A worthy but ultimately underwhelming Australian six-part miniseries that sees a cold-case detective reopen investigations into the death of a popular Australian South Sea Islander teenager 25 years earlier.
The opening of a time capsule to celebrate a school anniversary and buried just a few days before Isabel’s (Talijah Blackman-Corowa) death reveals secrets that bring Brisbane-based detective James Cormack (Travis Fimmel) to the north Queensland town of Ashford. Committed to the point of obsession (his own brother disappeared without trace many years earlier), Cormack unearths a very different set of events reported by the original investigation.
Small town politics and relationships hinder Cormack as he deals with the Walcotts – a father/daughter duo who own the sugar plantation and the town’s only significant employer. Chloe (Brooke Satchwell) was, at the time of the murder, Isabel’s best friend. Secrets and lies bubble to the surface as a little more digging highlight alibis that do not stack up, timescales at variance with official reports and the whitewashing of accusations of slave labour and disappearing illegal migrant workers. Even Isabel’s parents are concerned and non-coperative with the reopening of their daughter’s murder, an issue at least daughter, Hazel (Jemmason Power), helps Cormack navigate.
It’s an engaging, empathic tale as the two timelines are intertwined and cleverly edited to confuse the ultimate reveal. Old wounds are reopened as Fimmel, a stand out in a laid back, committed characterisation, beavers away to find the truth. And, although they never meet, separated as they are by more than two decades, he is ably supported by Blackman-Corowa. But a lack of tension undermines, not helped by the ‘lesser’ characters being of little interest and poorly portrayed. Take Cormack or Isabel off the screen and the drama palls considerably.