‘Bodkin’ Review: A Darkly Comic Take On Our True-Crime Obsession

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: May 9, 2024 (Last updated: 3 weeks ago)
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'Bodkin' Review
Bodkin | Image via Netflix


Bodkin is a legitimately great send-up of our true-crime obsession, blending humour with a compelling detective plot and a helping of Irish folk-horror.

These days having a true-crime podcast is the best career move you can make. If it’s popular, there’s a streaming series in your future. And even if it isn’t, it’s carte blanche to call yourself a detective and turn up in quaint Irish towns solving local mysteries. Bodkin, a satirical seven-part send-up of the idea of amateur sleuths unpacking grisly secrets, should feel like a joke. But it’s better and smarter than that.

Riding a cultural wave of do-it-yourself crimefighting, Jez Scharf’s Irish Netflix series is as much a fish-out-of-water comedy as a legitimate crime drama, and as much a bitingly topical modern take on an age-old format as it is Father Ted with murders. It works on just about every level it operates on.

Will Forte plays Gilbert Power, an American podcaster trying to unearth his Irish roots in the fictional West Cork coastal town of Bodkin, but his familiar character is more of an excuse to examine the eccentric locals. Years earlier, three youngsters disappeared, and Power, along with peppy researcher Emmy (Robyn Cara) and disgraced investigative reporter Dove (Siobhán Cullen), want to find out why.

Easier said than done, though. The mystery goes right to the top, if you read “top” as a local bigwig named Seamus (David Wilmot) who might be a former terrorist gunrunner, and involves most of the eccentric locals, who all veer towards offensively folksy stereotypes but end up becoming something a little more with time.

And nobody wants these three stooges poking their noses into Bodkin’s business. Things get real. Other things get weird. But it quickly becomes apparent that there’s much more to Bodkin and its inhabitants than meets the eye.

Bodkin is the first foray into scripted television for the Obamas’ Higher Ground, giving it more of a pedigree than Netflix’s other forays into rural Ireland, like Irish Wish with Lindsay Lohan. But don’t think it’s a prestige show either – the animated opening credits feature a nun and a pint of Guinness.

But the production company had to be attracted to the project for a reason, and it becomes clear quite quickly what that reason is. Bodkin is really good. It’s smart and funny and legitimately compelling. It’s also very difficult to stop watching. In an age where most new shows are released in full, almost like a challenge, this is a bona fide binge-watch that you’ll snaffle down in a trance, lulled by its madcap sensibilities, allusions to folk horror, and laugh-out-loud humor.

But it’s a character study at heart. Forte’s Power is a legend in the podcasting community – Emmy idolizes him – but he’s still coasting on the success of one hit from years prior, which was only a professional success and not a personal one given the impact on his marriage. Power needs the Bodkin case to yield results so he can clear the debts he accumulated trying to make lightning strike twice.

Dove, meanwhile, is a proper investigative journalist who thinks true-crime podcasting is “necrophilia”, and has been sent by her London-based editor at The Guardian to help Power and get out of the limelight. Her previous case involving a government whistleblower ended in calamity and a potential breach of the Official Secrets Act, so she’d rather be anywhere else other than the madcap town of Bodkin.

All of this comes together into a legitimately great little series. Chances are nobody will watch it, but among the Netflix thumbnails you never quite know, and it’d be a lovely thing if Bodkin became the proper streaming hit it deserves to be.


Netflix, Streaming Service, TV, TV Reviews
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