TL;DR – Season 2 opens with a bang, leaves you wanting more, and fearing the worst.
Score – 4.5 out of 5 stars
Wow what an opener, I mean we loved Season One of Cleverman, but I don’t think anything prepared us for how this first episode of Season Two was going to play out. So to remind everyone of where we left off last season, Koen (Hunter Page-Lochard) had rallied all the remaining residents of The Zone to fight the coming Containment Authority. His brother Waruu (Rob Collins) rejected his family and his people to stand with Jarrod Slade (Iain Glen) who is trying to unlock Hairy DNA and the power it possesses and that creep probably did something to his wife Charlotte’s (Frances O’Connor) pregnancy. Finally, Araluen (Tasma Walton) was able to escape the brothel she had been imprisoned in after killing the minister in charge. All through the season we were building up to the conflict, Koen was understanding and accepting his role as the Cleverman, and then bang season two opens and Koen is dead in a body bag, and you know nothing is safe anymore. So in our review today we are going to be covering all the aspects of the first episode of Season Two, so there will be [SPOILERS] for those who have not seen it yet. If you have not seen Revival yet, you can watch it easily on ABC IView, or SundanceTV, and you should go do that right now.
So to set the scene for the start of the episode, Koen is dead but the sneaky McIntyre (Marcus Graham) stole his bullet-ridden body so Jarrod can run tests on what makes him the Cleverman. Meanwhile, everyone else from The Zone has been rounded up and put on trucks to be taken to God knows where, when bang tire blows and then all hell breaks loose. People are running and dying, chaos is everywhere, but back in a lab an eye turns blue, a light appears, and where once was Koen’s body a falcon now flies away into the night. Right from the start you are hooked, what happened at The Zone, why is Koen dead, is he dead, is the world going to fall apart, and who the hell is that guy throwing spears around the place?
Now one thing this first episode prepares you for is that there will be deaths this season. It is almost like Koen’s death and rebirth at the start is an emotional fake out giving you that feeling like everyone will make it, but then bam a number of cast members don’t make it through this first episode, and you feel each death. When the open credits rolled I noticed no Tysan Towney, who plays Djukara, and I thought that was odd, then boom we are in the episode and there he is, oh I must have missed him I thought, and then bang he’s dead protecting his sister, in a complete role reversal from the first episode of season one and it hurt to watch. Then we find out that Blair (Ryan Corr) died in a blaze of glory after the authority killed Koen, and you realise at the same time as Koen that you didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to the character as he was dead before anything started. There is that moment when you see Koen think why me and not him?, and that is all down to Hunter’s amazing acting.
One of the things that makes this episode great is that just about every cast member gets their moment to shine, and that takes a complete combination of writing, directing and acting to pull that off and make it feel believable. Take for example Nerida (Jada Alberts), Latani (Rarriwuy Hick) and Alinta (Tamala Shelton) who get separated from the rest of the truck escapees and break into a guy’s house to seek shelter, after a slight shovel to the face, which got me, damn you jump scare. We only get a couple of scenes with them throughout the episode but they had some of the most powerful moments of Revival. Take Latani who has just watched her brother die in front of her, and who is taking absolutely zero of the guy’s sass, and she gives the line of the night “You’re weak and slow and live a third of the time that we do. We could hunt you down and destroy your kind so easily, but we don’t”. The line could have come off as pretentious, it could have been whiny, but no, it reaches right to the core of where Latani is, and you feel it. You also get to see it with Waruu, when visiting the imprisoned Hairypeople Jarrod has locked up to experiment on, we see just what motivated him to betray his brother, his people, the Hariys under his protection, it was respect, or the lack therefore of. Just like every megalomaniacal asshole out there who has to ruin things for everyone else it is his own insecurities that are the source of his dickishness. We also see Koen start to wrestle with what it means to be a leader, and the responsibilities that come with being not only a leader, but a leader that just had his own Jesus appearing to the Disciples moment. But this understanding comes with a cost, no longer can he just not give a crap about what happens to the people around him, and that means for the first time in a long time he feels the pain of loss and failure.
Ok, I could go on all night, but here is a quick rundown of some of the other things I found interesting. Cleverman gets to film in some really nice houses, I mean really nice, like they could be on episodes of Gran Designs nice. I liked the way they showed authoritarianism taking another step to fruition, ‘temporary measures’ my ass, and don’t think I missed that slight Howard/Bush/Trump moment you had there Minister. I want to know more about Jarli (Clarence Ryan), boy did he have an entrance into the show, also he had all the weight on him as he carried the episode to its conclusion in one of the most beautiful shots I have seen in a long time.
So in the end, did we like the opening episode of Cleverman, yes, it did everything the first episode needed to do, it resolved the cliff-hanger from last season, and propelled this season into high gear. The best thing about this season is that we’ve done all the setup last season so we can start propelling the story forward at warp speed, and I can’t wait to see where we end up.
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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Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Cleverman
Directed by – Wayne Blair
Created by – Ryan Griffen
Written by – Stuart Page
Cinematography by – Mark Wareham
Music by – Samuel Scott, Thomas Wedde & Lukasz Buda
Starring – Hunter Page-Lochard, Rob Collins, Tasma Walton, Rarriwuy Hick, Rachael Blake, Jada Alberts, Clarence Ryan, Tony Briggs, Luke Ford, Tamala Shelton, Marcus Graham, Deborah Mailman, Frances O’Connor & Iain Glen