Netflix’s ‘Bodkin’ Should Have Let Its Lesbian Take the Lead

Ever since Ted Lasso premiered in 2020, studios have been clambering for a repeat. It’s a classic error of the people on top — instead of noting a work’s specificity and repeating success with more specificity, they try to copy what’s already done well. Agents, managers, producers, everyone was suggesting artists pitch shows as “it’s like Ted Lasso but xyz” or “it’s xyz meets Ted Lasso.”

Never has that pitch felt more overt on-screen than in the new Netflix series Bodkin. You can feel the writers saying, “It’s like if Ted Lasso was a murder mystery!” Executives everywhere cheer.

Bodkin is about Gilbert Power (Will Forte), a down-on-his-luck one-time hit podcaster who has traveled to the small Irish town of Bodkin to make a show about the disappearance of three people years earlier. Gilbert is joined by his plucky associate Emmy (Robyn Cara) and disgruntled Irish journalist Dove (Siobhán Cullen) who has been assigned to help as a sort of punishment for her last big scoop.

Much of the humor comes from the fish out of water circumstances of Gilbert and Emmy in Bodkin. The locals are both clichés of small town curiosities and clichés of Irish people — both to Dove’s chagrin.

Despite being the first narrative series from the Obamas’ Higher Ground productions, Bodkin is quite politically sharp. At its core, it explores ethical quandaries of the true crime genre and journalism in general. It’s also very explicitly anti-cop and anti-government agencies. Unlike Only Murders in the Building which still finds room for a lovable cop despite shifting its primary crime-solving to podcasters, here the main characters are in direct opposition to the authorities. Maybe the more left-leaning minds at Higher Ground could get away with this because it takes place in Europe.

It’s rare to get a mystery series this thematically astute — at least until the empty apolitical final moments — so it’s disappointing that the show can’t back up those ideas with high quality genre storytelling. It’s especially disappointing because the elements are all there — with just a few extra to weigh it down.

Dove is the undeniable star of the show. And not just because she’s a lesbian. Her Irish homecoming after faltering in London is a trope done well. And Siobhán Cullen is excellent at capturing Dove’s rough exterior and wounded core.

Gilbert and Emmy feel unnecessary — side characters pushed to be leads simply due to their Americanness. Forte and Cara are good actors, but Gilbert is only compelling in his scenes with local crime boss Seamus (a scene-stealing David Wilmot) and Emmy is only compelling in her scenes with Dove.

The location is beautiful and charming, but the mystery itself — both the initial hook and the forced twists — aren’t strong enough to make this a plot show rather than a character show. And Dove is the only one of the trio interesting enough to lead a character show.

Her relationship with local mortician Mary (Clodagh Mooney Duggan) is sexy and combative and true to small-town life without centering homophobia. It’s a really good romantic subplot that reveals layers to Dove and pushes her forward. If only Dove was squarely the lead of the show, we might’ve been able to see this relationship even more fleshed out.

At a mere seven episodes, this is a perfectly entertaining way to pass the time. It’s fun enough and Siobhán Cullen still is one of the three leads. It’s just frustrating to watch a show with potential fall back on the safety of a conventional protagonist and grating plot contrivances.

When the show begins, Gilbert is desperate to recreate the magic of his first hit podcast. If only networks and streaming sites would learn his same lesson: Sometimes it’s best to let the past remain the past. Why make “Ted Lasso solves crime” when Dove, the lesbian investigative journalist with anger issues, was right feckin’ there?


Bodkin is now streaming on Netflix.

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Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is a Brooklyn-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. She is a Senior Editor at Autostraddle with a focus in film and television, sex and dating, and politics. Her writing can also be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Refinery29, Into, them, and Knock LA. She was a 2022 Outfest Screenwriting Lab Notable Writer and a 2023 Lambda Literary Screenwriting Fellow. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about queer trans women. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Drew Burnett has written 534 articles for us.

2 Comments

  1. It’s true that the story is the most important motivation to watch a show, but as long as it’s not bad and has a good queer romance, that’s enough for me to watch that work. Because unlike heterosexual romances, it is rare to see a good lesbian romance. I will definitely try to watch it.
    Even though I haven’t seen the show yet, but according to the review, I feel you are right, Dove could have been the only lead in the story.
    I think the media is afraid, they are afraid that by valuing queers more, their show will not be able to attract many viewers and be successful. But the problem is that you have to take risks to make a quality work. But unfortunately for the media (like Netflix) the number of viewers is important, not the quality.

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