Daisy Jones & the Six

By Aaron Isenstein

Riley Keough and Sam Claflin Face the Music in this Perfect Adaptation

If you asked me to talk about my love for Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel Daisy Jones & the Six I’d probably never run out of things to gush about. As a superfan of the novel (which might be putting it lightly), I was always cautiously optimistic about the show. I love Riley Keough and Suki Waterhouse, and seeing the aesthetic and characters on screen always seemed like a dream come true. But I was worried it just wouldn’t hold up to the magic of the book. To my elation and shock, Amazon’s adaptation of Daisy Jones & the Six might even surpass the novel. 

As a story, Daisy Jones & the Six has always been a character study first and a tale of a 1970s rock band second. The series is in the format of a documentary, so often, footage from the 70s plays before the characters in the 90’s comment on it. It follows the rise of stubborn frontman Billy Dunne’s (Sam Claflin) band “The Six”, their collaborative album with free-spirited Daisy Jones (Riley Keough), and everything that leads to the band breaking up in the middle of their tour. 

The biggest difference between the book and the series is that band members Eddie Loving and Pete Loving are combined in the character of Eddie Roundtree (Josh Whitehouse). Other than that and some minor plot changes, the adaptation is completely faithful and genuinely perfect. Every character is perfectly developed thanks to the screenwriters clearly understanding the novel. In the book, there’s no accuracy to the story. Everyone is telling their own perspective regarding happened, and despite showing what actually happens, the series retains that level of imperfect authenticity. The characters will say something about what happened, and then it’ll cut to something completely different happening. Not only is it funny, and accurate to the book, it creates a sense of realism within these characters. They’re flawed people looking back at a time in their lives where they didn’t really understand what was happening. While no interview is ever 100% accurate, everyone is still telling their truth. It’s just not always the truth.

The other big change that sparked controversy within the book's fanbase is the lyric changes. However, in my humble opinion, Taylor Jenkins Reid is not a songwriter. The lyrics within the book don’t make sense as an actual song. That’s fine for a book, of course! However, the new music in the series is infectious and perfectly compliments the story. The majority of the best scenes in the show come from them performing or recording these songs. In particular, “Regret Me” will forever be stuck in my head.

But besides the adaptation being euphoric as a fan of the source material, the show in general simply rocks. Despite my emotional devastation at the ending, this was such a blast to watch throughout. Though the first two episodes mostly exist to set up the characters and their world, the show is never not entertaining. Whether I was rooting for a character, hating a character, or deeply involved in whatever song is playing, my eyes were always glued to the screen. 

While I think every episode is incredible, the second half is on another level. Once Daisy joins the band and begins to record, the show becomes transcendent. I’m not being dramatic when I say episodes 8-10 are some of the best television episodes I’ve ever seen. The finale is getting hyped as “one of the greatest final episodes ever”, but I don’t think that’s completely accurate. It’s not just one of the greatest finales ever, it’s one of the greatest episodes of television period. The finale is gloriously formatted and an emotional rollercoaster. By the end of the episode, I found myself hysterically crying. The storytelling is so raw and authentic that I struggle to believe this is a fictional series and not a docuseries. After I finished watching the show, seeing the actors post on Instagram about it always left me confused. That’s not Riley Keough, that’s Daisy Jones!

Speaking of Riley Keough, my gosh is her performance breathtaking. She portrays the mania and inner workings of Daisy with a level of truth that is astonishing to behold. While a character like Daisy could easily turn into nothing more than a manic pixie dream girl, Keough conveys all the complexities of this seductive drug addict from a broken home. It’s impossible to discuss her performance without talking about both her all-encompassing charisma and her fantastic voice. She has the perfect voice for the role and commands the screen every time Daisy performs. And her chemistry with Sam Claflin is actually mind-blowing. What do you mean they’re not married in real life?

And Sam Claflin? Don’t be surprised when I write about him (and Keough, of course) in next year’s “Our Favorite Performances of 2023” article. I wasn’t familiar with his work before this show, and I’m honestly discouraged from checking it out now. I don’t think he’ll ever be anyone but Billy Dunne for me. Almost every time I cried during the show, it was because of his performance. Billy is an asshole, but I’ve never felt more for anyone in my life. As he remarks to Daisy, they’re both severely broken people trying to make it. While he masks his pain in anger, she masks hers in mania. Claflin was able to shatter my heart with a single look. The series seriously would not work if it wasn’t for his natural stage presence. 

The other performances are also simply phenomenal. When it comes to the supporting performances, Camila Morrone steals the show. As the wife of Billy, she’s alongside his chaos and his tumultuous dynamic with Daisy. She’s a heartbreaking badass, and the highlight of almost every scene she’s in (provided that Keough and Claflin aren’t setting the world on fire with their chemistry). The other standout for me has to be Suki Waterhouse as Karen Sirko. Karen starts the show seemingly underdeveloped. She’s overlooked since she joined the band late, but she gradually grows to become one of the most important characters throughout. I won’t get into spoilers, but her final arc is so heart-wrenching and depressing that I cried nearly every time she was on-screen. The supporting men are also fantastic. Eddie Roundtree (Josh Whitehouse) and Graham Dunne (Will Harrison) are both great foils to Billy and Warren Rhodes (Sebastian Chaco) is really funny. Tom Wright brings a much needed warmth to the show, and while Timothy Olymphant doesn’t do much, he’s fun. 

I couldn’t help but be awed by the entirety of Daisy Jones & the Six. The two released songs (“Look at Us Now”, “Regret Me”) have climbed to the top of all of my playlists, and I desperately cannot wait to rewatch the show (especially the last 3 episodes). Everything in this show is so incredible, from the flashy costumes to the color grading. Daisy Jones & the Six is the perfect adaptation with perfect performances, and is thus a perfect show.