Bad Sisters takes a look at John Paul’s mental health in a particularly solid episode of the murderously funny Apple TV+ hit. The series, about a family covering up a murder in the present — and trying to commit it in the past — takes a madcap turn this week.
Bibi is mad with grief, Grace is a broken woman, Roger’s going to jail and Becka’s falling in love. Plus, we get the funniest scene of the season. A fine showing from the cast helps this week’s episode get a good head of steam going in time for a great final sequence of dark slapstick.
Bad Sisters recap: ‘Splash’
Season 1, episode 6: In the episode, entitled “Splash,” Grace (played by Anne-Marie Duff) is starting to have dreams about John Paul (Claes Bang) dying. Bibi (Sarah Greene), still in a state of shock after almost killing a man last week (she was aiming for JP), won’t return any of Grace’s calls. Ursula (Eva Birthistle), Becka (Eve Hewson) and Eva (Sharon Horgan) try to talk to her, but her wife Norah (Yasmine Akram) won’t let them in (on Bibi’s orders).
When Grace tries to go to an art class after her disastrous dance class, she gets an accidental pep talk from the nude model.
“Surely you’re a woman comfortable in her own body?” the model asks.
“I’m not sure my husband would agree with you,” she replies.
“What’s it got to do with him?” the model says.
John Paul casts an appalling shadow
Elsewhere, Matthew Claffin (Daryl McCormack) and Becka are back on. He sleeps over and manages to find a check written by John Paul’s mother (Nina Norén). Minna wrote it to her in a fit of dementia and she never cashed it.
Thomas (Brian Gleeson) has a run-in with Roger (Michael Smiley), who we finally learn stopped trying to be friends with John Paul after he refused to let him fish off of his boat. Roger says he hated John Paul, that there was no being nice to him, and that he was just sorry he didn’t die the first time he tried to kill himself. Curious, no one mentioned that before.
She flashes back to a day when Roger came over to garden to talk to Grace out of the goodness of his heart. John Paul came home and saw them playfully dancing on the lawn. Incensed, he broke up their meeting, and then called the police on Roger for good measure. He accused Roger of being a pedophile, which all but ruined his life.
Grace tries to salvage the situation (which is really just that her husband is a mean-spirited git) by seducing JP with a new dress, but he flips out. He’s apparently been basically impotent since the car accident. So he just turns the situation around on her, making her feel awful about herself. Blanaid (Saise Quinn) knows her mom is especially upset and tries to cheer her up by asking her to chaperone an overnight school trip.
Another murder plot
She kvetches with Eva, Ursula, and Becka, and they can see just how damaged she’s become in John Paul’s care. Eva gives Grace a vibrator and makes Becka promise she’ll apologize to Bibi. No Bibi, no murder.
Becka finally manages to get in a word of apology, and they reconvene with a new plan. They’ll sneak something into John Paul’s nasal spray that will put him to sleep, then drown him in the tub. They get Ursula to steal some drugs from the hospital to kill him. She runs into Donal (Jonjo O’Neill), her husband, who’s worried that her distant nature lately is because of him. She can’t confess the affair, or the murder attempt, but she does at least let him know she still loves him.
Grace is all set to leave on the field trip with Blanaid when John Paul finds the vibrator and reams her out for being a disgusting, wanton creature. She manages to blow past him, leaving him alone for the night. When he leaves, the sisters sneak in and dose him, but he comes back earlier than expected, so they hide under Blanaid’s bed and in Grace’s closet to avoid detection.
Then, as they’re undressing a passed-out John Paul to put him in the bath to make it look like an accident, he wakes up. Or … not exactly. He starts sleepwalking. He gets his car keys and drives, while drugged and asleep, to the marina to get in his boat — where he falls in the water and appears to drown.
More extraordinary work from Bad Sisters’ stellar ensemble
We get to enjoy excellent work from the main Bad Sisters cast this week (not that that’s unusual) as they handle the broadest comedic set-piece of the season. The ordeal of these women, most of them over 35, crawling around and hiding from a pantless sleepwalker is just good TV.
They play up their discomfort with everything, as well as the absurdity that these women got themselves into this situation to begin with. This show just plays when push comes to shove. Every week there’s some sequence of high tension (or in this case, the deflation of that tension) that gets you to sit bolt upright and grip the arms of your chair. The sleepwalking stakeout is one of the most fun bits on Bad Sisters to date.
I wanna take a moment to say that the chemistry between the actresses playing the Garvey sisters has been off the charts all season so far. Despite the huge differences between a lot of them (only a few of them really look related), they gel as a unit exquisitely.
I really loved Sharon Horgan this week taking a more maternal role in the lives of her sisters, demure and reposed in a flouncy bathrobe like something that escaped from a Giallo. Truly excellent vibes off of her.
Of course, Greene, Birthistle, Duff and Hewson are all stellar, too. But I wanted to take a minute to single out Horgan’s particular brand of charisma. She doesn’t get a lot of the showier scenes (Duff gets most of those, and she’s amazing). But as a utility player here, she’s marvelous.
Watch Bad Sisters on Apple TV+
New episodes of Bad Sisters arrive on Apple TV+ every Friday.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.