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'Shining Girls' review: Reality warped in mind-bending tale

Elisabeth Moss stars in girl power serial killer thriller on Apple TV+.

Nobody does the my-mind-is-unraveling thing better these days than Elisabeth Moss. She’s been teetering on the brink of madness for four seasons of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and now she brings this distinct talent to the eight episodes of “Shining Girls.”

The thing is, Moss’s character in “Shining Girls” really is losing her mind. Heck she’s losing reality entirely.

That’s because reality keeps changing. Moss plays Kirby, a woman who was attacked, literally butchered and left for dead. After recovering physically and then spending time in a mental hospital she’s now back at her job, working as a librarian at the Chicago Sun-Times in the early '90s.

She muddles along but things are… strange. Sometimes when she goes to work her desk isn’t where, or even what, it should be. Or she’ll go home and her apartment is no longer on the second floor, it’s on the third. One day she’ll have a pet cat, the next day it’s a dog.

Kirby’s so confused that she keeps a book to write down what’s real. Except she has to change things on a daily basis to keep up with the reality shifts.

This is perhaps not the best state of mind for solving a mystery, but when another woman is fatally attacked in the same way she was, Kirby teams up with your classic rumpled, alcoholic but still good-looking reporter (Wagner Moura) to find out what’s up.

What they find is a serial killer who’s been butchering women in the same way for decades. The audience is immediately aware of who the creep is — Jamie Bell, fully alarming — but the why and how are as elusive as Kirby’s reality.

Based on the novel by Lauren Beukes, this is a full-on girl power project. All the episodes are directed by women, including two by Moss, who’s also a producer, but more importantly “Shining Girls” revolves around women at their most vulnerable and most strong. Kirby’s nobody’s girlfriend and even if she is constantly on the verge, she also perseveres. Good stuff.

Tom Long is a longtime contributor to The Detroit News. 

'Shining Girls'


Apple TV+