On the face of it, I’ll admit, it doesn’t look promising: “After joining forces with a veteran bounty hunter, 16-year-old fraternal twin sisters Sterling and Blair dive into the world of bail-skipping baddies while still navigating teenage life.” Can you see yourself going around telling people you’re super-enjoying such a thing? Not that anybody is “going around” right now, except on social media.
Binge-watching guide: More than 30 series and specials to help you get through winter
Well, fear not. You can say it loud and say it proud. Teenage Bounty Hunters on Netflix is a doozy. It’s bonkers, but very smart, fun bonkers. It’s a little miracle of wit and acidic snark, with a healthy dose of satire aimed at rich, white Evangelicals that never goes too far in the direction of outright sneering.
Things kick off with teenage twins Blair (Anjelica Bette Fellini) and Sterling (Maddie Phillips), separately spending time with fellas in expensive cars. Both of these young women are most anxious to have sex with their boyfriends. Thing is, they all attend a Christian academy for the rich in the Atlanta suburbs and the guys are, you know, super-programmed to think sex outside marriage is the worst of all sins. Sterling gets around this obstacle – darn it, she wants some action – by reciting Bible passages as if the words were pure filth. Blair resorts to something that is difficult to describe in print without treading into the territory of indecency.
Anyway, on the way home, our heroines crash into another car. It contains a guy fleeing a bounty hunter, the hunter being one Bowser (Kadeem Hardison). So, being skilled with guns and ammo and a few other talents that are acquired by rich Southern gals, the twins sort out the situation with aplomb. Turns out, they are very good at being bounty hunters. Bowser, a Black man often obliged to find white fugitives, sees the merit in having two white teens, who look like such nice young ladies, as his sidekicks. So off they go, finding varmints.
Woven into this action-filled milieu is a hilarious portrait of the lives of the young heroines at school and home. Sterling is the good twin here, and her journey to reconcile her personal lusts and pleasures with her faith is a unique storyline that could have gone haywire, but actually works as a narrative that’s both loopy and intriguing. There are many weirdly funny jokes about the machinations inside Bible-study groups and there’s the plain fact that the hormone-crazed teenage guys are the ones truly trying desperately to be pure, not their girlfriends.
Blair is the more traditional rebellious teen. She sees herself as progressive, especially on matters of race. It turns out, of course, she’s a tad ignorant because her knowledge of Black lives and Black culture is rather limited. This is one of the areas in which the series confidently walks a slippery line between caustic satire and gentle lampoonery. These teens are actually likeable and funny. There is tremendous chemistry between Fellini and Phillips, and their repartee is often delicious. Let’s just say they debate in lively fashion and argue often about whether Instagram or the Bible is the best guide to being rich white teens in Georgia.
The adults are, naturally, not what they seem and one solid story-thread in the series is our heroines’ growing suspicion that their deeply Christian, uptight mom (Virginia Williams) might have a buried past of sinning that would send her straight to hell. Created by Kathleen Jordan (American Princess) and executive-produced by Jenji Kohan (Orange Is the New Black), the 10-episode Teenage Bounty Hunters is a teen show with very adult smarts, a unique kind of raillery that amounts to a flight of fancy that is shockingly good.
The Great (Amazon Prime Video) is, if you haven’t caught it yet, another immensely smart series about a young heroine, but in this one, she’s Catherine the Great of Russia. It has immense and sometimes bitter fun with the actual historical accounts of how Catherine (Elle Fanning in lip-smacking mode) was married off to Peter of Russia, came to loathe him and still love Russia. Cockeyed fun at the beginning, the humour gets much darker and the savagery of Peter begins to overshadow the narrative for a while. There is also a continuing theme about sexual harassment and this series – it comes from the co-writer of the Oscar-winning movie The Favourite – is traditional historical drama being burned to the ground for sheer sport, with a dash of rage.
Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter, with film, TV and streaming reviews and more. Sign up today.