Death most definitely becomes him.
Since Bad Sisters premiered, we always knew the prick would die. And thank goodness! With John Paul, aka JP, aka the prick, Claes Bang has created one of TV’s most reprehensible villains. He’s steeped in insecurity, views women as inferior, and only feels good about himself while making others feel small. He emotionally and physically abuses his wife Grace (Anne-Marie Duff) who is constantly making excuses for his egregious behavior. (At one point, Grace references the fact that JP always takes the trash out as if that justifies his years of abuse). Just hearing him call Grace “Mammy” made my skin crawl.
Grace’s sisters had seen enough, and slowly, one by one, all the Garveys reached the same conclusion: JP had to die. It’s the only way to save their sister. And for nine episodes, we watched their ill-fated plans fall apart.
The Garvey sisters’ attempts led to disastrous consequences. They poisoned Grace’s beloved dog. Bibi (Sarah Greene) shot out a man’s eye. JP’s mom, who was as sweet as he was evil, met her frozen demise when Becka (Eve Hewson) inadvertently locked her in the freezer. But despite all the missteps (and let’s be honest, crimes!), they never wavered in their dogged pursuit of liberating their sister from her abusive relationship. They always felt that warranted their actions.
In the end it wasn’t family matriarch Eva (Sharon Horgan), or her younger siblings Ursula (Eva Birthistle), Bibi, or Becka who killed JP (not for their lack of trying, of course). It was Grace herself. Up in the cabin to celebrate her birthday, JP openly mocks her: “You’re a shadow. If I turn off that light right now, you wouldn’t even exist,” he tells her.
It is JP’s claim that Eva had seduced him that makes Grace finally snap to reality and realize how truly awful her husband is. She knows Eva would never have done that. She knows JP’s confession means that he raped Eva. “Everything you do, everything we have is a lie… You ruined our lives. You fucking monster,” she screams before strangling him to death.
The dark comedy walked the line of at times being hilarious while also never flinching from the harsh reality of Grace’s situation. “What I love about it is it doesn’t feel like we are preaching,” Hewson told Paste in a phone interview this week. “It doesn’t feel like we are hitting the audience over the head with it and trying really hard to get a message across. We just do it in the most realistic way and the most truthful way. It has real integrity and it has this very strong backbone: speaking about domestic violence and abusive relationships.”
For Hewson, the Garvey sisters’ end may justify the means and any collateral damage. “It’s so satisfying to watch these women win in this time, in this climate,” Hewson said. “It’s so sad the place that we are in. I wake up every day and I look at the news and it’s just doom and horror. To find something in entertainment that kind of reflects how we all feel, especially as women walking around feeling like we are being controlled by people who don’t have any right to control us. I think there’s just real catharsis in our show.”
And perhaps that’s why the show resonates so much. We all wanted vindication for Grace. And we are living in a post-Roe v. Wade world where just this week a Republican candidate said “gentlemen” should decide women’s rights. We often hear the cliché “revenge is a dish best served cold.” But the Garveys’ revenge was served steaming hot again and again. Their palpable rage mirrors our own.
Becka, of course, had the most tragic mistake when she inadvertently murders JP’s mother Minna (Nina Norén) in penultimate episode. “It’s so heartbreaking for Becka I think,” Hewson said. “She’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. She thinks she’s a screw up. She knows that everybody is sort of waiting for her to get her act together and this is her big hero moment that goes horribly wrong. There’s sort of shame and guilt and failure that she carries after that incident. Minna really understands her in a way that she feels that her sisters don’t. For her to be the one to destroy that relationship… I think it’s almost impossible for her to digest and to heal from.”
Despite all the tragedy, the series has a surprisingly uplifting ending with the five Garvey sisters, now secure in the knowledge that JP can no longer hurt them, all going for a swim in the ocean. “There’s something very healing and spiritual about the water,” Hewson said. ”You are baptized with water. In Ireland we literally jump in the sea to literally wash away our sins from the night before. It was very poetic to have it end there.”
The series finale answered the big questions but also left several storylines open-ended. Hewson said she and Daryl McCormack, who played Matt an insurance investigator who also ended up being Becka’s love interest, filmed a scene that didn’t end up making it into the finale. She’s totally game for a second season of Garvey sister shenanigans. “I would really really love to see us do a Season 2,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but I’m pushing for it because this has been so rewarding. The chemistry between us is so pure. You could put the five Garvey girls in a tampon commercial and we would sell those tampons like there’s no tomorrow.”
All 10 episodes of Bad Sisters are currently streaming on Apple TV+.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer and a member of the Television Critics Association. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal).
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