This smart and silly Netflix dramedy from Kathleen Jordan aims to redefine what it means to be a "good Christian girl."

By Kristen Baldwin
August 14, 2020 at 10:22 AM EDT
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TEENAGE BOUNTY HUNTERS
Credit: NETFLIX

The original title for this hour-long comedy from creator Kathleen Jordan (American Princess) was Slutty Teenage Bounty Hunters. That’s grabby, for sure — but not really true to the spirit of the final product. Just plain old Teenage Bounty Hunters is a lively, progressive young adult adventure that seeks to redefine the antiquated ideas around what it means to be a “good Christian girl.”

After a vehicular run-in with a fugitive from justice, 16-year-old fraternal twins Sterling (Maddie Phillips) and Blair Wesley (Anjelica Bette Fellini) encounter a veteran bounty hunter named Bowser (Kadeem Hardison, oozing "I’m too old for this sh--" charm). The girls need money to pay for the damage to their daddy’s truck; Bowser needs help gaining access to an upscale Atlanta country club where his next "skip" is hiding out… and voila! A buddy-comedy partnership is born. Yes, it’s a real "just-go-with-it" premise, so… just go with it.

Not that the girls aren’t (somewhat) up to the job: Sterling and Blair are comfortable packing heat — they’re both gun owners, though Blair rejects the NRA’s assault-rifle agenda and their ties to "big oil"— and they approach their new fugitive-hunting gig with giddy confidence and the assumed invincibility of youth. The show mines much of its comedy from the generation-gap dynamics between the gravelly bounty hunter and his perky pair of apprentices. Hardison is effortlessly engaging as Bowser, whose simmering exasperation with the sisters’ constant chatter about school gossip and yogurt toppings masks an avuncular warmth.

When they’re not chasing scofflaws, Blair and Sterling attend a private Christian high school and grapple with the typical obstacles of adolescence. Sterling decides to go all the way with her oafy boyfriend Luke (Spencer House) — which complicates her role as Fellowship Student Leader, and fuels her rivalry with holier-than-thou mean girl April (Devon Hales). Blair falls for Miles (Myles Evans), a Black college student who works as a valet at the aforementioned country club, and the relationship makes her acutely aware of her white privilege.

Though the twins come from a conservative household and believe wholeheartedly in their God, these aren’t red-state wackos filtered through a Hollyweird lens. Sterling and Blair are true believers who won’t allow their faith to hold them ideologically hostage; they’re Bible-quoting, gun-toting girls who know love is love and Black lives matter. Sterling makes a non-ironic reference to "the failing New York Times," but she’s thrilled by her first trip to a strip club. ("This is the sexiest place I’ve ever been!") Blair vehemently supports the second amendment, but she also refuses to handcuff a Black female skip who keeps decapitating Confederate statutes — and insists on packing her a snack for her ride to jail.

While Sterling and Blair contain multitudes, they always hold fast to Christianity’s Golden Rule. "What if God put us here to fix Bowser?" muses Sterling, after she and Blair discover their boss hasn’t moved on from events in his past. The twins are intensely devoted to each other ("I’m surprised my love for you didn’t absorb you in the womb"), and Phillips and Fellini — both natural comic performers — have an easy chemistry as sisters. Though the girls keep their side hustle secret from their well-to-do parents Debbie (Virginia Williams) and Anderson (Mackenzie Astin), they are able to talk to them about the hard things, as when Sterling is shunned by her peers for being sexually active. "Is it ok that I don’t regret it?" she sobs to her mom, who assures Sterling that Jesus still loves her. Part of mom’s understanding nature comes from her own past missteps, and the season builds to a goofy-but-intriguing Wesley family secret cliffhanger.

Teenage Bounty Hunters counts Jenji Kohan and Tara Herrmann (GLOW, Orange is the New Black, Weeds) among its executive producers, and the duo’s snappy-smart imprint runs throughout the series, from the dialogue ("What are amphetamines?" "Drugs that can go on land and water") to themes of female self-actualization. Blair, who has always considered herself the "slutty" twin, realizes the world won’t end if she doesn’t lose her virginity yet, while Sterling has a relationship epiphany that should be tattooed onto the soul of every single young woman: "There's no sense in having an 'us' if I don’t even have a 'me.'"

Brisk and funny, warm and wonderfully oddball, Teenage Bounty Hunters is a binge everyone — except maybe Old Testament God — can get behind. Grade: B+

Teenage Bounty Hunters is streaming now on Netflix.

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