Netflix new series Bodies comes with a doozy of a premise: London detectives working in four different time periods — 1890, 1941, 2023, and 2053 — each discover the same dead naked body in the same place. As they investigate, they begin to learn about the cases in other time periods, and an underground cult with the spooky catchphrase “Know that you are loved,” that seems to be pulling the strings across the centuries, led by the same man.
In 1890 he’s a powerful banker known as Sir Julian Harker. In 2053 he’s the leader of Britain, a man named Elias Mannix. Over the course of the series we learn that Mannix grew up in the early 21st century, guided and protected by this cult. In 2023 he is meant to detonate a nuclear bomb that will kill hundreds of thousands of people in London and change the face of Britain into a spooky fascist state run by him where everyone is “loved.” D.S. Shahara Hasan fights to prevent this from happening.
Meanwhile in 2053 Gabriel Defoe, an expert in Quantum Gravity Theory—the dead man that puts the story in motion—will create a vortex for time travel called “the Throat”, which Mannix will use to travel back to 1890, setting that cult and all of these events into motion.
At the end of episode 6 Mannix’s plan has succeeded—young Elias, rejected by his birth mother and having listened to a record from his aged 1941-era self telling him that the love he longs for will finally be his if he follows his older self's plan, detonates the bomb; meanwhile 2053 Mannix goes through the Throat into the past, chased by Defoe, who gets shot on the way by D.S. Iris Maplewood. (That’s how his body ends up in four different time periods.)
In episode 7 we watch Mannix’ plan across the centuries play out from his point of view—taking on a new identity and creating a cult of powerful people around him by way of his knowledge of the stock exchange; wooing and marrying D.I. Alfred Hillinghead’s daughter Polly (after murdering the detective to get him out of the way); and in 1941 recording the audio records that will instruct his younger self what to do, before he and Polly are executed by D.S. Charles Whiteman for the murder of the child Esther. Whiteman is then executed himself.
So how does it all end? Buckle up.
Bodies' 2053: Iris & Gabriel & Old Shahara
With all seeming lost, Iris remembers that in his lecture about time travel, Gabriel had talked about the possibility of a time travel event creating two identical things—one that goes back in time and the other that goes forward. As one Gabriel showed up four days before he entered the Throat, four days after the event she goes back to the same site with Old Shahara—who has been running a terrorist group trying to bring down Mannix—. Sure enough, another Gabriel does appear, and this time Iris saves his life.
Then the three of them go back to the Throat and Iris travels back to 1890 to try and undermine Elias’ plan.
Bodies' 1890: Iris & Alfred & Harker
Alfred, having confessed to killing his Gabriel so as to protect the man he loves, is arrested. In jail he meets Iris, who tells him that Harker is intent on marrying his daughter and is about to kill him to get her. The key to stopping Harker, she says, is undermining the sense of happiness that he thinks will be his, the happiness he so desperately wants.
When Harker confronts Alfred, Alfred humiliates him, pointing out that everything he’s gained is just through manipulation and so none of it is real. He also calls him Elias, saying the spirits revealed his real identity to him.
Bodies' 1890: Harker & Polly
Alfred’s words slowly unsettle Harker’s confidence in his plans. He doesn’t have the same trust in Polly as he showed before, which eventually causes her to pull away. Eventually she learns the truth of what happened to her father. Though she goes forward with having Harker’s son, their relationship is permanently broken.
Bodies' 1941: Harker & Charles
At the end of his life, Harker ends up recording an additional record which tells Elias that everything he’s been told in the other records is a lie. When Charles shows up to kill him, Harker begs him to take the record and promises if he hides it away for Shahara, everything that has happened, including Esther’s death, will be avoided.
While he’s hunted down by the police, Charles leaves carvings at the scene where Gabriel appeared pointing Shahara to the record’s hiding place.
Bodies' 2053/2023: Old Shahara & Shahara & Elias
Old Shahara finds Charles’ graffiti in 2053, realizes what it means and time travels back to 2023, where she finds the record and brings it to Elias’ mother’s house, where she knows her younger counterpart is bringing him.
Calling Shahara on the phone, Old Shahara reveals that Elias is about to detonate the bomb. Then she plays Harker’s last record for him. Horrified by what he hears, and embraced for the first time by his biological mom, Elias forsakes the path set up his older self, stopping the time loop once and for all.
Bodies, the aftermath
Here’s where things get trippy.
Elias then vanishes, because he’s actually a descendant of Sir Julian Harker (aka himself). Without blowing up the bomb, becoming the leader, and going back in time, he doesn’t exist.
Everything else also resets. Old Shahara vanishes, and the 1890, 1941, and 2023 detectives all find themselves exactly where they were at the start of the series. Alfred has a chance meeting with the photographer that he fell in love with. Walking down the street Charles runs into Esther—and the two seem to recognize each other. And Shahara is with her family on her father’s birthday.
At the very end, Shahara hops in a cab to get to her father’s birthday party. She tells the cabbie she fears that tensions in the city are near a boiling point. “It makes me worry about the future. Do you know what I mean?” she says to the cabbie.
And the cabbie—who we now see is Iris—says “I know exactly what you mean.”
Bodies, the questions
What happened to 2053? How is Iris in 2023? Why was Mannix so intent on keeping all of Gabriel's bodies?
And could any of it have something to do with the idea that when you jump into the past another you jumps into the future? Could there be other versions of Gabriel, Iris, Shahara and Elias still moving on the timeline?
Netflix hasn’t announced a season two yet. So for now, we’ll just have to wait and see.