BODKIN. Words are blades that cut to the bone [REVIEW]

Ireland seems like an excellent setting for captivating true crime. We review “Bodkin.”

Odys Korczyński

10 May 2024


Ireland seems like an excellent setting for a gripping true crime story, and I can’t recall any well-known crime series being filmed there in recent years, or indeed ever. I’m eager to be surprised and expand my knowledge. I’m counting on your memory. As for Bodkin, Ireland proved crucial to setting the tone of the story, which, despite some tedious slowdowns and over-talking, weaves an interesting, local history—a type of story that can often be more compelling than big political affairs or major crimes, like those in New York. The creator of the series is Jez Scharf, and, apart from the actors (excluding Will Forte), that’s all I responsibly know about him. Apparently, he’s skilled in writing, but his portfolio remains modest. In short, Bodkin was an unknown and a pleasant surprise from the start for me, so my assessment will be ambivalent.

It’s funny and somewhat embarrassing how Americans react to the weather in Ireland. There’s also a bit of getting used to podcasters who “utilize” assistants in their work—or better to call them analysts—as if the podcaster themselves can’t analyze the material they’ve gathered. Generally, people living off podcasts come off as odd hermits, not just in this series but overall. Pursuing their passions excludes them from “real” life, leading to peculiar encounters when they do engage with it, yet it also provides an exceptional sensitivity that the police and law have long lost, as they always proceed in a routine manner, living excessively in the real world. Bodkin is a dark comedy about the secrets of a small town dominated by familiarity, shame, nostalgia, and a desire to maintain peace at any cost, certainly at the cost of truth. The plot develops rhythmically, though lacking the efficiency seen in shows like Berlin Station. It speeds up and slows down, with the main intrigue centered around uncovering the mystery of several people who disappeared years ago during a local festival. This is tackled by a trio entirely unrelated to law enforcement—a podcaster and his analyst, along with a journalist hiding after a problematic article and its associated informant’s death. Therefore, one shouldn’t expect action scenes, shootouts, or typical sensationalism from such a group. However, mystery, stealth, akin to the game Thief, and clever twists are not in short supply if you can endure the specific brand of humor.

It lies somewhere within English surrealism with a touch of American artificiality, which is actually quite distracting. A creator like Jez Scharf, a man with professional writing experience, should feel that humor needs to be much darker if it’s to serve as a backdrop for scenes featuring subsequent murders. Yet, at times, it’s unclear, too safe, perhaps too straightforward, causing the mood to waver oddly. Bodkin is at times a comedy, at times a dark one, but less frequently, and also a crime drama with folk elements and even magical motifs—Dove’s animal visions. Folklore is heard in the music, primordiality in Ireland’s wild landscapes, discreetly post-produced with class, and the sinister dimension of human nature in the successive victims. Undoubtedly, however, for a dark series, it lacks blood and more pointed situational jokes. Nonetheless, it intelligently portrays the work of podcasters against the backdrop of all the officially sanctioned crime-solving services. Although one might occasionally laugh at the podcasters’ naivety and apparent helplessness in catching criminals and facing the reality of punishment, in a broader perspective, this weakness is merely a facade. Words can cut like swords, like BODKINS, small daggers that can be concealed, for example, up a sleeve and stabbed into an opponent’s neck when least expected. Whoever wants to thrust these upon Bodkin’s heroes may wish to discover this for themselves, provided they can accept the distinctive blending of genres and emotions in this 7-episode series distributed before Netflix. Unfortunately, I don’t have any information about whether this was also a co-production and to what extent the platform influenced its aesthetics. Even if it were, the so-called legendary urban legend of “Netflix-ness” is entirely absent. The series more closely resembles cheaper productions from the BBC television stable, which have a sizable following among Polish viewers. I assure you, no one will be bored watching Bodkin. At most, they might feel uneasy during certain jokes—not because they’re too obscene, but due to their flatness in this negative sense; after all, we often laugh heartily at good jokes. Not this time, as I point out the show’s comic shallowness.

Perhaps, indeed, true crime podcasts are an alternative or real aid for all those who, by duty, are engaged in solving crimes, both current and almost forgotten by history. As long as there are people hiding something, it’s always worth reminding them that the world hasn’t forgotten. Even when such meddling in the past seems inconsequential, it disrupts the conspiracy of silence, and that’s the point. When this arrangement is disturbed from outside and no longer feels so secure, someone might make a mistake, lose control, and then all that’s needed is to keep digging. The police find it much easier then to probe these shaken mysteries with questions. Here lies the important role of podcasters and journalists, as shown in Bodkin. Sometimes words indeed cut as painfully as swords, but sometimes all that’s needed are blunt, non-lethal blows—uncomfortable but not excruciating. Those entangled in sinister secrets will inflict sufficient pain upon themselves.

Odys Korczyński

Odys Korczyński

For years he has been passionate about computer games, in particular RPG productions, film, medicine, religious studies, psychoanalysis, artificial intelligence, physics, bioethics, as well as audiovisual media. He considers the story of a film to be a means and a pretext to talk about human culture in general, whose cinematography is one of many splinters.

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