TL;DR – A solid follow up season that makes up for a lack of subtlety with its themes with some solid acting and emotional drive.
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
It was just over a year ago when Stan dropped this interesting little show about a fruit that can make you young again, the only catch is that it grows in the places people died in a great flood. This gave it both an interesting and also very morbid these even before people started going after each other over the plants. I was interested to see where the show could go from there and well now we can see with the second season coming out over the Easter weekend.
So to set the scene, in the weeks after the end of Season One, things in the town of Mullan in rural Australia have been in a state of flux. For some of the residents of the town, life has gone back to normal, but for the others, the lingering effect of the plant is still there even though all the plants are now gone. In the city, the last of the young people from the first season Young Gwen (Phoebe Tonkin) is dancing the night away with her now much older husband Ray (Bryan Brown) causing much mirth from the rest of the people in the nightclub. He decides to let her go enjoy her youth, but she will have none of that. Back in town, a mother Anne Carter (Jacqueline McKenzie) has arrived under mysterious circumstances with her daughter Eva (Ingrid Torelli) and family friend Luke (Ed Oxenbould). Also, the new local priest Father John (Toby Schmitz) is trying to get people back to the church when he finds out that Mullan might have a secret of its own when local creepy guy Shane (Tom Budge) lets slip about what happened. Now we will be looking at the series as a whole and as such there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
There was a lot in this sophomore season and the thing I liked the best was its plays on religion and science. One thing the show has not yet explained in either season is where the plants came from and why they only grow in the graves of very specific people. Is the reason a scientific one or a mystical one? While this was hinted at before, it is taken to the next level this season. On the one hand, they are splice and growing the plant, but on the other the de-aging effects of the fruit this season seems to last right up to the right point they need to.
This is supported by the two new plotlines running through the season that provide the core of the narrative. We have Anne who has probably the first good reason since Gwen (Jacki Weaver) to get one of the fruit given she has terminal cancer. That also gives a good reason as to why she is not making the most optimal choices about what she should be doing. Her’s is the route of science, to find what makes the fruit work and replicate it. Then we have Father John, who is trying to find meaning for the people, while also battling demons of his own. When he discovers the effects of the fruit, he sees it as a miracle, one that will bring people back to the Church, or at the very least give them hope. Throughout the season these two sides work together, work in opposition, undermine and also support each other. It creates an interesting dichotomy, made even starker with the post-ending reveal.
While this is going on, we get the other side of the story, which is different people dealing with the outcomes of being young and the ramifications on each of their families. Here is where we get stories that feel very predictable or even feel like filler, but there are still moments of brilliance. The first is the story of Loris (Anne Charleston) who when she becomes Young Loris (Bella Heathcote) and decides to go back to the city to help her granddaughter Isabella (Lucy Barrett) who has apparently gone off the rails, charts as about a predictable course as you could expect. Though I will say keeping it open as to if her visions of the late Herb (Terry Norris) were in her head or part of the fruit was a good idea.
The strongest of the three is probably Rhonda (Genevieve Morris) who is the town sergeant who has to deal with the fact that her father Donnie (Gary Sweet) is the town drunk and somehow Young Donnie (Oliver Ackland) is even worse. There is a real and understandable pain to her life that Genevieve brings to the foreground. The story that probably had the biggest swings is that of Gwen and Ray. The motivation to get them back to the town is solid, as is everything else they do, right up to the point that Young Gwen tries to murder Max (John Stanton). The maybe ‘the fruit makes everyone a bit bad’ line just doesn’t have the thematic weight in it needed to pull this off. Added to this are frustrating moments, like seeing that Young Ray (Jackson Heywood) had a secret dark past as motivation for him trying to kill Luke/Martin (Andrew Blackman) when the show had already given all the motivation he needed, it just felt like filler.
There are similar frustrating moments throughout the show like I do wish they had teamed Pastor John up with literally anyone other than the character that played the role of the creep from Season One. This limited some of the impacts of that storyline and made his path towards cult leader well less of an interesting development. At least we got Eva, who is the bridge to a lot of the different competing storylines and who may have been the only sensible person in the enter show. However, while there may have been some frustrating story moments when those emotional moments land, they really land. I doubt anyone would walk away and not be moved by “I’ll be your memory for you” and every moment Jacki Weaver was on the screen it was glorious. I also really liked what Jacqueline McKenzie brought to the role of Anne, at first you can’t quite tell where they are going with the character but as it gets revealed throughout the season, everything falls into place.
From a technical side of things, the show looks amazing, really selling the beauty of rural Victoria, which I would very much like to visit once the world calms down. There were a couple of moments that I enjoyed, like how they keep making what looks to be a very beautiful river feel menacing at all times. I also liked how they used a combination of practical and quality digital effects to create the de-aging sequences. It is an Australian drama, so of course, there are a lot of drone shots, but when you have a country that is as beautiful as ours, you kind of give that one a pass.
In the end, do we recommend the second season of Bloom? Yes, I think we would. It was really interesting at times as it delved into the scientific and the mystical and while there were a couple of frustrations, they were mostly fleeting. What I did find interesting is how this did feel a little like the second act of a story, and that last episode very much set the story for the next season going with some curious hooks.
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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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Bloom
Directed by – Greg McLean & Sian Davies
Written by – Glen Dolman, Giula Sandler, C.S. McMullen, Tommy Murphy, Matt Ford,
Created by – Glen Dolman
Production/Distribution Companies – Screen Australia, Film Victoria, Playmaker and Stan.
Starring – Bryan Brown, Jacki Weaver, Phoebe Tonkin, Jacqueline McKenzie, Toby Schmitz, Bella Heathcote, Genevieve Morris, Gary Sweet, Jackson Heywood, Anne Charleston, Ed Oxenbould, Oliver Ackland, Anne Charleston, Ingrid Torelli, Thomas Ersatz, Christiaan van Vuuren with Terry Norris, Lucy Barrett, Scott Lee, Usha Cornish, John Stanton, Maria Mercedes, Scott Lee, Nadine Garner, Max Gillies, Andrew Blackman & Doug Bowles
Episodes Covered – Blip, Fruit of the Earth, Hand of God, True Lover, The Evermore & The Cult of Gwendolyn Reed