Bodies: BBC goes Dark-lite
October 25, 2023 5:53 AM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

Bodies is a British crime thriller limited series primarily written and created for Netflix by Paul Tomalin, based on the DC Vertigo graphic novel of the same name written by Si Spencer and illustrated by Dean Ormston, Tula Lotay, Meghan Hetrick, and Phil Winslade. The series consists of eight episodes and premiered on Netflix on 19 October 2023. (Wikipedia)

I am an absolute sucker for timey-whimey stuff, and the reveal of exactly who is on which side of this show's 1890-to-2053 time war gave me joy.

Observations: they soooo watched Dark, but decided to lighten up on some of the existential angst (don't worry, there's still plenty of other angst to go around). There are a couple of loose ends and a couple of places where they blithely skipped over some plot development, but overall I give this one a solid B+ (A, if you like timey-whimey as much as I do).

But pay attention to those trigger warnings.
posted by Mogur (27 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My partner and I finished this one up last night and quite enjoyed it He is not someone who usually enjoys speculative fiction premises, so I was surprised that it worked as well for him as it did!
posted by Stacey at 6:42 AM on October 25, 2023

Three episodes in, moving a bit slowly, maybe in some threads than others. Finding myself wanting more of 2053 world building but more plot elsewhere, but especially in the 1940s.
posted by biffa at 7:43 AM on October 25, 2023

I had to take a few breaks from this because it was stressing me out. I finished it two days ago.

I wish 2053 had been developed further, and I wish I'd gotten a better feel for Iris and her motivations.

But overall it was a good watch, and I wonder whether they'd be able to eke out another season.
posted by champers at 8:08 AM on October 25, 2023 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed this! I do love that “the future” is so often symbolised by a really short fringe.
posted by ellieBOA at 10:17 AM on October 25, 2023 [3 favorites]

Bodies Feels Its Way Through a Perilous Time Loop [Vulture / Archive]
posted by ellieBOA at 12:36 PM on October 25, 2023 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed this! I do love that “the future” is so often symbolised by a really short fringe.

And you can tell what kind of future it is by whether or not that fringe is paired with an undercut.
posted by Kyol at 12:42 PM on October 25, 2023 [6 favorites]

I found this to be excellent.

The time travel stuff is not too dumb, and I liked that everything is one way (well, except moving into the future in realtime).

Mannix at all life stages is very easy to dislike.
posted by porpoise at 1:57 PM on October 25, 2023 [1 favorite]

2053 was definitely a short fringe, undercut, no jumpsuits but lots of cargo pants kind of future. I assumed there was some sort of 90s retro fashion revival happening in the future.
posted by champers at 2:31 PM on October 25, 2023

I mostly enjoyed this, but found the pacing a bit frustrating. It seems that every series with a time loop is doomed to have a saggy, drawn-out middle section in which 1) the villain smugly lectures the hero about how inevitable the time loop is and how everything is going according to plan, and 2) we spend a lot of time completing every last piece of a puzzle that kind of stopped being interesting as a puzzle once we could see that it was Dogs Playing Poker.

Which is to say that I was starting to get annoyed by episode 6, liked the last two episodes a lot more, and wished that the first section had been shorter and the last section longer. I was mildly spoiled for the shape of the arc, which is why I stuck with the series all the way through. This is an improvement over Dark, in which I found most of the third season to be a slog (but enjoyed the real world coda right at the end).

Did the time travel stuff make sense? Not reeeeeeally, but it's fine. Time travel never makes sense unless there's an immutable closed loop, but I only enjoy closed loop stories if they're short (because see first paragraph). I'll take some dubious timey-wimeyness in exchange for a more satisfying story.
posted by confluency at 2:44 PM on October 25, 2023 [2 favorites]

I enjoyed this a lot! I'm currently watching it again to pick up on some of the hints/foreshadowing in early episodes.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 4:38 PM on October 25, 2023 [1 favorite]

I started this the other day. I, too, love timey-wimey stuff. It kinda lost me, though, during the first WWII scenes, especially with the whole “I’m keeping and eye on you” interplay. That section felt far too much like a by-the-numbers bunch of hollywood-ish stereotypes. Like a campy play.

I guess I’ll go and pick it up where I left off and see if it develops in a way that clicks for me.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:39 AM on October 26, 2023

I can’t seem to find the source material online for ereader consumption. Anyone have a link? Happy to pay.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 12:21 PM on October 26, 2023

Looks like DC does the same sort of thing as Marvel and keeps it in their online service - DC Infinite. $8, cancel after a month? I don't have a subscription, so I can't tell if that's a false promise or not, on the other hand.

Otherwise it's well out of print.
posted by Kyol at 1:10 PM on October 26, 2023 [1 favorite]

I didn't end up liking this very much. I never really managed to suspend my disbelief so it just didn't work for me. I think I also just don't like shows that get along mostly by having most secondary characters secretly members of a hypercompetent cult.

(on a related note, the time-travel intervention by Iris was not really necessary- Shahara could have traveled to 2023 and dealt with it by herself, probably in a less narratively-satisfying manner)
posted by BungaDunga at 2:46 PM on October 27, 2023 [2 favorites]

I enjoyed this. I would have liked more development of the future 2053, and I would have liked it if I didn't have to scream "Why don't you just shoot Elias right now!" at the screen a couple of times for a couple of different timelines, but it was generally fun and had a more satisfying ending than I thought I would get.
posted by mmoncur at 12:17 AM on October 29, 2023 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed this. I would have liked more development of the future 2053

Same, but maybe for different reasons. They kind of painted themselves into a corner where they had to have Iris be a rational character that we identify with, and thus had to convincingly portray KYAL2053 as an outcome a rational person would be happy with, even with the deaths of however many people she knew to get there. Which means that they can't make KYAL2053 too obviously crapsack. Contrast to Dark, where 2052 is a completely obvious hellhole that no one would choose, but it came about from an accident rather than a conscious choice by characters. I'm not sure they earned Iris changing her mind based on what happens in the story. If I'm watching the show and I find myself doing the calculations of how many unnecessary deaths are going to come about with Brexit, an occasional Tory government cutting vital services, and right-wing fascists/racists marching in the streets vs one bomb explosion... umm... that may be the point but it doesn't feel right. And in the future there's a POC prime minister, apparently universal LGBQT acceptance based on what Mannix says (whatever he is, he's not a liar), pretty amazing healthcare outcomes, and even members of revolutionary cells are professors or have comfortable apartments next to our protagonist?
posted by LionIndex at 7:07 PM on October 29, 2023 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I think if anything they didn't really do a very good job of showing 2053 as being a bad place - clearly her brother (and others) had decided against joining the Improved Society, but they didn't really say a whole lot about what their objections were, or how Mannix's society was oppressive. I mean, the projections of Mannix and the PM (or whoever that was) on the sides of buildings was a little bit weird and patronizing, but I'd probably manage to cope if it meant healthcare and housing and food were handled by a benevolent society. On the other hand, that meant it was all balanced on the hundreds of thousands dead from the London bombing on Bastille Day in 2023.

But yeah, I was always mildly annoyed when someone got a call from the cult immediately after a pivotal event. Just because someone is from the future doesn't mean they're omniscient! And I was mildly annoyed that Whitehead didn't recognize Polly's voice in the tube station.

And I can kind of headcanon how they managed to get a nuke into London despite knowing how hard it was to separate out the fissile material in WW2 - just because the vault was registered to Shahara in 1893 (or whenever in the Victorian England timeline it actually was) and the message came from the early 40's, there's still a lot of time for Mannix's Cult to acquire fissile material and assemble a bomb in the 70-ish years since the UK developed their nuclear bomb so ehhhh OK? And I just sort of assume Mannix spent his adult life pre-jump memorizing stock movements from 140 years prior.

Did they ever explain why Iris and Dafoe ended up jumping back three times? Well, I assume Iris did three times, she jumped back to the 1890s to warn Hillinghead and we saw her driving Shahara at the end in 2023, so it wouldn't be a surprise if she also popped out in 1941 as well... (And not to mention the Iris and Dafoe echoes popping out in er 2083 and 2165 and 2213?)

Also, I had to roll my eyes that Dafoe didn't survive in a future ER ward with future ER laser scanners, but "let's just sock a helmet on him" worked all right for the plucky protagonists.
posted by Kyol at 5:55 AM on October 30, 2023 [2 favorites]

Also also - what the hell was with Gabriel Howell as Elias' colored contact lenses? Those were SO CRAZY MANIC WOOP WOOP every damn time he was on screen, it was distractingly weird. It's not like Stephen Graham's eyes were / are shockingly blue? I think they did a better job of hiding that Iris is tiiiiiiiny other than a few shots of her sitting at a table and the table coming up to her shoulders.
posted by Kyol at 6:46 AM on October 30, 2023

Did they ever explain why Iris and Dafoe ended up jumping back three times?

More than that! Defoe was apparently broadcast into the future at the same temporal distances as he was into the past, which is how they ended up finding him and saving him with the helmet a few days after Mannix made his jump to 1890, after Iris finds his ripple-effect sketchbook note. Defoe mentions it, but basically says "I don't understand how...." (i.e. wibbly wobbly timey wimey), and there's no real explanation of why Defoe (and maybe Iris) were scattered across multiple instances of time while Mannix went only to the place he intended to go.

Also also - what the hell was with Gabriel Howell as Elias' colored contact lenses? Those were SO CRAZY MANIC WOOP WOOP every damn time he was on screen, it was distractingly weird. It's not like Stephen Graham's eyes were / are shockingly blue?

Yes, thank you. I feel like wearing colored contacts almost always makes people look like they're in an altered mental state, but the choice here was weird. They weren't just "blue" they were some double gradient blue and then the character is just sitting there with his eyes bugging out 90% of the time he's on screen because he's in constant WTF mode, so more attention gets drawn to them than is really necessary.
posted by LionIndex at 7:19 AM on October 30, 2023 [2 favorites]

And I can kind of maybe sort of accept that Mannix only went where he was supposed to because his jump was controlled by Dafoe, maybe, while Dafoe and Iris just ran into the machine without anybody at the controls and <sfx="bbc radiophonic workshop tardis-adjacent noises.aiff">.

Although I'd argue that per the blah blah omega particle whatever symmetry (wibbly wobbly timey wimey), everything gets split in two and Mannix will be back again in the future and he'll be _pissed_. Except he won't because the future he came from doesn't exist any more, blah blah paradoxes don't really get any more interesting through relitigation. Honestly I thought that was mostly the best-ish part of it, that they couldn't derail the timeline by anything as simple and brute as just shooting the dude, but getting him to recant his actions on his deathbed and record it for his younger self? Sure, that's fun. Even if the mechanism for that recording getting to Elias was basically "and then a miracle occurred" level.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, I'm easy to please, as a time travel-y sci-fi-y whodunnit it was interesting and I think they provided enough lightbulb moments to string me along, right? There were just some weird directorial decisions along the way.
posted by Kyol at 8:32 AM on October 30, 2023 [2 favorites]

Honestly I thought that was mostly the best-ish part of it, that they couldn't derail the timeline by anything as simple and brute as just shooting the dude, but getting him to recant his actions on his deathbed and record it for his younger self?

I actually really like how it happened. They tried to so hard to stop the future with force, and all it took was his future-wife’s dad to say “nope you’re not actually going to be happy and she’s not going to be happy” to ruin it all! And they would have both been happy! But all it took was her dad saying they would and Mannix doubts his whole life and does and up kind of lying to himself!

Sometimes it’s the smallest thing that changes the future and not some grand plan.
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:04 AM on October 31, 2023 [6 favorites]

And they would have both been happy!

Yes, right they were pretty darn happy! So why did foster dad plant that seed about all of his guilt and pain?
posted by pjenks at 7:06 PM on November 1, 2023 [1 favorite]

spoiler, finalé. something must have echoed from 1890 through to 2023. at the very last moment, as iris is driving shahara in the taxi, we see the skyline KYAL illuminate.

i really don't know what to make of it. thoughts?
posted by j_curiouser at 11:33 PM on November 5, 2023

I figured that Iris decided to set up her own KYAL organization/cult. It must have worked because otherwise she couldn't still be hanging around in the 2020s- the future she's created must involve her going back in time so she could be there in the taxi.

It's a new time loop. Probably it doesn't involve nuking London this time.
posted by BungaDunga at 7:42 AM on November 6, 2023

Some unrelated thoughts:

Without spoilers (and without having read it), it looks like the crapsack postapocalyptic dystopianism of the future may have been much more of the thing in the original graphic novel. There seem to be... quite a few other key differences as well.

In the show, Iris in 2023 can't be a result her splitting in the 2053 timejump -- the circumstances that led to that timejump were undone. All past Irises should have been erased the way past older Shahara and past dead Defoe were. So I'm not sure exactly what to make of the end. Perhaps a future Iris discovered what *might* have happened somehow with Future Technology, and has gone back to build a better future without a mass death event?

I was initially annoyed by Mannix having a descendant with the same DNA and fingerprints, until I realized that Mannix himself is a bootstrap object who doesn't exist in the first place without time travel creating a loop. I generally accept that rules are different for bootstrap objects.

Anyway, I liked it. Thought it was well done, and it kept me interested throughout. And I liked that it was resolved by communication -- both by letting Mannix know what he truly had become, and by all the detectives finding ways to communicate with each other across time.
posted by kyrademon at 12:29 PM on November 18, 2023 [2 favorites]

Spoiler, in response to j_curiouser:

We just finished this today and n-thing most of the above, including some wtf over the 2023 KYAL. I'm guessing -- without thinking it all the way through - that the reason everyone blinked out except Iris is that Iris was born *after* the Throat, and hence, yeah, some iteration of her could launch KYAL. So undoing the bomb, the Harker/Mannix line etc. doesn't erase the multi-Irises (but does preclude any future Mannixes coming back pissed and restarting things).
posted by martin q blank at 6:55 AM on December 1, 2023 [2 favorites]

The way I see it, undoing the bomb leaves Iris (born 2022?) to grow up without the bomb, but with a growing KYAL movement/whatever, KYAL eventually sends her back in time to found the KYAL that she grew up with. So it's another bootstrap paradox, but less explodey.
posted by BungaDunga at 10:54 AM on December 1, 2023 [1 favorite]

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