacing, and it suddenly picks up pace in the fourth episode. A lot of information and secrets peel out layer by layer like an onion, but sadly, the way these elements are written in the screenplay and executed by the directors is not interesting. There is also the concern of having too many characters in the show in the hope of making the narrative complex. It only makes the audience confused about whose arc to follow and who is involved in the case the trio is looking into. 

The screenplay is very predictable, as one can see what the whole story could be about, and the viewers are right in most cases. Small-town investigative stories are known for their unpredictability, but Bodkin does not create that aura of mystery and intrigue. There are no usual suspects, only incidents after incidents that seem to be taking the story forward. The overall narrative is just like the excitement Gilbert has about covering this mysterious disappearance. Unlike the shock the protagonist faces when learning the truth, the screenplay does not convey that emotion at all. Speaking of emotion, the narrative is devoid of sentiments, just like Dove Maloney. The plotlines about the harassment faced in the convent by many young girls and the secret about the people who have disappeared do not generate any emotion. If you have seen shows like “Broadchurch,” the final reveal about the killers of the child is gut-wrenching to watch. 


Bodkin is supposed to create an impact on the audience, but that moment never showed up. Even the angle around the Interpol investigation just comes and goes, which does not make sense in the larger scheme of things. The end of the show is bizarre, and it seems the makers wanted to close the chapter most hastily. Bodkin could have been a lot more interesting if the makers hadn’t spent time jamming in many plotlines to prove several points concerning small towns and how conservative Ireland can be. Sticking to two plotlines would have been enough. The makers would have come to the point sooner, and a reduced amount of runtime would have helped to keep the narrative tight. The makers just allowed one plotline to overpower the other, which eventually made the show a mixed bag of nothing. 

The direction of the show is shaky, thanks to a screenplay that could not contain too many storylines. The directors seemed clueless, especially during the climactic episode, as too many things are going on at a time with no end in sight. The stretched ending could have been avoided and severely affected the making of the show. However, some aspects of the show are commendable. The aspect of shaming women is touched upon by the writers. Lately, there have been many stories coming out of Ireland about how women are treated and shamed for being independent. The tale of how mistreatment and the trauma that followed never really leave the conscience of those faced is explored thoroughly, as Dove is a prime example of that. 


The production design of the show is excellent as well. The writing, at times, has glimpses of dark humor, which could generate some chuckles. Bodkin carries some elements of the Amazon Prime Tamil language show Suzhal: The Vortex. Both are investigative dramas surrounded by the mysteries of the town they are set in. Festivals at both shows are another common factor. 

The performances are excellent, and they keep the show engaging for the most part. Siobhán Cullen as Dove is brilliant as a traumatized woman who never had it easy while growing up in a small town convent. She was emotionally stunted, manipulative, and selfish in some parts as a result, and Siobhán pulls off this character with a lot of finesse. Will Forte seems to be struggling in his role as Gilbert, who is desperate to make his podcast a hit. His performance is all over the place, and it is hard to place him in any category, and that could be blamed on the writing. He never had much to do throughout the series. His character is slightly flaky, with his problems thrown here and there, but they never really manifested into something as titular as Siobhán Cullen’s did. David Wilmot as Seamus Gallagher could not deliver an impactful performance. The writers themselves are not sure where to place his character, as he cannot be considered someone who has layers of white and black in him. Seamus’ arc is bewildering to say the least and does not serve any purpose till the end. 


Bodkin is a tiresome watch as most of the time the viewers will spend time trying to connect the dots, but the presence of many characters will further leave them puzzled. Bodkin sadly is bland and lacks character. 

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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