In its penultimate episode, Shining Girls makes some big narrative swings as AppleTV’s limited series builds towards its climax.
Spoilers for episode seven…
Episode 7 “Offset”: A fresh lead sparks a breakthrough in the story. After Kirby drops a bombshell on Marcus, she goes to help a new friend.
Going into “Offset,” it seemed clear that someone was about to die. Considering the early emphasis on Kirby (Elisabeth Moss)’ relationship with Marcus (Chris Chaulk) in the episode, he seemed the likeliest candidate. After all, the couple has been struggling since the timeline shifted and while they’ve been working to (re)connect over the last few episodes, the emphasis on their fractured marriage only made him more likely to die. After all, surely it would hurt more if he was killed off just when Kirby was starting to invest in their relationship?
“Offset” ultimately takes things in a different direction. After Kirby confesses the truth about how she experiences time, Marcus takes his concerns that she’s having a mental breakdown to Abby (Erika Alexander) and gets Kirby fired. And in a twist of fate, rather than kill Jinny (Phillipa Soo) as he did in the first episode, Harper (Jamie Bell) follows Dan (Wagner Moura) to the bar where Rachel (Amy Brenneman) played, and where Madeline Brewer‘s Klara danced with Kirby back in 1981 last week. As Dan’s son Freddie (Julian Obradors) waits patiently in the car, Harper ambushes Dan, stabbing him and stripping off his coat before disappearing into the night (though not before leaving a bloody fingerprint on Dan’s car window).
This is a brash, but not entirely unexpected development. After all, killing the male lead of your series is far more likely to occur on a limited series than an ongoing show and, while I’ll miss Moura, with only one episode left, Shining Girls has raiseed the emotional and dramatic stakes by killing him off. His death effectively leaves Kirby (and possibly Jinny) to face down Harper solo in the finale. Plus his absence has prompted another timeline reconfiguration, visually manifested by details small (Kirby’s hair) and large (Jinny is no longer employed at the Planetarium).
There are some other interesting investigative pieces in “Offset.” Dan and Kirby trace Klara’s reference to Teenie’s back to a pig slaughterhouse where they find identity cards for both the murdered woman, as well as Harper (listed as – what else – “John Smith”). In the case of Klara, she’s the original “bright” girl because she was lit up with radium, meaning that she glowed in the dark tank where Harper disposed of her body. Poor girl.
Not only does this lead to Kirby’s realization about Harper’s motivations, but also his misogyny. Considering how eager Harper was to bed Klara on that one perfect night over and over again, it’s telling that he could just dump her body among the slaughterhouse’s guts and shit. “He was trying to punish her” Kirby marvels to Dan…which may just explain the reason he’s killing any of these women.
- After Marcus gets Kirby fired, she doesn’t exactly lash out at him, but she doesn’t exactly let him down easy. There’s something especially cold and ruthless about her statement to him when she ends things: “I’ll go by your place and get my things” (emphasis mine).
- A close second line reading occurs when Jinny asks if Harper will kill her and Kirby simply responds, “He already has. Just not yet.”
- The episode opens with (and features several other) flashbacks to Kirby’s attack sequence. Although we know Harper doesn’t molest his victims, the way Moss (who also directs) frames the action feels eerily reminiscent of a sexual assault, which only makes these scenes more upsetting. There’s been an undeniable gendered aspect to Shining Girls‘ violence, which also makes it fascinating to compare sequences such as Kirby’s attack at the beginning of the episode with the relative intimacy of Harper’s murder of Dan at the club later on.
- As predicted two weeks ago in “Screamer“, Jinny’s death has been avoided (or at least postponed). It’s another smart narrative subversion considering “Offset” spends a good chunk of time teasing her inevitable attack during the party at the planetarium.
- One lingering question that this week’s episode answers is why Harper attacks his victims on a specific date, at a specific time. There’s a moment when he’s eavesdropping on Dan and Kirby on the porch and, when Dan heads inside, Harper simply walks away instead of attacking her. In time Kirby realizes – in part thanks to her mother, but also because of Jinny’s big presentation – that Harper only kills women when they are at their “brightest” (ie: their high point). It’s still unclear how or when he chooses his victims, but at least now we understand the timing of their deaths.
- Finally, I can’t stop thinking about poor Freddie. He spends the episode’s final moments waiting in the car, unable to enter the bar, only to observe the murderer exit wearing his father’s jacket and leaving blood on the window. That poor child.
Shining Girls airs Fridays on AppleTV