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As I struggled through Netflix’s Bodies, an 8-part murder mystery limited series, the thought that kept on recurring was: another great achievement could have been easily seen if a better writer-showrunner had his or her hands on this show. This historical crime drama adapted from Si Spencer’s DC Comics/Vertigo graphic novel of the same title by Paul Tomalin has a great source material to build on but it is not evident in its TV adaptation. It is so boring and stereotypical in its execution that all it can aspire to be is compared with better and more ambitious works like Dark (the streaming service’s highly praised German hit). Too bad, because this narrative might have given a lot with a lighter and more imaginative touch at least somewhere else (maybe some other network).

The story begins in London, 2023 where Detective Sergeant Hasan (Amaka Okafor) follows a teenager who claims to know about a dead body of a naked man located at Longharvest Lane. The unknown victim lacks an eye (probably due to gunshot wound even though there was no bullet) and bears a tattoo on his left wrist. In three other time periods—1890, 1941 and 2053—the same body is also found at exactly the same place by three different detectives who are assigned to investigate the case. Some fairly quickly deduce that there must have been some form of time travel going on in all cases interlinking different people living at different times—or do they know their own significance regarding uncovering nude john doe?

We follow each detective concurrently as they assemble the puzzle pieces about who the man was and how he died so that they can identify the murderer behind him. Eventually leading up to one mysterious character played by Stephen Graham who appears central towards unravelling this inexplicable event, however he is only the tip of an iceberg which will be affecting various lives for decades and causing global turning points that change history.

However, before getting to the most exciting parts of these complex timelines, the series separates its heroes to get us involved personally right at the start. But unfortunately for them, their private lives are not even as exciting and seem more like an obstacle that slows down our access towards finding where this central mystery is. Don’t get me wrong—these characters have obvious reasons to be developed from scratch since they will later relate to each other in various ways (although not on one timeline); however what they go through individually is highly clichéd and has been seen many times before.

What is worse, no matter whether it is set in the past or future, the atmosphere seems too artificial and expressionless. Though the settings are appropriate given the social atmosphere of each respective period, there seems to be a certain something absent in order for them to feel real or lived-in. Even when it was only 1890s and 1940s England during which it took place amid wars and other fermentations of that sort, everything still looked so polished and flawless hence somewhat insincere. Every time we see another era we can hardly regard them as bona fide natural environments representing different times and places—rather than fabricated worlds created by events’ necessity.

Bodies fails to create a powerful impact for its viewers, instead it has a weak effect. The movie storyline is logical but not captivating and intriguing enough such that we will lose interest in the process of watching it. This intricate web involving Tomalin’s characters – once all tied by the body they all discover-have been turned into a twisted emotional rollercoaster ride that does not make any sense at all. And no matter how many times he puts them through the grinder and sends them in search of some tragic truths regarding their destiny, it does not matter because you don’t give enough rein to your feelings towards these protagonists (whether they are alive or dead). They are only there for the plot.

This complex narrative needed to be handled with more care, an approach that would try at least to allow one perceive that bodies were directing it rather than other things in its big picture. But such a showrunner was missing, unfortunately so. There doesn’t seem to be anything mind-blowing about any of these eight episodes (all sent for review). And this fact deserves nothing more than indifference from viewers. In essence, the dry tone is clinically eliminating each trace of potential which the series aspires to achieve.

Not even one case can be laid against the cast as each one among them has his/her moments when skillfulness may be seen momentarily. Regarding Jacob Fortune-Lloyd’s arrogant DS Karl Whiteman, he serves as an epitome of classic film noir films’ detectives who used monologue for expressing ideas. While keeping his Jewishness hidden during World War II because he was ashamed of it all. This character masterfully presents himself as a boastful snob attempting to hide his true identity as a Jew boy disguised in English clothing. Kyle Soller plays DI Hillinghead: a married cop grappling with issues related to homosexuality while trying to solve various mysteries associated with murder in 1890s England; therefore, he is a loving husband and father, who is in love with a man. However, Stephen Graham as Elias Mannix, which is the best portrayal in this series, is wasted by giving him so little screen time that he mostly lurks behind the scenes yet his mere presence on screen takes over every scene.

Bodies have ended up as one of the most frustratingly poor translations of once promising story with countless possibilities left unexplored. This abomination of a mediocre show will end up being neither here nor there. In some years without anyone being able to point out anything great about it. It’s such a shame since this source material has everything necessary for becoming an interesting exploration of time and destiny intricacies.

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