Bad Sisters, the Apple TV+ black comedy about Irish women who might have killed their terrible brother-in-law to save their whole family from him, takes a cold turn this week.
Becka has a new plan for offing John Paul. Ursula’s lover finds out about the blackmail. Gabriel thinks Eva betrayed him, Roger’s in hell. And John Paul is finally getting some of the revenge he deserves after a life of doling out misery to everyone else.
It’s highs and lows all the way to the grave with this one.
Bad Sisters recap: ‘The Cold Truth
Season 1, episode 8: In the episode, entitled “The Cold Truth,” we discover that John-Paul (played by Claes Bang) and his father (Paul Bentall) had a troubled relationship. As John Paul’s mother Minna (Nina Norén) was dying, his dad resented that his son never came around anymore.
He worried enough that John Paul wouldn’t really take care of her if something happened to him. And then something did happen to him: He choked on a marble eye while working on taxidermy, and John Paul didn’t help him. The old man died in JP’s arms, his last act having been denying his son a loan.
Of course, Becka (Eve Hewson) doesn’t know that. All she knows is that the old man is in a freezer in Minna’s basement and every Friday, John Paul comes to check on the corpse. She tells her sisters Ursula (Eva Birthistle), Bibi (Sarah Greene) and Eva (Sharon Horgan), and they flirt with the idea of ringing the police. However, there’s no guarantee that scenario would end with John Paul out of Grace’s (Anne-Marie Duff) life.
Becka hatches an ice-cold murder plot
Then Becka suggests something radical: Trap JP in the freezer and wait for him to die. The Garvey girls don’t like it, but they don’t have any other ideas. Eva hears her out and they even go to test the freezer’s soundproofing. Still, Eva remains hell-bent against the plan for some reason.
John Paul’s ongoing reign of terror is getting particularly bad, too. His campaign to convince the police and the town that his neighbor Roger (Michael Smiley) is a pedophile worked. And now people are harassing Roger and vandalizing his home.
JP also managed to take Eva’s promotion out from under her by convincing their boss (Lloyd Hutchinson) she’s a hopeless alcoholic. And then, when Gabriel (Assaad Bouab) tries to tell JP to be nicer to Eva around the office, the heartless bastard reveals that he knows Gabriel’s in the closet — and will tell everyone he came onto him if he doesn’t stop being insubordinate.
JP also says he knows Gabriel is gay because Eva told him while drunk one night. Gabriel punches him and quits, giving Eva a piece of his mind when he goes. Of course, he doesn’t know that JP came by Gabriel’s houseboat one day and saw him fooling around with his boyfriend. So Gabriel believes JP’s story that Eva gossipped about this to everyone.
Gossip, blackmail and a welcome beating
Speaking of rank gossip, Ben (Peter Coonan), Ursula’s sometime-boyfriend, tries to woo her by offering to buy a house big enough for her and the kids. Ursula tells him she can’t see him anymore because JP will blackmail her if she does.
Ben’s reaction (“I’ll kill him”) is not what Ursula was expecting, but she also doesn’t want any more trouble. Her husband, Donal (Jonjo O’Neill), is already noticing her continued absences and is sort of threatening to take some kind of action if she doesn’t start showing up more for the family. If Donal knew about the affair, she might lose the kids.
Ben finds JP and follows him down a dark road, then pulls him over and beats him up (twice in one day!). He says he’ll kill JP if he releases the dirty photograph he has of Ursula.
Digging up John Paul’s corpse
Back in the present, Thomas Claffin (Brian Gleeson) finally gets Fergal Loftus (Barry Ward) to dig up JP’s body to look for suspicious activity. The only reason Matthew (Daryl McCormack) isn’t present for the event is that he’s trying to make up with Becka after missing their date last night.
Matthew happens to be out of the room when Thomas texts him, telling him about the exhumation. Becka sees the text, runs to the cemetery to check, and then tells Eva, Bibi and Ursula. Ursula panics, believing they’ll all go to jail. And when Eva learns that Becka’s still seeing Matthew, they blow up at each other.
Back in the past, Becka decides to try her freezer plan without Eva’s consent. She goes over to Minna’s house and, after some bonding (including piercing the elderly woman’s nose), she goes to the basement and waits for JP. Of course, she can’t know from her vantage point who she locked in the freezer.
I don’t care about going to prison
Bad Sisters can be mighty cruel when it wants to be. Becka of course has to lose something the way Bibi’s reckoning came in the form of blinding someone else. And the only thing she cared about (outside the family and her job) before she met Matthew was Minna. So my guess is, she accidentally froze the poor old woman to death. That’s especially rough after their heartbreaking girl talk.
Otherwise, this stands as a solid episode, with a lot of easy, satisfying lay-ups. (The inexcusable use of “You’re Dead” by Norma Tanega, the theme song to superlative dark comedy What We Do in the Shadows, is a definite black eye, though.)
Great acting and some pleasant surprises
Watching John Paul get pummeled is good for the soul. Danish actor Claes Bang should win some kind of award for playing the most loathsome man on earth with such verve. You really do feel great when people start punching JP in the face.
Michael Smiley is also (always) wonderful as poor, lost Roger. Smiley’s one of the great character actors, and seeing him play someone so sympathetic for a change has been really something week after week.
Eve Hewson and Sharon Horgan get the big moments among the sisters this week, and their relationship continues to build in intensity. (“You’re the daughter she never had,” says Bibi to Becka, trying and explain her overprotective streak.)
I like that in Bad Sisters, everyone’s moral snags keep tangling because no one obeys conventional rules anymore. Something bad is maybe the only option to save someone from something worse. It’s a messy business, murder.
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.