Apple TV+ is continuing its impressive run of content with a brand new crime-thriller series, Shining Girls, based on the novel by Lauren Beukes. It stars Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale) and Wagner Moura (Narcos), with Jamie Bell, Phillipa Soo, and Amy Brenneman rounding out the impressive cast.
Let me start by saying I’ve never been bitten by the “crime entertainment bug.” And when I do watch a fictional crime thriller, I find myself generally disappointed at lackluster endings. However, Shining Girls ventures of the crime genre to toe into the supernatural, and while it may seem like a blend that might border (or topple) on campy, it’s anything but. It breathes new life into an oversaturated lineup of crime TV with its metaphysical plot that actually seems perfectly plausible thanks to great storytelling and even better performances.
One of the standout triumphs of the series is that it’s perfectly paced. The beginning episodes are cryptic and mysterious enough to make viewers crave more, and the carefully crafted dismantling of the mystery begins before it becomes frustrating. A good ending is hard, with so many series leaving too much to wrap up in one final episode, and this was a flaw Shining Girls was not a victim of. Silka Luisa’s script tells this story so masterfully, with every plot point wrapped up in a concise, well-told bow.
Perhaps the greatest magic hidden within the series is the highlight of the forced resiliency society shoves onto survivors. It was a harrowing metaphor for the loneliness that survivors feel as they navigate their trauma, typically alone. While the plot is gripping and thrilling, the real beauty of this story lies in exploring how, with the help of just one person who believes your story, and in your ability to overcome, you can find yourself again.
Elisabeth Moss gives a homerun performance, but when does she not? She’s undoubtedly one of the greatest actresses working today, and this performance is no exception. Much like her longtime embodiment of The Handmaid’s Tale‘s June Osborn, she finds a vulnerable strength in Kirby’s trauma. Her raw, honest performance pays tribute to the story, and the similarities some may draw to traumas in their own lives.
I’m sure I won’t be the only one, but I was thrilled to have Wagner Moura back on my screen. Narcos was the last performance of his I’d seen, where he made me question my morality by actually making me pity the madman that was Pablo Escobar, so I was thrilled to see where he would be taking the veteran, downtrodden reporter Dan Velazquez. Needless to say, he’s still a force to be reckoned with, and at least Dan is one it’s okay to root for. Moura has that hypnotic ability to convey so many emotions without a single word, and it’s on full display here throughout this entire series. The way he and Moss play off one another in each of their shared scenes is electric and no doubt one of the many secrets of undeniable success for the series.
Once considered the underdog, Apple TV+ is really solidifying themselves as one of the best in terms of dependable quality content. While they may not be churning out new films and series like Netflix, it’s a perfect example of quality over quantity. Apple is having a hard time missing when it comes to reception on their projects, and Shining Girls is no exception.
Shining Girls premieres with its first three episodes Friday, April 29, and each subsequent episode will debut weekly until the finale on June 3.