II never lost my mind, at least as far as I know. But if my understanding of reality started to slip, I imagine it would be a lot like the experience of watching Apple’s cerebral sci-fi crime drama. shiny girls. When we meet our protagonist Kirby Mazrachi (Elisabeth Moss), she’s a shy Chicago Sun-Times archivist who shares an apartment with his punk-rocker mother (Amy Brenneman) and a cat. Then, without warning, reality shifts. Kirby returns home to find she lives on a different floor of the same building, with a husband (Chris Chalk) whom she only remembers as a co-worker and a dog. Instead of explaining the twist, the show immerses viewers in its disorientation.

Elisabeth Moss and Wagner Moura in “Shining Girls”


What we do know about Kirby is that she was well on her way to becoming a star reporter before she narrowly survived a brutal mugging. It was only after he regained consciousness that the facts of his life began to change. Since then, she’s drifted through a series of realities, which happen without rhyme or apparent reason. When a murder occurs whose details match those of his attack – the assailant leaves items in the bodies of his all-female victims – Kirby teams up with veteran journalist Dan Velazquez (Wagner Moura) to not only catch a killer in serial potential, but also to make sense of what happens to him. The ingredients for a typical tale of male misogyny and female trauma are all there in this adaptation of Lauren Beukes’ widely read 2013 novel. Still shiny girls, premiering on April 29, does not give a lecture. Instead, like a number of recent series, it uses genre conceits to place audiences in the perspective of a character forced to reopen historical wounds.

Although the suspense builds towards the middle of the eight-episode season, the show moves slowly at first; frustrating as it may be, it’s the only way to build an ever-changing world. The scenes recur, with minimal explanation. Scenery, hairstyles and characters change, often slightly but always suddenly. Instead of just one performance, Moss gives a bunch of them, finely calibrating Kirby’s posture, confidence, and anxiety level to reflect each new reality. The villain, Harper (Jamie Bell), is clear to viewers from the start. The mystery is his apparent omniscience and his connection to Kirby’s crisis. Because the show sticks so close to her fractured consciousness, we come to understand how difficult it is for her to survive, let alone conduct such an unusual investigation.

Jamie Bell in “Shining Girls”


shiny girls Showrunner Silka Luisa uses time travel as a control mechanism and a way to demonstrate how a man’s violent urges multiply from generation to generation. It serves a similar purpose in Netflix’s recent second season. Russian Doll, which makes the New York City subway a conduit to the Jewish immigrant ancestors of Nadia Vulvokov (Natasha Lyonne). HBO’s Bloody Motherhood Prank The babyApple’s sci-fi account with Jim Crow’s racism in The Last Days of Ptolemy Grayand Starz’s Haunted Housewife Horror-Comedy shining valleyall released in the past few months, use genre tropes to immerse their viewers in the minds of characters haunted by oppressive pasts that seep into the present.

From forced birth to lynching, the atrocities of earlier eras provide viscerally terrifying fuel for psychological thrillers because they actually happened – and we still feel their repercussions today. It’s not for nothing that the protagonists of these shows are all women, people of color, or both. For them, like their counterparts in a real world afflicted with virulent new strains of old hatreds, the return of society’s suppressed bigotry poses the same existential threat that Harper poses to Kirby. In a show whose deliberately confusing plot twists function as metaphors for the psychological power abusers wield over their victims, the only way to stop history from repeating itself is to confront it. It is, one might say, the method of shiny girls‘ Madness.

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