The Secret City

Rating :   Season 1:  ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

                 Season 2:  ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Categorisation: Political drama

Availability: Netflix 

Plot:  This Australian series takes us into the inner workings of the federal government in Canberra. Based on the books The Marmalade Files, The Mandarin Code, and The Shadow Game by Chris Uhlmann and Steve Lewis, season 1 first appeared in 2016, followed by season 2 three years later in 2019. The Australian government finds itself right in the middle of rising political tensions between China and the US, and none come up smelling of roses. In fact, it falls to the press gallery journalist, Harriet Dunkley, to expose conspiracies and she has to go down some very dark corridors to do so. It’s a taught political thriller with lots of twists and turns as we discover, along with Harriet, the menacing depths that some people will go to to retain power. 

Cast: There are some great performances in both season 1 and 2. Harriet, played by Anna Torv, is excellent from start to finish. Her facial expressions convey volumes as she puzzles her way through the increasingly suspicious and alarming plot(s). Jackie Weaver as the Attorney General is imposing, as she ties people in knots with her cutting remarks. But everyone does well in this stellar Australian cast, particularly once the script writers settle into a more nuanced story as the episodes unfold. 

Filming and setting: The series won a number of awards, best direction in the Australian Directors Guild Awards, as well as a number of Logies for most outstanding actress (Anna Torv) and most outstanding supporting actor (Damon Herriman playing Kim Gordon, Harriet’s trans-gender ex-husband – long story). The photography is terrific with lots of wonderful aerial shots of Canberra.

Personal Comments:  After a bit of an uncertain start – for the first few episodes it seemed on the verge of overdoing well-worn political stereotypes within entirely implausible scenarios – season 1 then settles into a compelling and complex drama that is full of surprises. In the end, it has us on the edge of our seats, and hoping that season 2 won’t disappoint. Soon we realise that we didn’t need to worry. Cyber-terrorism enters the story and we’re introduced to a number of new characters and, I think, a more plausible and well worked through plot. For example, we meet Karen Koutoufides played by Danielle Cormack, a Jackie Lambie political figure who is determined to ‘keep the bastards honest’ as an independent MP. This gives the series a discomforting feeling of reality as everyone, from the least to the most powerful, find themselves at risk in one way or another. You have to watch carefully as there is a lot going on, but both seasons are worth watching if you like a good political drama.

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