‘Bodkin’ Review: Netflix Crime Series Is Deathly Dull

This new take on the true-crime genre fails to impress in every way.

(L to R) Will Forte, Siobhán Cullen, and Robyn Cara in Bodkin. ENDA BOWE/NETFLIX

Per Netflix, Bodkin is a blend of mystery, comedy, and drama, not a true crime series but a knowing wink at the genre (one tagline even reads “Based on a true story—overheard in a pub”). The series presents itself as a gritty but gripping thriller that simultaneously packs plenty of chuckles for true crime lovers and haters alike. If only.

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Rather than innovative or interesting, Bodkin is deathly dull and dour. The show starts with intrepid reporter Dove Maloney (Siobhán Cullen) discovering that the key source in a major, institution-shattering story she’s been working on has killed himself. The who, what, where, and why of it all is kept vague until the end of the series, but all that matters is that somewhere along the way, Dove committed a journalistic faux pas and is under investigation by the UK government. So, in an effort to keep things calm and quiet, her editor sends her off to Bodkin, Ireland, where their outlet is working with renowned podcaster Gilbert Power (Will Forte) to produce a new true-crime hit about the town. Some years ago, on the night of Bodkin’s Samhain festival, three people went missing, and though one turned up a few days later, the other two were never seen again. As Dove, Gilbert, and research assistant Emmy (Robyn Cara) dig deeper into the mystery, they discover several deeper conspiracies that implicate some of the community’s pillars.

Siobhán Cullen in Bodkin. ENDA BOWE/NETFLIX

This plodding plot makes for a story that falls apart under any sort of scrutiny, with the show’s twists and supposed surprises only serving to make things more complicated. Gilbert’s occasional references to how stories need a red herring don’t work to support just how many fish Bodkin reels in. What mystery the podcasting crew is trying to solve and create a narrative for changes minute by minute, and while that is a bit by design (Dove spends the series determined to turn this story into an actual journalistic endeavor, since she calls true crime “necrophilia”), it makes the show messy. Almost every new development feels contrived, from Bodkin’s secret smuggling ring to the true identity of those who went missing. It’s the kind of series where plenty could conceivably be considered a spoiler, but so little actually registers as relevant that it’s hard to explain even the story’s most important plot points.

Further weighing down the show are its gloomy and excessively serious characters. Dove is downright mean until a serendipitous heel turn in the final episode, and her severity is tough to watch at times. She’s a fairly cruel character, but her intensity is largely one note, her harshness far from compelling. The comparably peppy Gilbert seems like a thankfully light-hearted foil for her, but it’s not long before money troubles and a rocky marriage make him just as dreary. When his wife comes to Ireland just to serve him divorce papers, there’s a good chance you’ll groan louder than Gilbert.

This serious streak really dampens any of the series’ attempts at comedy, which are unfortunately few and far between. The premise and the presence of SNL alum Forte may make you think that Bodkin is an Emerald Isle edition of Only Murders in the Building, but it lacks all of that show’s wit and warmth. The first few episodes have some funny observations that play on the recent romanticization of all things Irish, but it’s not a point of view that the series really sees through. Bodkin’s Ireland is full of unnecessary inversions, with new age nuns, crude hippies, and Troubles-era gangsters working in small town shops—it’s like the people behind the series thought that such contrast alone was cutting commentary.

That is all to say that Bodkin is a major misfire, and it’s certainly not worth your time. Though it purports to be a smart take on true crime, the series doesn’t inspire much confidence or conversation.

All seven episodes of Bodkin are streaming now on Netflix. 

‘Bodkin’ Review: Netflix Crime Series Is Deathly Dull