Bad Sisters recognizes that the series can’t just take the Garvey protagonists from loving sisters to committed murderers in the space of a single episode without perhaps losing some viewers along the way. Therefore, “Explode a Man” puts a good chunk of its run time into showing how Eva and Bibi get from considering murdering JP to absolutely going for it.
Okay, to be fair, Bibi got there incredibly quickly and without reservations in episode one, when the sisters spent Christmas Day imagining how they would kill their brother-in-law if they could.
She’s made good use of the time since then, playing the possibility of JP’s murder “on loop” in her head and doing some thorough research. Shoot for the moon, they say — even if you miss, you might hit your brother-in-law.
It takes a bit longer for Eva to get on board with Bibi’s “accidental” gas leak plan. Eva hasn’t made it this far as the matriarch of the Garvey sisters without carefully considering the potential costs and rewards of each and every action she takes. Sure, she really, really hates JP. (Unlike her sisters, she has to work with the prick, which means his cruelty isn’t just confined to her domestic life.) But she is also a pragmatist, and murder generally comes with consequences — emotional, spiritual (if you’re into that sort of thing), and legal. Eva takes time to carefully consider each one, taking into account any negative impact it will have on the people she loves most of all.
Ultimately, Eva has one argument that convinces Bibi to (kind of) stop researching murder: Blánaid. JP is Blánaid’s father, and the sisters know better than anyone what it is like to lose a parent — even one as terrible as JP. By episode’s middle, however, JP has exhibited some of the same controlling behavior he uses on Grace toward Blánaid. He gifts Blánaid “abortion jazz hands,” as Becka awesomely calls them, for her Confirmation, and erupts at the mere idea his daughter has purchased her first bra. For him, it is his daughter flaunting her sexuality, rather than, you know, his daughter buying a garment. When JP calls Eva a “frigid bitch” to her face for not being able to have children and “sexualizing” his daughter instead, Eva commits to Bibi’s plan.
If you needed any further proof that JP is the worst (you probably didn’t), he doesn’t approve of Lizzo — the ultimate sign of poor character. When Eva buys Grace and Blánaid tickets as an unnecessary apology for taking Blánaid on her first bra-buying experience instead of Grace and to get them out of town for JP’s murder, it’s ironically the very choice that saves JP’s life. Bibi and Eva plan to kill JP while he is staying at the family cabin for a “15k, all-terrain elite hike.” They do everything according to plan, but a restless, angry JP leaves the cabin to call Eva, presumably to yell at her for buying Grace and Blánaid Lizzo concert tickets. Because he can’t get cell-phone service inside of the remote cabin, it explodes without him.
The first murder attempt may fail, but we know JP dies. Bad Sisters is smart in that it has still not revealed the manner of JP’s death. While it’s hinted at as particularly gruesome in the first episode of the show, we still don’t know how “The Prick” actually dies. Because of this, it makes it harder to come up with theories about who, ultimately, does the deed. As I’ve learned from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and elsewhere, the manner of one’s murder can tell you a lot about their killer. Though it certainly seems like Bibi and Eva are on track to kill JP, I will remind viewers that we are only on episode two of ten. Anything can happen.
Don’t despair, though. The brothers Claflin are on the trail of the maybe-killer! Thomas doubles down on his detective work in this episode, rifling through Eva’s trash and tricking Grace into signing over permission to exhume JP’s body. In both of these encounters, Matt acts as the audience surrogate, exasperated and sometimes horrified at how far Thomas will go in his search to find fraud. Through it all, it’s Becka that makes Matthew smile — when she’s calling, when he runs into her again at the local pub, and when he calls her in the episode’s third act to communicate that he really does care. The dramatic irony is real here. The audience knows how complicated this dynamic truly is, but these two beautiful idiots have no clue. They think their biggest obstacles are Becka’s being banned from the one local Chinese restaurant and the demands of Matt’s day job. I dread the episode they’re clued into the messy web this series weaves around them. Let them live in flirtatious ignorance just a bit longer, Bad Sisters?
We also learn about Ursula’s extramarital relationship in “Explode a Man.” Ursula is perhaps the sister we know the least about heading into this episode. We know she has a husband and three kids, and we now know that those are not the things that make her feel alive. No, that would be the steamy rendezvous she has with her photography teacher, Ben. He’s younger, and he adores her. They meet at hotels in the middle of the day, and Ben literally scrawls “This pussy belong to me,” on the skin of her abdomen. At first, Ursula is angry at the explicit claim, but that anger quickly turns into lust and excitement at being so desired. While Ursula’s husband definitely deserves the truth from his partner, it’s hard to get too judgmental, specifically over Ursula’s choice to find happiness in Ben. (But, really, she should probably tell her husband at some point.)
It’s not hard for JP to be judgmental, however. He runs into Ursula and Ben together and demonstrates an impressive degree of emotional intelligence in recognizing that they are probably sleeping together. (Maybe because he sees literally every woman as in service to men?) He immediately sets about dropping snide comments to both Ursula and her husband, delighting in the fact that this may be something he can hold over his sister-in-law. Like I said: Never trust a Lizzo hater.
• We get lots of clues in this episode as to how old the Garvey sisters were when their parents died. It happened before Grace was old enough to buy a bra, and it led to Eva, the oldest, having to “give up everything to take care of us,” according to Grace. “She took on all the responsibility. She’d never do anything to hurt me,” Grace tells Thomas and Matthew. Murder shows too often forget the emotional fallout of taking someone’s life. Some characters (probably not Bibi) may have qualms about the act of taking someone else’s life, but Eva would no doubt struggle with the reality of killing someone who someone she knows loves. Because of this, I hope Eva wasn’t, ultimately, the person who killed JP. It might break Grace’s heart if she was.
• We also learn that Matthew and Thomas met when Matthew was “about” 5 years old. That is Thomas’s “about,” and tells us that he has always been a frantic, distracted creature, bless him.
• It is strongly implied by Eva in this episode that JP is somehow responsible for the loss of Bibi’s eye.
• We also get a hint about a previous important relationship in Eva’s life that took place about a decade prior. While Eva is at the cabin with Bibi plotting JP’s murder, she picks up a happy photo of herself and a man we can assume is Kieran. “I remember smoking up that chimney with Kieran, when you were all asleep,” Eva muses aloud to Bibi.
• While Eva seems to be the person who acts as a parent to her sisters, Bibi is a person who gives Eva comfort. Bibi tells Eva that she isn’t the one who robbed Grace of the chance to go bra shopping with their mother and, when Eva gets distracted by the thought of Kieran, Bibi tells her, “Everything happens for a reason,” and gives her big sister a hug.
• We do get one clue as to the circumstances of JP’s death. Apparently, when he died, he had a blood alcohol level of 1.6 percent — despite being a teetotaler. Suspicious!
• Best Thomas-Matthew brother moment of this episode goes to: “Have I ever been wrong before?” “Yeah, that time you swore everyone would sing along with me to ‘Patricia the Stripper.’ And that time you said I wouldn’t choke if I put 20 Polos in my mouth.”
• JP has perhaps never been more sympathetic than when he is terrible at hiking. That being said, the sympathy soon fades as we realize he even berates Grace when she is not there. The misogyny runs deep in this one.