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A time-traveling serial killer is at large

The glowing girls, a novel published by South African author Lauren Beukes in 2013, was once the source of an international bidding war between publishers. The author, Beukes, was previously known in her home country because she was a freelance journalist and previously published three other books set in her home country. The glowing girls marked a departure in her work as it takes place in Chicago during the Great Depression and dives into the territory of thrillers and horror. A man discovers a house that leads him into different periods, but in order to sustain this time travel, he must pursue and kill women – called the luminous girls – who show a special passion and potential. The tables turn when one of the women decides to teach him a lesson about what he has done.

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The same year the novel was published, Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company, Appian Way, and MRC – the producer of the Netflix series Korthusand Rian Johnsons Knives Out-bought the rights to the novel to adapt it to the screen. Apple would be the ones to eventually pick it up seven years after the first purchase, in 2020, with Elisabeth Moss’ name at the forefront. Two years later, in April 2022, the first episodes of the series were released on Apple’s streaming platform, Apple TV +. In eight episodes, the show hopes to conquer the complexity of the original novel and adapt it to television.

A potential unreliable narrator

Apple TV +’s latest TV show brings Elisabeth Moss to the center. Moss, who has shown his acting skills in the TV series The waitress’ story and movies like The invisible man and Shirleymarks another career goal on her to-do list in Luminous girls. She not only plays in it, but directs the show and is an executive producer. She portrays Kirby Mazrachi, a journalist who experiences her reality changed after being attacked by a serial killer. The rest of the show’s lead role consists of Wagner Moura (Narcos), Jamie Bell (Snow piers, Rocket man), Phillipa Soo (Hamilton), and Amy Brenneman (Private exercise).


Luminous girls begins in 1964, and a stranger man emotionlessly partes a bee in front of a young girl. “First we find its luster, then we take it away,” he mumbles as he tears off the bees’ wings, making it unable to escape from anything more. This prologue sets the stage for the era that viewers must leap into, as there is an immediate transition to Moss sitting on his bed. The caption says the year is 1992, but do not forget that prologue. It will come back to haunt you and our main character: Kirby Mazrachi.

Viewers will initially know her as a woman living with her mother and cat in Chicago, and she is not a full-fledged journalist, but instead an assistant preparing to quit her job. Mazrachi appears untidy, and it’s almost as if her head is in the clouds. She moves mechanically through her work routine with a Walkman and headphones over her ears, and when she smiles, she looks and feels compelled. Something has happened to this young woman, which becomes more and more apparent when small details, such as which computer is hers at work, suddenly become different in one day.


This is the first sign that something is wrong, but it will not be the only one. Mazrachi’s paranoia is quickly revealed as she describes the story of her assault from the series’ antagonist, a serial killer who can travel through time. Ever since that day, she takes notes in her diary about certain differences in the realities she experiences. There may be small adjustments in her daily life, such as the change of desks, but then there are the drastic, sweeping changes like coming home to find out she is having a marriage with her colleague.

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A complicated story that may require retelling

Within the three episodes originally released by Apple TV +, Luminous girls leaves more questions than answers. There’s an apparent lack of discussion about the aspects that drive the story, such as the time travel itself, and some characters, like Phillipa Soo’s Jin-sook, who appear more like a plot tool rather than someone who adds more substance to the story. as a whole. Jin-sook and Kirby serve as drastic foils; While Kirby often lives her life limited to the same job and the same routines, tied to the trauma of her past, Jin-sook is happily unaware of what is approaching and looking professional to the cosmos. Kirby seems shy and reserved, while Jin-sook is outgoing.


Then there is the question of the trauma itself and its impact on the characters. With the experiences Kirby had previously gone through, it would be hard for some to believe her if she says it’s happening and it’s real. Unfortunately, she would not be taken seriously, a hallmark of modern medicine noted in women’s health practices even in modern developed societies. Her course of history is quite surprisingly linear, which is typically not an expression of healing or the fact that she manages to leap through time and space.

At other moments, her predicament seems like a tool to keep her suffering, an inventory to keep her both displaced and moving toward the only stable aspect of her life: the fact that she was assaulted never disappears. Even if other people forget the life she has lived up to that point, she will never be able to forget and experience a different kind of loss every time a big change happens. The suffering of the series’ female characters seems voyeuristic in its approach, especially since the series fails to determine why the killer does as he does.


Moss holds a track record for proving she can portray women with major internal and external transformations; her performance in The waitress’ story is enough to prove it. IN Luminous girls, Kirby is a character with a mission driven by trauma. When she sees a journalist covering a case of a murdered woman with eerily similar details as her own, she takes the initiative to try to get more involved in it, even if it means confronting her past. Her partner-in-crime here is a journalist (Moura) in the company she works for, making them both employees and conspirators in this thriller.

Luminous girls is overall well-played, but strong performances from the cast can not save anything that has too many loose ends. The show is a slow burn with an excessive reliance on nuances; sometimes there are pictures that directly show the killer pursuing Jin-sook, but other times Kirby is left behind and picks up the pieces of his past to discover that he is right there in front of her. The concept of multiple universes associated with the concept of time travel is interesting in theory, but difficult to pull off in a story like this. When objects randomly start to appear, it becomes a question of whether it was the killer, or whether it happened to appear, leading to some confusion that may never be clarified.


Related: Elisabeth Moss regrets dropping out of Power of the Dog, but has high praise for Kirsten Dunst

A cross-genre study of trauma and humanity

Like a thriller, Luminous girls is just dull. It seems to be more of a character study than a thriller of substance, as Kirby’s character arc follows a particular emotional journey. Once it has been seen as more of a fantasy show with psychological undertones and studies, it becomes more bearable. There are also undertones of a solid journalistic history, in the style of the 2008s Zodiac sign, with the investigation of the serial killer. The show asks the viewer to actively suspend unbelievers to move forward in its story, but this expectation is unclear at first.

For fans of mysteries and character studies, this will be the TV show for them. Those looking for a thriller can be turned off by inexplicable fantasy elements. Its complicated nature may be intended by design, a by-product of the many genres implemented in its foundation, so it becomes a question of whether the viewer will take the work of seeing it all the way through.

2022 seems to be the year of literary and reality-based true crime. In the first half of the year, the audience saw a host of shows like Inventor Anna, The apostasy, The girl from Plainville, Under heaven’s bannerand now Luminous girls has been released by streaming platforms. While some of these shows have proven their success with their reception, others have not lived up to expectations. True crime may be the trend right now, but it is Luminous girls simply getting too stuck in the details to really shine.

Luminous girls is a limited TV series that can be streamed on Apple TV + from April 29, 2022. The first three episodes were originally released, then the following episodes will be released weekly.


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