Obituary is a brand new dark comedy series released on Hulu in November 2023. Created and written for the screen by Ray Lawlor, this six-episode show hails from Ireland and offers a twisted take on life, death, and finding meaning through morbid means. Centered on a small-town newspaper obituary writer named Elvira Clancy, the show revels in depicting her unconventional fascination with fatalities and how financial woes push her to consider hastening the demise of some unsavory locals.
Marketed as a black comedy with splashes of crime thriller intrigue, Obituary aims to find humor in the bleakest of scenarios. Backdropped by the quintessential charms of pastoral Ireland, Lawlor dares viewers to peer into the mind of a woman enraptured by mortality and murder. Early critical consensus and audience word-of-mouth indicates the show succeeds mightily in establishing an unsettling yet engaging tone, led capably by Siobhán Cullen in the lead role. However, reviewers caution interested parties should enter expecting quirky curtains of comedy occasionally parting to reveal disturbing acts of violence, rather than easily accessible humor.
For those with a penchant for eccentric antihero studies and a high threshold for provocative subject matter, Obituary shapes up as a tantalizing viewing experience. Just be prepared to occasionally cringe and recoil amidst the unconventional chuckles Lawlor’s warped writing elicits. Macabre media consumers wanting a fresh take on what captivates our final earthly moments may find this show strikes a pleasing balance between the gallows and the giggles. But more sensitive souls or those expecting comforting comedies would be wise not seeking out these terminal tales.
Delving Into Obituary’s Macabre Mechanisms
At the dark heart of Obituary lies Elvira Clancy, portrayed compellingly by Siobhán Cullen. Morbid obsession pulses through Elvira’s veins, as evidenced by her enthusiasm for composing obituaries and frequenting funerals from a young age. When the local newspaper The Kilraven Chronicle suffers financial straits, Elvira eagerly accepts the vacant obituary writer position. But limited deaths in the small Irish town threaten her job stability and income necessary to support her unemployed father Ward (Michael Smiley), a gruff widowed alcoholic.
Craving security, adrift Elvira entertains homicidal fantasies about “helping” questionable townspeople shuffle loose their mortal coils so she can profit writing about them afterwards. Her best friend Mallory Markum (Danielle Galligan) aids Elvira’s lethal yearnings, seduced by illicit thrills and lingering childhood trauma over her own mother’s premature passing. Meanwhile, the newspaper’s veteran crime reporter Clive Cavendish (Lalor Roddy) quits while investigating an unsolved murder of a German woman five years prior. Clive’s absence ushers in newcomer Emerson Stafford (Ronan Raftery) who inherits the cold case and soon strikes up an uneasy chemistry with Elvira.
Elvira’s first conquest proves Sandy Benson (Barry McGovern), a supposedly cancer-stricken attention-seeker conducting charitable walks despite his supposedly terminal condition. After a verbal altercation, Elvira impulsively pushes Sandy off a seaside cliff before learning he never actually battled cancer at all. But Sandy miraculously survives, only to infuriate Elvira again upon his memory-loss induced return. Once more Elvira snuffs Sandy’s light out once and for all, but this time cleverly stages the scene to paint herself as Sandy’s attempted murder victim.
Emboldened by this successful slaying subterfuge, Elvira proceeds picking off other undesirables like the abusive developer using Mallory for pleasure. But mutual investigative developments gradually tighten the ties binding Elvira and Emerson romantically together, even as clues encircle Elvira’s extracurricular butcheries. Dark revelations lay waiting under quaint rural facades, with the ultimate resolution shocking all of Kilraven’s residents.
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Probing Obituary’s Provocative Tonal Tightrope
Obituary undeniably indulges in grim subject matter, filtering pitch black humor through fatalistic fixations. Creator Ray Lawlor steers clear of comforting comedic conventions, instead NOR courting controversy by presenting protagonist Elvira essentially as a functioning sociopath. She kills not out of necessity or self-preservation, but rather from obsessive compulsion and eerie enjoyment. Lawlor dares audiences to embrace or reject Elvira’s unconventional brand of sinister whimsy.
By centering the show around the eccentric existence of a small-town obituary writer, Lawlor’s writing explores thematic fascinations with death as a concept. What awaits human souls in the great beyond? Do our societal descriptors and statuses vanish upon perishing? Do moral codes shift when lives conclude? Elvira serves as the provocative prism through which Obituary filters these philosophical quandaries. Her childlike wonder at the finality of life provides bemusing irony given her increasingly murderous methods.
Layered underneath the mortality musings lies a sneaky examination of friendship’s bonds bridging good and evil. Elvira’s kinship with wholesome Mallory established in childhood persists despite Elvira’s emerging homicidal habits. Their connection comments on redemption’s possibility and darkness lurking within even small pastoral communities. Can camaraderie and compassion redeem Elvira’s corrosive core? Obituary subtly suggests perhaps, even as corpses pile around her.
But make no mistake; Obituary primarily preys on discomfort, actively eschewing mass accessibility. The show won’t appeal to all comedic palates or sensibilities. Lawlor refuses dilution of his detached, deadpan style. Squeamish viewers may struggle stomaching Elvira’s chillingly nonchalant assassinations. Yet those with steelier constitutions who can handle stark tonal swings between jaunty and sinister may find Obituary’s eccentric exploration of mortality’s darkest corners to be perversely refreshing.
Assessing Obituary’s Ambitious but Uneven Execution
Innovation and daring pulsate through Obituary’s veins, evident in the show’s provocative premise spearheaded by creator Ray Lawlor. Centering a series on a small-town obituary writer who moonlights as a serial killer immediately triggers intrigue and uncertainty. Lawlor deserves praise for veering into unexplored dramatic territory, establishing a distinctly morose yet playful tone. Whether eliciting uncomfortable chuckles or building genuine suspense around Elvira’s homicidal hobby, Obituary certainly commands attention over six brisk episodes.
However, attempting to craft a satisfying narrative arc within such a condensed first season run time proves an ambitious challenge to navigate. Lawlor simply has too many characters and subplots in motion for the overarching story to gain traction. The ongoing investigation into an old murder case adds an extra dimension, but also stealing spotlight from Elvira’s chilling development into a clandestine killer guided by her own twisted moral compass. Excellent slow-burn build-up gives way to a rushed, unsatisfying conclusion that fails to deliver emphatic closure or resolution.
Direction and pacing also suffer from periodic disjointedness. After confidently establishing atmosphere and tone initially, directors John Haynes and Oonagh Kearney struggle stringing scenes together cohesively in the back half. The alluring small-town charm fades as the plot hurtles erratically into the finale. Character-establishing moments needed in these closing episodes get swapped for increasingly implausible homicidal happenings instead. Elvira’s psychology and motives become muddled amidst the shuffled priorities.
Redeeming factors fortunately emerge in the form of Siobhán Cullen’s hypnotic lead performance and a capable supporting cast. Cullen captures Elvira’s unnerving essence perfectly, translating stillness and eccentricity into an oddly empathetic portrayal. Michael Smiley provides rugged gravitas as Elvira’s father Ward, while Danielle Galligan injects exuberance as Elvira’s friend Mallory. These rich performances smooth over hiccups carried by the uneven writing and directing.
Additional plaudits go towards the show’s technical execution. Cinematographer James Mather baths scenes in shadowy visual palettes reflecting the stifling small town and Elvira’s twisted psyche. Steve Lynch’s score mixes acoustic guitars and strings to inject creeping, almost playful tension. These aesthetic elements enrich Obituary’s atmosphere adequately within the condensed run time, even if the story rapidly veers off the rails.
Examining Obituary’s Unresolved Narrative Shortcomings
Perhaps the most glaring weakness permeating Obituary stems from creator Ray Lawlor’s failure to fully develop core relationships and backstories. Foremost is understanding what fuels Elvira’s unconventional preoccupation with mortality. Brief references to childhood trauma and her mother’s death delivering Elvira emerge, but lack sufficient exploration to explain Elvira’s descent into full-fledged serial murder instead of simply maintaining an academic fascination. Her shifted priorities from writing about death towards causing it warrant more examination.
Elvira isn’t the only character treated shallowly. Her father Ward occupies rambunctious drunkard stereotypes without much other definable personality apart from enabling his daughter’s misdeeds. Even best friend Mallory lacks tangible motivation for aiding Elvira’s criminal conquests other than a loosely implied traumatic upbringing parallel. These vital relationships requiring dimensional insight instead come across as plot devices to further Elvira’s misadventures.
Additional suspended disbelief results from the general lack of suspicion or inquiry into the escalating deaths in sleepy Kilraven. Especially after initial suspect Sandy Benson resurfaces alive, the townspeople and authorities react with bewildering nonchalance when subsequent corpses start piling up. Local newspaper staff fail picking up these conspicuous clues, as does Elvira’s new beau Emerson. For such a small close-knit community, the oblivious reactions to the killings stretch credulity.
Several dangling subplots also litter the show’s landscape by the concluding episode. The Kilraven Chronicle’s financial issues serve introducing the obituary writer concept then get dropped. The unsolved murder investigation consumes multiple characters before fading away once Elvira seizes narrative focus. These loose ends reflecting wider thematic explorations needed tying up to reinforce dramatic cohesion instead of leaving viewers questioning where these threads wandered.
In the end Obituary crumbles mainly from lost opportunities giving more robust dimension. Core figures motivation’s go largely unexplained while residents bizarrely overlook telltale death omens. Stabbing at bigger societal commentaries without coherence only weakens the provocative points Lawlor tries punctuating amidst the mayhem.
Closing Perspectives on this Curious Case of Comedy Noir
Ultimately Obituary’s merits depend heavily on personal comedic taste preferences. The show proudly brandishes its eccentricities and refusal to deliver easily-accessible humor. Without question Lawlor expects viewers to exhibit patience through occasional confusing pivots or prioritizing provocative style over narrative substance. Therefore mainstream television consumers looking for comfortable binge-watching may find Obituary’s alluring qualities dwarfed by its challenging tonal balancing act.
Yet that same idiosyncratic identity also renders Obituary an intriguing option for certain palates. Fans of very dark subject matter will revel in the way Lawlor perversely peppers his cemetery-set stories with jolts of jocularity. Morbidity maestros interested in death’s societal ripple effects may find insightful interest peering through the peculiar lens Lawlor constructs. Siobhán Cullen’s hypnotic performance alone proves worth invested hours for acting aficionados needing new performer fixations.
But temper inflated expectations accordingly, as periodic plot stumbles disrupt Obituary’s overall flow. The all-too-short runtime simply inhibits smooth story development, evidenced in unfulfilling conclusions to Elvira’s implied childhood trauma or the multiple murder investigations transpiring concurrently. Less tangential characters and side plots would clarify the central vision. Exploring one core mystery/relationship per six episodes may enhance engagement.
Weighing those high highs yet inconsistent execution, on the dark comedy scale Obituary slots as slightly above average. It certainly won’t convert the humorless or join the elevated ranks of masterworks in the vein of Barry. But Lawlor and his creative team merit praise for fearlessly expanding the boundaries and expectations of televised comedy, even if the stretched canvas shows occasional cracks. Approaching Obituary from that liberation perspective of freshness instead of direct qualitative comparisons to genre giants allows enjoying this morose offering on its own ominous terms.
Give Obituary longer episodic runtime or second season shot addressing those fixable flaws, and its strange brew of criminal quirkiness and courageous performances might truly sing. But for now Lawlor delivers a promising if uneven first draft exuding personality and potential. For viewers with adventurous tastes willing trying innovative offerings, a trip to the darkly delightful world of Kilraven surely summons an intriguing, if occasionally exasperating viewing experience ultimately worth the cold cadaverous detours.
Obituary Season 1
Obituary dares to bring black comedy to death's door with a polarizing premise that sustains intrigue but suffers from rushed execution. Siobhán Cullen magnetizes as the morbid obituary writer turned serial killer Elvira Clancy at the show's core, although dense plotting and unfinished arcs lessen the killer impact. Still, creator Ray Lawlor deserves faint praise for mostly digging up fresh unconventional humor from the graveyard despite narrative pitfalls miring the merriment. Adventurous audiences will find creepy appeal in this offbeat Irish export, even with duller stretches of story interrupting the eccentric enjoyment.
- Fascinating and risk-taking premise of a small-town obituary writer turned serial killer
- Strong lead performance from Siobhán Cullen as the morbid yet magnetic Elvira Clancy
- Effectively establishes a creepy, quirky tone balancing dark humor and macabre themes
- Striking cinematography and music enhance the ominous atmosphere
- Supporting cast provides solid performances
- Final twist ending is unexpected and shocking
- Too many characters and subplots crammed into short 6 episode season
- Elvira's backstory and motivations left underdeveloped
- The plot loses focus in places and the pacing grows inconsistent
- Buildup to the finale feels rushed and climax is confusing and unsatisfying
- Lack of suspicion around escalating deaths strains believability
- Financial newspaper subplot abandoned without resolution