The Code

Move over Spooks. Dan Spielman & Ashley Zukerman star in an utterly contemporary ABC thriller.

2014-09-15_2049Straight up: The Code is my favourite ABC drama of 2014.

It’s a devilish contemporary thriller, fresh and engaging, that would surely stand on a world platform.

Dan Spielman plays Jesse Banks, a Canberra-based political journo for online publication Password. Ned is furtively handed documents by the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications, Sophie Walsh (Chelsie Preston Crayford) designed to undermine a Minister. But the envelope includes an extra clue that piques his interest in a developing crime involving two indigenous teenagers in the outback.

He has his brother Jesse (Ashley Zukerman), who suffers from Aspergers, hack into computer systems to delve for more clues and they stumble onto a jumbled video revealing the death of one of the teens in a truck. But in doing so it puts a target on their back -it’s not initially clear from whom.

In the outback town on Lindara, Alex Wisham (Lucy Lawless) is reeling from the death of one of her students. Ex-partner policeman Tim Simons (Aaron Pedersen) works towards unraveling a possible murder case, without realising it is much bigger than anything he has dealt with before.

The crime goes all the way to the PM’s Chief of Staff Randall Keats (Aden Young) -and I will say no more. Key characters also include the Deputy PM Ian Bradley (David Wenham), Password editor Perry Benson (Adam Garcia), hacker Hani Parande (Adele Perovic) plus roles by Dan Wyllie, Paul Tassone, Steve Rodgers and Aaron McGrath. Yes it’s an impressive cast, befitting the razor-sharp script by writer Shelley Birse (Love is a Four Letter Word) -it recently won an AWGIE Award.

Director Shawn Seet (Underbelly, Love Child, The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, MDA) has imbued this high-tech drama with plenty of steely resolve. From the dusty outback roads to the fog rising off Lake Burley Griffin, it’s dense in its visual language of wide shots and pulled focus. Multi-tasked screens of computers, phones, emails and SMS messages are cleverly super-imposed on the screen beside the actors.

Dan Spielman, who impressed in An Accidental Soldier, steps up in a role that juggles the emotion required as a brother-carer, and the mystery driving the plot. Ashley Zukerman (Rush) is utterly outstanding as the brother unable to filter too much sensory information at one time. Lucy Lawless, unrecognisable from more famous roles, provides the emotional heart without over-egging things.

The Code has also enjoyed significant access for filming at Parliament House, Canberra, helping to make this a credible, modern saga. While it doesn’t show allegiance to a particular side of politics, it’s unnerving to think such manipulation and covert affairs are taking place underneath its flagpole.

For ABC and Playmaker Media to make something so contemporary is bloody brilliant (is this our own Spooks?).

Don’t miss it.

The Code premieres 8:30pm Sunday on ABC.

23 Responses

  1. This show is quite good and I hope that all the open ended story trails are wrapped up by the final episode. All it needs is grumpy old Colin Friels to make an appearance and I would be reminded of the classic ABC stories of old. Oh, the nostalgia 🙂

    Good to see Lucy Lawless spreading herself around as well. She had a great appearance on AOS tonight and she is performing well in this too I reckon.

  2. This is the first new drama series I’ve watched this year and certainly the first ABC drama series I’ve watched in years, if the other Sunday night dramas are as good as this I must have been missing something.

    It did take me about half the episode to get into it (like others I found it a bit disjointed), but now I am hooked. I will definitely watch the next 5 episodes.

  3. I really enjoyed it. Didn’t find it disjointed or hard to follow at all.
    I liked the intrigue building.
    There were a couple of gaffes – why did the website report two teenagers missing when the young boy had already turned up and been taken to talk to the policeman etc?
    Overall, will be riveted to this one I think!

  4. I gave it a go and liked it.

    I agree on the “disjointed” critique a few have given, but I can kind of see why since they were meshing together not only 2 genres, but also 2 locations. So I can see it settling down well over the coming weeks.

  5. I hope it improves because I found the first 3/4s of the episode quite disjointed and difficult to follow. I also found the picture quality of some of the nights scenes quite hard to follow. The last 1/4 of the episode and the preview for the next episode helped somewhat in explaining some things that went on in the first episode so I’ll give it another go next week.

  6. I also found the first episode underwhelming. The frenetic direction and fractured structure was as much about covering the shortcomings as it was about advancing the plot or adding intrigue. And it was awfully reliant on clumsy dialogue in which characters told each other things they already knew so we’d know what was going on. It’s certainly no Spooks.

  7. I’ll take your word for it improving each week because I found the first episode a bit disjointed and tricky. I don’t know what the saturated reds and blues in the colour palate are supposed to achieve – it feels gimmicky at best. Fingers crossed the audience sticks with it – because they did not give us a lot to come back for. Another example, IMHO, of an Australian drama with potential not properly guided by the EPs to reach its full potential. Tough genre to get right.

  8. Well have to say this was indeed one of the better offerings of late. Started off a bit jumpy and hard to follow but found its feet and off we went. The strength for me was the performance of Ashley Zukerman as Jessie followed by Dan Speilman as his brother. Well written and acted. An hour just didnt seem long enough.

  9. Your review makes me want to watch this David. I really liked Dan Speilman in The Accidental Soldier and David Wenham is always impressive. I, like many others really want to watch quality Australian drama. Unfortunately some of the past offerings were not impressive, but here’s hoping that this one will be a winner.

  10. Politically based tv series are usually not my thing, but this review is tempting me to give this one a watch.

    This is where the total of only 6 episodes is most definitely a positive factor.

  11. I enjoy your reviews but it is seriously offensive to say someone ‘suffers’ from Aspergers Syndrome. I will be watching this show with interest and won’t be impressed if they have portrayed the character with AS in a stereotypical manner.

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