TL;DR – This opener immediately drags you into a world of multiple factions that are all untrustworthy and makes you wonder who will you back?
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
There is this surreal moment that, I assume if you lived in Vancouver or cities like that you would be used to, when you see someone drive down a street in a film and then instantly realise that you have driven there before. You know those cane fields, the factories, you know that bridge, that university hall. It has happened before with places I have visited overseas, but never here in Australia, and never with Brisbane playing Brisbane.However as a critic, this is potentially dangerous territory, do I like the show because it is good or because I have a natural drive to see the local film industry do well. However, with Netflix’s new show Tidelands, I don’t think this is the case, and as I review all of the first season I think you will see immediately if this is a show that you should dive into or not.
Soto set the scene, we open in a storm as waves crash across the bow of a fishing trawler, but this trawler is not out there looking for fish, it is out there looking for things it should not see. Well he saw what he should not have seen,and the next day he is found crucified on the bow of his ship with no eyes or tongue, and the local police officer Paul Murdock (Alex Dimitriades) covers it all up. We then are introduced to Cal (Charlotte Best), she is serving her last days of a ten-year sentence for arson,and after finishing a fight she makes her way up the coast to the place that was once her home, to get what she is owed. But little does she know that her home Orphelin Bay is about to descend from order to chaos and that she is bringing most of the chaos with her. Now from this point on wards, we will be looking at the season as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
Now for many, I think the thought of a story of murdering mermaids off the Queensland coast is an odd starting point for Australia’s splash into Netflix,but it really isn’t. In fact, it is in along line of mysterious women from the ocean in the Australia narrative that stretches back to at least Ocean Girl. However, this is a much more adult version of what happens when you have an underwater world. It has hints of Greek mythology, Shakespearian conflict, all squished into a small town in Queensland with all that weight that comes with it.
One of the key themes in this season is the battle between order and chaos because each comes with risks and rewards. For Adrielle (Elsa Pataky), she could just spend her time protecting her children brought to her by the sirens, I mean the bay is literally named orphan bay or close enough. However, for her, all of her veneers is hiding a hatred of men who rounded up her people and murdered them. As someone who lives for hundreds of years,she has the ability to think long-term,but just when she is close to achieving her goal everything gets thrown to the wind thanks to her desire to finish what she started. So she starts taking risks, upending agreements that had been in place for generations, alienating everyone in the process. This whole town is run under a semblance of order,sure everyone is on the take, but that provide stability. Even if that stability is bought with drugs. The cops are on the take, the coroner is on the take, it is the cost of doing business because it brings money into the town. However,for Rosa (Caroline Brazier) and the other women of the town, they have seen this stability paid for with the lives of their husbands, children, brothers,and they are willing to upturn the apple cart if it means being justice to their losses.
All of this means is that there are so many different alliances and betrayals, waiting for that moment it all falls apart. Indeed,all of this was triggered by Rosa getting Gregori (Jacek Koman) in to bring a sledgehammer to the local order, even if that meant putting her own son Augi (Aaron Jakubenko) into danger. Even in the tidelanders,there is a sense of order, yet soon Violca (Madeleine Madden) is starting to stir the pot, and before long they are plucking eyes from children. This is a series that is very much about what happens when you remove a single card and what the house fall, and it has the body count that goes along with it.
All of this soon revolves around Cal, and she is the central figure that unites all the factions, for better or worse. Which of course means that the actress Charlotte Best has to do so much of the heavy lifting through the season as both audience surrogate but also the emotional core of the show. She has been betrayed, she has been loved, she has lost everything, see the life leave the eyes of the one sshe loves, and gets put in situations with no good outcomes and she has to pick at least one of the options. All of this works because Charlotte is putting everything into this role, which was especially hard as a lot of the acting was underwater. I also think the whole cast was providing captivating performances,from Dalip Sondhi’s stern visage, to the gruffness of Peter O’Brien & Alex Dimitriades, to the oddness of Chloe DeLos Santos & Finn Little, and who can forget the puppy and the tiger played by Mattias Inwood & Marco Pigossi.
Now I joked a little in the Home review (see here) about the use of drone shots, and they are there, okay there is a lot of them. However, it is clear is that a lot of time and effort has gone into creating the world, and framing it. When you are filming on the Queensland coast a lot of the work has already been done for you, because it is, in my opinion at least, one of the most beautiful places in the world. Even still work has gone into placing the camera at the best spot to capture the drama and the surroundings. You see this most whenever they are near a beach because there is always that siren song waiting to lure you in. You also see the attention of detail in the costuming, which is also stunning. You can tell so much about a character just by what they have been dressed in. Is it a well-maintained police uniform, some jeans and a t-shirt or an elaborate glowing gown that has to look like it belongs both in and out of the water. Though I don’t know why they chose that helmet for Dylan (Marco Pigossi) as it really did not fit his look.
When it comes to the story, this is a series on betrayal, twists, and double-crossing. It is a show that you can see a character’s fate coming like a train and there is nothing you can do to stop it. It is a show that plays on the themes of order v chaos, dangerous questions,the dangers of prophecy, and everything changes. This gives a lot of the show a bit more weight than it normally would have had. Though it does play into some of the tropes, so there is a lot of sex that exists just to boost the ratings up, there are these enigmatic children that are both young but then also older than they appear, also there are some characters that don’t seem to have their own self-survival at heart. Some of these hold the series back a little bit, but none of them were deal breakers for me, and that was even with me seeing most of it back to back in the one session.
In the end, do we recommend Tidelands? Yes,yes we do. They created some interesting characters (though they killed a lot of them off over the course of the season), and created a world I think we have only just begun to explore. The story proceeds at a frantic pace, but it was also an interesting story, and one that has me wondering what is coming next?
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.
Have you seen Tidelands yet ?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Tidelands
Directed by – Toa Fraser, Catriona McKenzie, Emma Freeman & Daniel Nettheim
Written by – Stephen M. Irwin, Leigh McGrath & Chris Squadrito
Created by – Stephen M. Irwin, Leigh McGrath, Nathan Mayfield & Tracey Robertson
Starring – Charlotte Best, Marco Pigossi, Aaron Jakubenko, Mattias Inwood, Dalip Sondhi, Alex Dimitriades, Richard Davies, Caroline Brazier, Peter O’Brien, Madeleine Madden & Elsa Pataky with Chloe De Los Santos, Jet Tranter, Finn Little, Bianca Saul, Brad McMurray, Alex Tsitsopoulos, Loani Arman, Zoe King, Sam Conway, Tom Cossettini, Jacek Koman, Cate Feldmann, Michael Vice & Hunter Page-Lochard