Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Pilot Review: Secret City

Secret City (Netflix)
Premiered June 26

Netflix is importing many foreign series these days, and it’s helpful when the show is in English and features stars that American audiences know well. I never much liked “Fringe,” though I will admit that, even over just the span of this ninety-minute pilot, Anna Torv was far more emotive than she ever seemed on that show and on her recent arc on the first season of “Mindhunter.” She was immediately defined here as one very committed journalist, set on getting the truth no matter how many people she had to piss off. Alan Dale continues to be typecast as the most powerful person in every television universe he inhabits, here playing the Prime Minister of Australia. Jacki Weaver, who made her international breakthrough with “Animal Kingdom” and then starred in “Silver Linings Playbook,” is the senator who makes sure to manipulate events to her advantage, a role that gives her plenty of scenery to chew on in a large cast, which also includes an unexpected American face, Mekhi Phifer, as the ambassador representing America. Opening with a protestor setting herself on fire to call attention to the cause of Tibet was certainly eye-catching, and after the events of this lengthy pilot, it’s clear that Torv’s Harriet should keep pushing because there’s much to be uncovered and exposed. I wish that I felt more invested in these characters and these stories after such an immersive debut, but it just didn’t grab my attention in the way I might have hoped.

How will it work as a series? Four more episodes seems like just the right amount to explore these storylines, though it’s similar to all the other recent international miniseries that only run four to six hours and could probably go longer if they really wanted to get to know every member of their large ensembles.
How long will it last? This show debuted back in June 2016 on Foxtel in Australia, and it was renewed for a second season, which will feature the same characters and a different storyline, back in February of this year. While I doubt that it will rank anywhere near Netflix’s highest-rated show, import or otherwise, there seems to be me to be no reason that Netflix wouldn’t stream whatever installments are broadcast in its native country.

Pilot grade: C+

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