Cutline -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Evergreen -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Overnight -| Review Score – 4/5
Attribution -| Review Score – 3/5
Screamer -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Bright -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Offset -| Review Score – 4/5
30 -| Review Score – 4.5/5
Shining Girls is a slow burn of the highest degree, a thriller in danger of becoming a snooze fest and turning off its audience…until it injects itself with a shot of adrenaline. This is one of those shows that works so much better as a binge-watch rather than a weekly series – and another reason why Apple’s model of drip-feeding everything on Fridays, at exactly the same time as all their other content, isn’t always the best move.
Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, Shining Girls starts off with a simple premise and slowly eases its way into building up an atmospheric and uneasy tension that hangs over large portions of the run-time.
The story is slowly and carefully layered, although I must say some of the middle chapters do sag, with very little plot development. Episodes 4 and 5 are particularly egregious in that respect. However, from episode 6 onward, the show aligns all of its puzzle pieces in time for an incredibly satisfying pay-off that helps to elevate this above being an ordinary thriller into something quite special.
To backtrack though, the story centers on a woman known as Kirby Mazrachi, who finds herself reeling after a brutal attack in the past. Navigating through inexplicably shifting realities, Kirby tries to make sense of her life, keeping a journal to jot down any constants. The trouble is, those constants are anything but as both small and large changes cause her to question what’s real and what’s not. It would seem that her attacker, a man known as Harper, is the root cause of all of this.
Working as an archivist at a newspaper, Kirby teams up with a veteran reporter called Dan as they investigate a string of murders that stretch all the way back to the early 1900’s. Unfortunately, Harper appears to be one step ahead of the pair the whole time. How? What secrets does he hold? And can the pair stop Harper from killing again?
I won’t go into spoiler territory here but suffice to say when this show leans into its plot and allows the puzzle pieces to organically begin taking shape, Shining Girls is at its strongest. That’s to say nothing of the acting though, which is pretty impressive all round.
Elisabeth Moss is a great actress, although I must confess her performance here is very close to that of Cecilia in The Invisible Man and June Osborne in Handmaid’s Tale. While I do appreciate she’s a victim here too, it’s also hard not to shake the similarities.
Jamie Bell is a noteworthy mention here, playing the chilling and unnerving Harper beautifully. As someone who has been a fan of Bell since his performance in Deathwatch, a 2002 horror movie (which also featured Andy Serkis and Laurence Fox for those interested to know), it’s great to see him here in a very different role. The rest of the cast play their parts well, but Bell and Moss are going to get most of the plaudits here.
Aesthetically, Shining Girls manages to really nail the right atmosphere and tone of the story. A lot of the heavy lifting here can be attributed to composer Claudia Sarne, who manages to weave moody, melancholy instrumentals with rhythmic, pulsating threads throughout the soundtrack. It really is a fantastic score.
The visuals are, as one may expect from an Apple series, absolutely top-notch as well. The sets are lavishly designed and there’s a really nice ebb and flow to a lot of the camera work. Late on, there are some particularly impressive shots that help to explain and accentuate these shifting realities, especially in the final chapter.
It would be very easy to go into this one and grow impatient at the slow plotting. Much like Servant, some of the bigger plot developments are reserved for the later chapters and the show is actually burdened by its drip-fed structure of one episode a week. As someone who tries to judge these shows fairly both ways (watching half the show week by week and then binging the rest), Shining Girls definitely feels stronger as the latter choice.
This slow burn thriller has a fair few shocking twists too and an impressive degree of control to keep things tense right up to the nail-biting conclusion. Don’t sleep on this one folks, Shining Girls is a bright star that’s very much worth your time.
Verdict - 8.5/10