Apple TV+ has to be one of the best places to go right now if you’re looking for classy and captivating original drama. Over the past few months the streaming service seems to have turned up the volume to eleven when it comes to quality releases, with Ben Stiller’s incredible Severance, two Oscar winners in We Crashed, the epic Pachinko, British spy drama Slow Horses and Samuel L Jackson in the fantastic Last days of Ptolemy Grey some of the highlights.
It is therefore, with such recent pedigree, no great surprise that their latest production is of a similarly high quality.
Shining Girls is based on a book from 2013 by South African novelist Lauren Beukes. It was a bestseller when it was released and it was surely only a matter of time before someone attempted to adapt the novel for the screen. Perhaps the reason it didn’t happen sooner is the complexity of the story – something that over the pages of a book have more room to be explored than in the precious moments of screen time a television series affords, but I am very pleased to report that Apple have managed to do it, and do it with some style.
A warning, if you are considering looking into the book before you watch the TV series, there are considerable spoilers very easily found which my affect your enjoyment of the series, so I would advise watching first and researching second if you are the type to Google shows while they are on. That sad, if you have already read the book, you’ll know that this is a story worth watching – so buckle up for another excellent ride.
The show follows the fortunes of a woman called Kirby Mazrachi (played by Elisabeth Moss), an archivist at the Chicago Sun-Times who we learn was violently attacked six year previously and has since been experiencing odd phenomena around time and space. We soon learn that the perpetrator of the attack is someone called Harper, a mysterious and scary figure (portrayed by Jamie Bell) who it is thought is responsible for a great deal of other violent crimes and murders against women.
Working with a colleague at the newspaper, the troubled Dan Velazquez, Kirby discovers that her attack can be connected to the deaths of many women. However, the twist here is that these murders aren’t events that have occurred in just the last few years or decades, they can be traced back throughout the 20th Century over a period of nearly 100 years.
To talk much more about what happens in the series would be to spoil the plot and the surprises that viewers have to come in this beautifully crafted series. However, what is clear from the start is that Kirby is in a state of perpetual trauma, and there is a huge amount going on that has left her life a long way beyond her control, and in solving the murder mystery, perhaps she can regain some of the power that she lost over her own life.
This is a slow burn with lots of twists and turns. It is not a show that signposts everything that is coming next, or when it is coming. Like much of the best content from this time warping genre, it leaves the viewer guessing, at times feeling a little lost before pushing them along another intriguing avenue. Whether the path will lead to answers and when they will come is part of the joy of watching such shows. In short, this is intelligently crafted and excellently executed.
At the heart of it is a beautifully nuanced performance from Elisabeth Moss. Perhaps that’s no surprise to those who have followed her career and seen the brilliant performances she has delivered from Mad Men to The Hand Maid’s Tale. However, even ardent Moss fans will be impressed with the way that the actor managed to simultaneously deliver trauma and determination while the shifting sands of time are literally being thrown around her. Even if this isn’t the genre of television that you would usually choose, I would watch the show for Moss alone – you will be repaid with a performance that will surely be there or thereabout when awards season comes rolling around.
Shining Girls is a show that will keep you gripped. It is intriguing and exciting, gritty and deeply atmospheric. This is the type of show that stays with you even when you switch off your television (or perhaps close the lid of your Apple Mac) and in an age with so much content produced really stands out head and shoulders above much of its competition.
Shining Girls is available to watch on Apple TV+ now