Roush Review: Sisterhood Gone ‘Bad’ in a Darkly Comic Farce

Key art from Apple TV+'s 'Bad Sisters'
Apple TV+

Bad Sisters

Matt's Rating: rating: 4.0 stars

The family that slays together — or tries to — stays together in Bad Sisters, a macabre tale of mordantly dark humor from the gifted Sharon Horgan (Catastrophe). In the first project of her first-look deal with Apple TV+, adapted from the Belgian series Clan, Horgan plays Eva, the eldest of five Garvey sisters in Ireland. She raised her now-grown sibs after the death of their parents and she would kill for them.

Turns out they all share the murder gene, with a common enemy: John Paul, or “J.P.” (Claes Bang, deliciously smarmy and smug), the cruel and manipulative husband of timid Grace (Anne-Marie Duff, oozing pathos). We know from the start that J.P. died, when a shocking sight gag sets the series’ tone. But who did it? And how? That’s the mystery that gleefully unfolds over 10 episodes, toggling in time between the aftermath of his funeral and the many events that led to it.

Bitter Bibi (Sarah Greene), who lost an eye thanks to J.P., is more than ready to “give nature a helping hand.” So are the unfaithful Ursula (Eva Birthistle), whom he’s blackmailing, and the youngest, free spirit Becka (Eve Hewson), whose business plans he once thwarted. Eva has to suffer with J.P. in their architecture-firm workplace, where he’s slandering her as they compete for a promotion. Though poor Grace insists he makes her happy, we know otherwise as flashbacks reveal this passive-aggressive sadist’s mockery, neglect, and emotional abuse. The more you get to know J.P., the more you’ll want to see him dead.

Which, unfortunately, is easier said than done.

In the tradition of great British farces like Kind Hearts and Coronets and The Ladykillers, the comedy in Bad Sisters rises from the elaborate ruses the Garvey sisters contrive to rid themselves of their foe, which invariably collapse. “I swear to God, you’d have an easier time offing the bloody Road Runner,” Eva laments.

Adding to their woes: Following J.P.’s mysterious death, a clumsily dogged insurance agent (Brian Gleeson), who’ll be wiped out if he has to cough up the 875,000-euro death benefit, desperately keeps trying to expose their cover-up. He’s a boob and a boor, but far from the villain of the piece. But wait till he finds out that his more endearing half brother and business partner (Daryl McCormack) has become unknowingly smitten by one of the bad sisters.

Who could blame him? Anyone would want these fiercely protective, funny women in their corner. They show proper remorse at the ghastly collateral damage often caused by their schemes, but they’ve gone to the dark side for the right reasons. If you’re smart, you’ll tag along for the ride. Few things are more satisfying than a guilt-free guilty pleasure.

Bad Sisters, Series Premiere, Friday, August 19, Apple TV+