I’m interrupting my series of reviews on British TV serials with a review of an Australian TV serial I just finished watching on Netflix: The Code.
I haven’t seen many Australian TV shows, so this is first and foremost an exotic adventure for me, especially since parts of The Code are filmed in rural New South Wales. Unfortunately, the style of cinematography is my least favourite kind (e.g. lots of handheld movement), which lessens the potential for enjoying the wonderful locations.
The Code, created by Shelley Birse, stars Dan Spielman and Ashley Zuckerman as brothers Ned and Jesse Banks, who live in Canberra (Australia’s capital). Ned is a journalist and Jesse is an autistic convicted computer hacker who is being carefully watched by the authorities. Other major characters include Hani (Adele Perovic), another young hacker who befriends Jesse, Sophie (Chelsea Preston Crayford) director of Communications for the Prime Minister and friend of Ned’s, Alex Wisham (Lucy Lawless), a schoolteacher in the small town of Lindara, who will also become Ned’s friend, Randall Keats (Aden Young), the PM’s Chief of Staff, Lyndon Joyce (Dan Wyllie), a police detective, and Ian Bradley (David Wenham), the Deputy PM.
The plot of the first six-episode season is amazingly complex and the scattered nature of the storytelling doesn’t help with comprehension. It starts with a car accident in the middle of the desert. But it’s a suspicious accident and Ned Banks gets a tip from Sophie (or was it Sophie?) that leads him to Alex, who teaches one of the two young people involved in the accident (the other didn’t make it). Alex doesn’t like the way the local police are handling the investigation of the accident and sneaks the cellphone of one of the victims out of the car. Eventually, she asks Ned if he can help her find out what the phone has videotaped, which is something Jesse can do in his sleep. The video reveals that there was a murder, and Jesse breaks the rules of his probation to hack into the computers of a company he suspects was involved in the murder (because of clues in the video). He ends up getting a secret file that is so well encrypted even he can’t see what’s on it. But in the meantime, the powers-that-be (both good and bad) have caught on to what Jesse and Ned are doing and try to stop them from exposing government secrets, an exposure which could have disastrous consequences.
That’s just a barebones outline of the plot. There’s much more going on, which makes the show endlessly fascinating, especially when the story constantly defies predictability. The Code is one of the most raw, original and unconventional TV shows I have ever seen. It uses its unique style to address issues like surveillance and hacking while also not afraid to tackle weapons, torture and government corruption (including the inherently evil way intelligence agencies operate, always a sure way into my heart). Great stuff! And there are consistent efforts at humanization as well, with some excellent character development. The acting is stellar throughout.
The Code isn’t perfect, with issues of credibility surfacing regularly, and some inexplicable plot holes, not to mention that it’s a dark show with a fair bit of violence (to be expected in Australian noir I guess). But this show got to me and I have to give it ****. My mug is up.