Friday, April 29, 2022

Shining Girls, on Apple TV+

The immortal body-possessing serial killer in Fallen often teased Denzel Washington by humming “Time is on My Side.” That is even more true for this killer. He always knows what his victims will do, because he already watched them do it. Kirby Mazrachi was the one victim who lived to report it. Her name was different then, but she legal changed it. That was the only alteration to her reality that she initiated. Somehow, she is linked to her time-traveling stalker in Silka Luisa’s eight-episode Shining Girls, adapted from Lauren Beukes’ novel, which premieres today on Apple TV+.

Mazrachi constantly writes the details of her life in a notebook, because they frequently change. One day, she lives with her rocker mother Rachel, and then suddenly they are estranged. Her desk in the basement research department of
The Chicago Sun-Times constantly moves on her. Sometimes she has a dog named Grendel, other times it is a cat. The disorienting phenomenon started after she survived the vicious slasher attack.

Obviously, Mazrachi has never been able to put the nightmare behind her, so when another woman is killed under similar circumstances, she starts investigating. Reluctantly, she becomes a source for Dan Velazquez, an alcoholic reporter at the paper. Together, they discover an inexplicable pattern. Objects found at the crime scenes link several unsolved homicides over a span of decades, even though some of those items refer to places and events that did not happen yet. Mazrachi had hers too—a matchbook for a non-existent bar.

Shining Girls
is an example of the sort of book that could only really be properly adapted during the current streaming boom. Luisa takes the time to let us experience multiple shifts in Mazrachi’s reality, which pays-off later when viewers see the implications of those shifts. Although the time travel itself is basically a fantastical device rather than something with a science fictional explanation, Shining Girls still represents some of the smartest and most character-driven time travel programming, since Needle in a Timestack.

Elisabeth Moss is terrific as Mazrachi. She is credible and compelling freaking-out, without visibly freaking-out, while also struggling to take charge of her shifting reality. Wagner Moura is also entertainingly grungy and boozy as Velazquez (who now happens to be Brazilian in the series, you can even see him wearing an Os Mutantes t-shirt).

As Harper Curtis, Jamie Bell is supposed to represent the banal creepiness of serial killers, but sometimes he is a little too banal. However, Chris Chalk and Phillipa Soo are both excellent and help keep the wild and intricately plotted
Shining halfway grounded as Marcus, a co-worker whose relationship to Mazrachi alters radically, and Jin-sook Gwansun, a once-and-future victim.

Luisa maybe spends a little too much time on Curtis’s backstory (and his veteran status is a bit annoying, especially for those who have ancestors who fought in that “distant” war). However, the way she portrays and differentiates each revision to Mazrachi’s reality is truly impressive. This is an ambitious series that fulfills its promise. Very highly recommended,
Shining Girls starts streaming today (4/29) on Apple TV+.