Netflix has made a name for itself in mind-bending science fiction. Between Stranger Things, Dark, The OA, and Sense8, the streamer keeps finding new and exciting ways to shape how we think about the world. Usually, these new shows are met with a big fanfare, an even bigger marketing campaign, and, in the case of Stranger Things, a tie-in ice cream.
But recently, Netflix dropped a series that more than deserves to stand next to these tentpoles: a graphic novel adaptation that takes a fresh approach to one of the oldest genres and adds a huge time-travel element that changes everything.
Bodies, based on the graphic novel of the same name by Si Spencer, emerges from a simple concept: four detectives from four different points in time all find a strange body on the ground. It’s naked, missing its left eye, and there’s no trace of any bullets found in it. In 2023, Muslim detective Shahara Hasan (Amaka Okafor) tries to stop what she thinks is a terrorist plot. In 1941, Detective Charles Whiteman (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd) deals with antisemitism while investigating a death that couldn’t have come from a bomb. In 1890, Detective Alfred Hillinghead (Kyle Soller) gets caught up with a journalist and a strange society. Finally, in 2053, Detective Iris Maplewood (Shira Haas) finds the same body... alive.
It’s a complicated premise, but Bodies expertly weaves four different mysteries on top of each other. A strange boy discovered in 2023 informs a strange man in 1941. A message scrawled into a wall in 1890 is still there in 2053. While there are four different investigations, there’s only one big mystery, and every character has a role in it.
The climax of the story happens in 2023, meaning when we first take a peek into 2053, we know what will happen in the “present.” Bodies, though initially a straightforward whodunit, quickly becomes a hard sci-fi story about time loops, quantum physics, and quite literally changing history. It all circles around one phrase told to each detective in their respective times: “Know you are loved.”
Apart from its time-travel element, Bodies is simultaneously a period piece, police procedural, dystopia, conspiracy thriller, family drama, and cult story. It’s a lot for any series to attempt, but Bodies is able to incorporate each through its divided plot. When the action jumps from era to era, the tone is effectively reset. One scene may be a gripping chase scene between Hasan and a suspect, but then it will cut immediately to Whiteman in 1941 bonding with a little girl.
Bodies is a stealth time-travel show. The science fiction elements are added so gradually that it’s hard to even notice until the last episode where events are changed and characters even embrace their future selves. It’s a testament to the all-star cast to balance the tones so excellently: it could be tempting to shift from “detective show acting” to “science fiction acting” but everything is played with the utmost seriousness.
Maybe this is why this series isn’t getting the same acclaim as its spiritual successors: calling it a time-travel show betrays the shift of the series altogether. But this show should be on the watchlist of every sci-fi fan, whether they’re the kind who misses the grandfather paradoxes of Dark or the political commentary of Stranger Things.