Review: ‘Daisy Jones & The Six’ plays all of the rock n’ roll genre’s greatest hits, but still remasters the classics
It’s not a secret that Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel Daisy Jones & The Six was inspired by the trials and tribulations endured by Fleetwood Mac on the band’s road to becoming one of the hottest acts on the planet, and the episodic adaptation that premieres on Prime Video this coming Friday ticks virtually every single one of the boxes the rock n’ roll genre has done to death.
However, sometimes there’s absolutely nothing wrong in playing the classics, and what the TV series lacks in ambition or originality, it more than makes up for in sheer dramatic heft, showstopping original songs, and an ensemble cast that’s virtually note-perfect across the board. By the time the 10th and final chapter draws to a close, you’ll more than likely have a tear in your eye to go along with the unquenchable desire to see the entirely fictional band embark on a real world tour.
Tracing the formation, origins, overnight popularity, and eventual implosion of the titular outfit, director James Ponsoldt sets the tone by helming the first five installments. Dovetailing between retrospective talking head interviews with the current members that act as a natural plot device to move the narrative forward, there isn’t a stone left unturned when it comes to covering all of the bases anyone with even a passing interest in cinema revolving around the musical or biographical hasn’t seen plenty of times before.
As mentioned, that’s not a negative, because the journey is every bit as important as the destination. Sam Claflin ⏤ in what might be a career-best performance ⏤ anchors the story as Billy Dunne, who always dreamed of being a rock star. Turning convention on its head, his alcohol and drug-fueled days occur before The Six have even hit it big, with the aftershocks affecting not just his relationships with his bandmates, but also the increasingly-fractured bond with his wife and mother of his child Camilla over a number of years – the latter seeing actress Camila Morrone quietly emerge as perhaps the unsung MVP and beating heart of the entire show.
Elsewhere, Timothy Olyphant’s twinkly-eyed charm is weaponized to sparkling effect as tour manager Rod Reyes, who maintains his association with the group through thick and thin, while the rest of The Six are rather remarkably allowed to become fully-drawn and richly-realized figures in their own right, a rarity for any musically-adjacent project, never mind this one that’s been marketed and sold on the back of the Daisy/Billy sideshow.
Will Harrison’s guitarist Graham Dunne is the straight-laced glue trying to hold everyone together, which was always going to be complicated given his undying affection for Suki Waterhouse’s keyboardist Karen Sirko. Josh Whitehouse’s Eddie Roundtree has been in Billy’s shadow since they were teenagers, and his bubbling resentment only gets more intense as their success becomes greater. Sebastian Chacon’s Warren Rojas gleefully embraces the stereotype of every drummer by taking each day as it comes in a laconic, pot-fueled haze, but the intersecting life stories make you fully believe that lifelong friends and new additions alike would end up coming to rue the fulfillment of the only thing they’ve ever wanted to achieve.
At the same time as The Six fall on hard times, Riley Keough’s title character has big ambitions of her own, and it takes a few episodes for the pieces to fully fall into place. Cast adrift by her family and almost entirely alone with the exception of Nabiyah Be’s Simone Jackson, her refusal to be put in a box is as admirable as it is self-destructive, something that becomes more apparent than ever when savant producer Teddy Price (Tom Wright) places her right in Billy’s orbit.
Now going by Daisy Jones & The Six, the simmering tension between the two lead singers inevitably leads to an explosion in popularity, even if Billy tries his damndest to keep pushing her out of the spotlight. There’s a burning fuse right between them that’s always in danger of exploding at any second, but that’s precisely what gives the band its spark. It’s a love/hate relationship to put it lightly, with Daisy and Billy bringing out the best and worst in each other from moment to moment, with the dichotomy of two people steadfastly believing they’re polar opposites when they’re virtually identical in every way acting as the emotional undercurrent.
Naturally, such a combustible pair leave plenty of damage in their wake, whether it be extramarital affairs, questionable weddings, complete disappearances, relapses, fights, arguments, and all the rest of the baggage that comes with being in the biggest band in the world, but Daisy Jones & The Six makes sure to always masterfully skirt above cliche. There aren’t any surprises to be found through any of the 10 episodes, but it’s the trip that makes the series such a satisfying experience, regardless of how you can almost predict to a tee how things are going to either unfold or resolve themselves in the end.
Of course, one of the biggest tests for any rock n’ roll project to pass is whether or not the songs are believable enough to either back up or enhance the story, which is another area where Daisy Jones excels. As the granddaughter of none other than Elvis Presley, Keough has been under scrutiny when it comes to showing off her pipes, but she passes the test with flying colors.
Claflin, meanwhile, is a revelation in terms of vocal ability, stage presence, and the ability to convince an audience that he’s both a raging egomaniac and an incredibly delicate and fragile flower at the same time. Put the two stars in any room together – which happens often for better or worse – and the sparks fly. The tracks themselves may become over-familiar the more often you hear them, but it wouldn’t be outside of the imagination to expect fans to be demanding the entire album be released in its entirety.
The shadow of Stevie Nicks inevitably looms in the shadows of Keough’s performance, but leaning into it was the best choice. If everyone involved off-camera is playing up the Fleetwood Mac inspirations, then why shouldn’t she? On her own, Daisy is spellbinding. Put her together with the equally-formidable Claflin, and the duo are nothing short of mesmeric.
Daisy Jones & The Six may not bring much freshness or groundbreaking moments of note to a genre that’s been relying on the same broad template since its very inception, but it’s a testament to everyone involved on a creative, musical, performative, or technical level that you won’t be able to stop watching. Every major band in the world is expected to bust out their biggest and best hits every time take the stage, which sums of the show’s approach to its genre, but the real magic comes in the way they’re played.
'Daisy Jones & the Six' might be singing from a very familiar songbook, but an engrossing story, phenomenal performances, and an A-grade soundtrack ensure it can sell out arenas all on its lonesome.