Netflix’s ‘Bodies’ creates a complex mystery when one dead body shows up in four different years at the same time in the same place, with which the show establishes itself as a sci-fi time travel series, bracing the audience for a journey full of many twists and turns. As in any time travel story, things get rather complicated, with the four timelines getting mixed up with each other as the actions of one impact the events in another. Over eight episodes, the show does disentangle a lot of it, explaining how it’s all happening, but it can still get a bit convoluted to place the events when they happen so out of order. Here, we break down the nature of time travel and timelines created by it in ‘Bodies.’ SPOILERS AHEAD
The Throat and the Deutsch Particle Create Time Travel
In 2053, scientist Gabriel Defoe dedicates his life to studying the Deutsch Particle (which is most likely a reference to physicist David Deutsch and his theories regarding the grandfather paradox in time travel). During a lecture, he tells his students about a theory where the Deutsch particle could split into two, with each particle moving in the opposite direction in time. One particle spins towards the past, while the other towards the future, with both situations being equally likely. This means that you could end up in the past or the future, and most likely, in both at the same time!
During his research, Defeo comes across “an abnormal neutrino trace,” which leads to the temporal displacement of any object or person whenever they get too close to it. The closer you get, the more its field impacts you, and the farther you can see in time. This is the basis of the time machine, known as the Throat, using which a Deutsch particle can be split, opening the door for a person to enter it and travel in time. This is what Elias Mannix uses to go to 1889.
When Defeo tries to go through it, he is shot by Iris Maplewood, and the shot reverberates through the machine, further splitting the timelines and throwing Defeo into four different years: 1890, 1941, 2023, and 2053. Let’s take a look at the impact that Elias and Defeo’s entry into these timelines makes on the lives of several people.
1889: Elias Becomes Julian Harker
Traveling from 2053, Elias Mannix ends up in 1889 in a back alley of Longharvest Lane. He takes a bullet in his leg before entering the machine, but the bullet is gone, and he ends up with the wound, which gives him a limp for the rest of his life. He is taken to the hospital, where he discovers that the Harker family has dedicated a wing to the name of Julian Harker, who died in the war. He claims to be Julian, and as expected, Julian’s mother, Agatha, doesn’t exactly dispute him.
When Agatha finally questions Elias about taking over the identity of her dead son, he reveals everything to her. He confesses that he is not her son, and neither did he ever cross paths with him. But he is from the future, and becoming Julian Harker is an important step in his journey to create the world that he eventually ends up creating. In return for taking over the identity of her son, Julian promises to love Agatha like his own mother while also using his knowledge from the future to make her a lot of money.
1890: Alfred Hillinghead Finds the Dead Body
In 2053, after Elias jumped into the time machine, Defeo knew he had to play his part too. He knew about the predestined path laid out for him, even if it meant his death, and he chose to walk it. As expected, he is shot in the eye and ends up in four different timelines. In 1890, Elias, aka Julian, waits for Defeo to show up and confirm that everything is going as planned. This one-year difference is created due to the mere minutes of difference between their jumps. Soon after Defeo’s arrival, Henry Ashe finds the body, and Alfred Hillinghead finds his case.
While Hillinghead tries to solve the case, he is told by his superiors to shut it down, especially when Julian Harker appears in one of the photos. Alfred leaves a mark on the wall in Longharvest Lane, which is found by Iris Maplewood when she arrives in 1890, several days after Defeo. By then, Alfred had already signed his confession and sealed his fate. The case of the mysterious dead body that appeared out of nowhere is closed. Defeo’s death is labeled a suicide. Julian Harker marries Alfred’s daughter, Polly, and lives the life he had been looking forward to all this time.
1941: Charles Whiteman Finds the Dead Body
In 1941, a corrupt Charles Whiteman is told to pick up a dead body from Longharvest Lane and have it delivered at the docks. By now, Julian Harker has created a cult of people who are highly dedicated to his cause. While Julian is in his 90s and can barely get out of bed, his wife, Polly, has taken over operations and handles Charles. For the most part, the cop does what is asked of him, but when he is told to kill an 11-year-old girl who witnessed him throwing the corpse in his car trunk, he makes a different choice.
He remains unaware of the dead body’s importance and is solely driven by the safety of the girl and then revenge for her death. He ends up killing Polly and Julian and eventually gets hanged for the crime. His only contribution is the fact that he handled the case until the timeline is tinkered with, and Julian gives him a tape talking about his regrets and tells his future self not to make the same choices. Charles leaves the tape for Shahara Hasan, who eventually returns for it in 2023.
2008: Elias Mannix is Born (Happens Off-screen)
A young Sarah Mannix meets a charming man named Daniel Barber. They have a fling, and two months later, Sarah discovers she is pregnant. When she tells Daniel about this, she discovers that he actually belongs to a superrich family, which claims that she was trying to get money off of him. Sarah gives birth to a boy named Elias, but she is unable to keep him for long. She has drug problems, due to which social services take away the child. After living in a home for young boys, he is adopted by Andrew and Elaine Morley at the age of 12.
Unbeknownst to Sarah, this was all a part of Julian Harker’s cult’s plan. Daniel was actually a Harker and had knowingly seduced her to conceive Elias. The whole thing about the baby being taken away by social services, being placed in foster and then being adopted was a part of their plan. They needed to give Elias a difficult upbringing as it would change him into the man he eventually became. The Morleys were also a part of the cult and educated Elias on the whole thing, including his role in the world’s future.
2023: Shahara Hasan Finds the Dead Body
Version 1: The show begins with Shahara Hasan in 2023 when she is led into an alley by a 17-year-old boy named Syed Taher, where she discovers the mysterious dead body. This leads her on the search for answers, making her cross paths with a 15-year-old Elias. After a lot of back and forth, she discovers that Elias is meant to detonate a bomb that would destroy the entire London, leading to chaos and destruction. Despite trying to stop Elias, Shahara ends up doing things exactly as they were predicted. The boy, despite not wanting to be that person, detonates the bomb and paves the path for himself to become Julian Harker.
Version 2: In an alternate timeline, Hasan from 2053 arrives in 2023 on the day the bomb is supposed to go off. She had received Charles’ message from 1941, which led her to the hidden tape from Julian. She uses it to get to Elias and convince him that the path he’s about to choose will lead to nothing but pain and heartbreak for him. Her efforts succeed, and Elias chooses not to detonate the bomb this time around. With this, he nullifies the entire point of his existence and is erased from the timeline, restoring things to a peaceful version.
Version 3: With Elias removed from existence, his family and cult are torn away as well. The world returns to the way it used to be, and Shahara Hasan finds herself on the day she found the dead body, but without a dead body. She goes about her day, never crossing paths with Syed and never ending up in Longharvest Lane. Her family and the entire London are safe and sound, without any threat of a nuclear blast looming over them. But there’s still Iris Maplewood here, which means something’s still amiss.
2053: Iris Maplewood Finds the Dead Body
In the original timeline, after Elias has destroyed the world and then rebuilt it, Iris Maplewood is a detective who ends up in Longharvest Lane and finds the dead body of a man who is identified as Gabriel Defoe. She is shocked to discover that Defeo is still alive, and he, too, has no idea what’s happening. Iris is dedicated to the new world under Elias’ leadership and helps him uncover the Chapel Perilous network, created by Shahara Hasan from the first version of her timeline. By now, she is well-versed in Elias, aka Julian’s story, and wants to stop him from going back to 1890 and starting everything all over again.
Shahara tries to get Iris to work for their cause, but the detective leads Elias and his men to them. Most of the people in Chapel Perilous are killed, and Elias uses the time machine to travel to 1890, as he was expected to. Gabriel Defeo follows him soon after, triggering the murder investigations in four timelines. Iris is shaken by the whole chain of events, but then, she realizes that the Deutsch Particle is meant to go as far in the future as it is in the past, like a mirror image. When she shot Defeo, he traveled four days into the past, which is when she found his dead body. This means he should reappear in the same place four days later.
Four Days Later
As expected, Gabriel Defeo shows up in 2053, four days after he walked into the Throat with a bullet wound caused by Iris Maplewood. This time, she comes prepared and saves him. This fuels her to do something about Elias, even though Defeo and Shahara seem to have given up. She jumps into the Throat and lands in 1890, where she meets Alfred Hillinghead and convinces him to talk to Julian Harker, sowing doubt in his mind.
Iris’ entry into the past leads things to change over the years, and Shahara realizes that her memories have changed, especially when she notices the message left by Charles Whiteman. She realizes that he hid a tape for her at the Silk, which was destroyed in 2023 in the bomb blast. She uses the machine to go back to 2023, where she finds the tape and stops Elias from detonating the bomb, changing the timeline. It’s unclear what 2053 looks like in this rectified chain of events, but the fact that Iris Maplewood is in 2023 means that Defeo created his time machine, which she (and most probably others, too) used to go back and forth in time.