TL;DR – ‘Containment’ continues ‘First Contacts’ strong start, with one of the most confronting scenes on Australian TV, whilst also dropping hint as to some of the mysteries that we will be uncovering this season.
Score – 4/5 Stars
“The past is the past, you can’t change it. All you can do is try to do better”
Last week heralded the start of one of the most important shows that has graced Australian TV in a long time. While it wasn’t flawless, it showed you can have a cast that flips the norm and not only can it work, but people will tune in and jump on board. This week if you thought the creators would give you a rest from last week’s revelations, well then you are going to be sadly mistaken, as Cleverman ratchets up the tension and delivers on the powerful ending to the pilot episode.
When we left off last week Koen (Hunter Page-Lochard) discovered that he is in fact the Cleverman after the death of his Uncle Jimmy (Jack Charles) and not his elder brother Waruu (Rob Collins) the self-styled leader of The Zone. Meanwhile Uncle Jimmy brought someone back from the dead for Jarrod Slade (Iain Glen) and paid the price for it with his own life, after summoning something from the sky, something we learn quite quickly has not gone away after killing Jimmy. The end the first episode left us with a number of questions, so does ‘Containment’ answer any of them well yes/no.
The strength in this episode is in the relationships, Father/Son, Husband/Wife, and Brother/Brother. They provide the heart of the episode, and the driving force for much of the conflict and catharsis, and it all works so well. This is because these are relationships we can all understand, we understand why Boondee (Tony Briggs) is trying to get his son Djukara (Tysan Towney) to stop antagonising the guards (even though the guards are scum), it’s because he desperately wants to stop the guards attacking Djukara and this is the only way he knows how, even if it means he’s branded a coward. We understand the grief of not being able to conceive a child even though you have tried everything, and the pain that must come with the decision to say, no more. We also understand the feeling of betrayal and how it cuts the deepest when it is one of your own family that wields the blade. We understand the kindness of a stranger, the anger at the inability to do something even though every part of you wants to do something, and pain when your words are twisted against you.
More so ‘Containment’ shows of the strength of Australian acting with such a diverse range of talents from newcomers to experts. From the moment Aunty Linda (Deborah Mailman) opens that window she steals the show, when she sees Koen’s eye and expresses without saying a word, the she understands why he came, the grief at the loose of Jimmy, and the compassion of understanding the difficulty that is to come, it was a masterclass in acting. The other standout this week has to be newcomer Tysan Towney who showed such range as Djukara, raging against the machine of an unjust prison, with all the righteous anger that comes with it, only to have his legs kicked out from underneath him. That moment when he realised that he lost, that they had beaten him, was hard to watch, and what followed was one of the most confronting scenes on television today, and yes I include American Cable in that grouping. This is not because it was salacious or extreme, but that it was intimate and horrifying and real, we know that this happens, and we know that our silent consent allowed it.
While this episode didn’t answer any of the questions it did show us where some of the fault lines will lie for the season, do you effect change from inside or outside the system, and there is no easy answer for that. We also get some hints as to the larger plans at work for the season, which given the limited run of episodes, I really hope we see more of that quite soon, as Cleverman does not have time to play around.
Where Cleverman excels is by showing a mirror on modern Australian society and politics, and what it shows is something really uncomfortable, something that we have to address. But among all the problems there is hope, and I end my review with a quote from tonight’s episode
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Written by – Michael Miller & Jon Bell
Based on – an original concept by Ryan Griffen
Directed by – Wayne Blair
Staring – Hunter Page-Lochard, Rob Collins, Iain Glen, Ryan Corr, Tysan Towney, Tony Briggs, Deborah Mailman, Frances O’Connor, Stef Dawson, Tasma Walton, Rarriwuy Hick, Andrew McFarlane & Jack Charles