Elisabeth Moss hunts down a time-traveling serial killer
In the second season of Netflix Russian doll, the series’ time-traveling heroine, Nadia, tells a friend, “The only reason to go to the past is to change shit, okay? I mean, have you ever seen a movie? Nadia is onto something: culturally pop, time-traveling characters tend to make things better, or at least try. It is the theme of Russian dolland it’s the theme for the second season of Amazon’s animated sci-fi drama Factwhich also features a woman whose time-bending abilities can be mistaken for a mental illness.
Sometimes, however, time travel is less of a wish-fulfillment and more of a nightmare. The same day as Fact returns, Apple TV+ is premiering shiny girlsa serial killer story with a romance-ish twist: the killer travels through time, and our heroine seems powerless to stop him from hurting her at any point in her life. Between the premise of high concept, a good direction of breaking Bad
alum Michelle MacLaren, and the usual superhuman intensity of Elisabeth Moss in the lead role, the series transcends many of the usual clichés and trappings associated with serial killers terrorizing women. It’s a gripping thriller, even if it can be deliberately hard to follow.
More from Rolling Stone This isn’t the first serial killer/time travel mix. The most famous, the 1979 Nicholas Meyer film hour after hoursaw HG Wells’ time machine stolen by Jack the Ripper, who decides to continue his killing spree in present-day San Francisco. In the case of
shiny girls the premise comes from the novel of the same name by Lauren Beukes, adapted by Silka Luisa. Most of the story takes place in the early 90s in Chicago. Moss is Kirby, archivist at
Jamie Bell as Harper. – Credit: Apple TV+
Jamie Bell as Harper. – Credit: Apple TV+ AppleTV+It takes the show a while to explain how and why Kirby’s reality keeps changing, but it’s clearer who’s responsible: Harper (Jamie Bell), an outdated man who likes to attacking women throughout the ages. And when a corpse appears in Kirby’s present with injuries similar to the ones that almost killed her, she joins forces with Dan (Wagner Moura from
Narcos ), a former great journalist who got drunk on professional irrelevance, to understand the connection. But what they consider a fairly simple investigation – “A survivor hunting a serial killer – it’s your story”, insists their editor, Abby (Erika Alexander) – turns out to be horribly complicated due to the mysterious powers by Harper. As Jin-Sook (Phillipa Soo), an astronomer who is one of Harper’s future victims – or perhaps one of her last? – explains: “Just because something hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t happen.”Yes, it’s confusing. But that’s kind of the point. We’re mostly inside Kirby’s head – and there can be few places in all of television more terrifying to exist than inside the head of an abused and vengeful character played by Elisabeth Moss, especially when paired with a director as good at generating suspense as MacLaren (see here). And even after she begins to get a sense of what Harper really does, she can’t begin to unravel the physics and metaphysics of it. The convoluted nature of the plot makes most feel like part of
shiny girls ‘ emotional design. If anything, the show could probably exist even more from Kirby’s perspective. We see Harper in nonlinear action long before Kirby and Dan become aware of her methods, which makes them feel too far behind the curve, especially in some of the mid-season chapters. But even when the plot starts to drag,
shiny girls is able to pull off compelling scenery, like Kirby and Harper brawling in a store whose details keep changing around them with every punch and insult thrown. Apple TV+ is on a real heatsink right now. Breakup and Pachinkoboth have strong arguments for best show of 2022 so far, and last year’s champion, For all mankind , will be back in June. Add to that other recent charmers like the after partyand slow horses as well as continued successes like Ted Lassoand
mythical quest , and the streamer’s quality over quantity approach paid off, even if not everything worked out. It’s another great show. Don’t expect to come out of it able to explain much of what’s going on. The first three episodes of
premieres April 29 on Apple TV+, with additional episodes airing weekly. I saw all eight.
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