TV miniseries review: Bad Sisters (AppleTV+, 2022)
tl;dr: Irish remake of Belgian dramedy miniseries does not disappoint.
A few years ago I wrote about a Belgian miniseries from 2012 called Clan, or The Out-laws. At the time it was said the Americans had picked it up to be remade and then I heard no more about it, until we got a free trial of AppleTV+ and I came across this. It sounded oddly familiar. The Americans (AppleTV+) did in fact pick it up, but set it in Ireland.
Like the Belgian original, this comedic crime drama begins at the end, at the funeral of John Paul Williams (Claes Bang) – husband of Grace (Anne-Marie Duff) and father of Blanaid (Saise Quinn). A couple of insurance broker brothers (Brian Gleeson and Daryl McCormack) start investigating in the hope of not having to pay out on the insurance, which would bankrupt their late father’s business. Surely there’s foul play somewhere, the man has been involved in a curious amount of freak accidents over the past few months …
The five Garvey sisters (Duff, Sharon Horgan, Eve Hewson, Sarah Greene, Eva Birthistle) are very close since their parents passed away when they were still quite young and Eva (Horgan), the oldest one, stepped up to raise her sisters. Mild-natured Grace ended up marrying a sociopath who has been chipping away at her confidence for years, and when he finally makes her miss the annual sisterly Christmas swimming tradition, they decide something needs to be done about him once and for all. Something permanent. Accidents happen every day, right?
Aside from wanting to help their sister and niece escape a domestic abuser, they all have personal reasons for hating the man they call “the Prick” and wanting him dead and buried. Bit by bit you discover the many reasons no one mourns his passing – but you’re kept guessing as to who or what actually managed to kill him. Until the very end you’re wondering which mad cap scheme of theirs is going to finally be the one to succeed.
The story is told in the present, the Prick has died and his death is investigated by the Claffins, and in the past, where the sisters scheme and try to kill him.
I don’t remember all the details of the original, but from what I do remember, the remake follows it pretty closely. Eva’s personal reason was done in more detail in the Belgian one, and I think the Prick was more of a calculating arsehole than a stone cold manipulator, but it could also be that I’ve learned more about domestic abuse since (thanks, AITA?), I don’t know. The original Prick was definitely racist (kept making nuisance calls about a Chinese restaurant) and homophobic, which they’ve definitely toned down. They’ve also toned down the comedy. This is more towards drama than absurdist black comedy, but it’s still definitely darkly funny.
There was something about the neighbour’s bins I couldn’t quite understand in the original, which doesn’t exist here. Instead it’s just that the friendly neighbour (Michael Smiley) is showing Grace too much kindness and attention.
I also don’t know why the Prick is half Swedish (the actor is Danish), but Nina Norén is lovely as his elderly Swedish mother. I’m guessing there are reasons for choosing a traditionally handsome actor for the role, such as to show they have a built-in advantage, because “he’s so charismatic, surely we’re not just being manipulated”.
It’s a shame I can’t talk about Bad Sisters without constantly comparing it to Clan, but when you’ve seen the original and thought it was fantastic, it’s difficult not to? All in all, if you liked the original, you’re probably going to like the remake too. I did. I thought it translated well to a different country, the actors were great (if you haven’t seen Sharon Horgan in Catastrophe yet, please do), and it was all good fun.
According to IMDb, they’re apparently working on a second season. Considering how reluctant the sisters were to actually decide to attempt murder of the one person in the world they had every reason to hate and want dead, I can’t see them repeating the same scenario. Who else could possibly be despicable enough? Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
5 out of 5 complicated pregnancies.