It’s strange timing to see Melbourne bustling as the backdrop to Nine’s new drama when the reality is anything other.
Maybe Halifax: Retribution is the reminder we need that some things are worth fighting for. After all, Jane Halifax (Rebecca Gibney) has rebounded, nearly 20 years after she left our screens.
But the city is under siege of a different kind in Nine’s fictional thriller, as a lone sniper is taking out citizens with a high power rifle. Heading up a task force is returning US cop Tom Saracen (Anthony LaPaglia) who turns to Jane Halifax, now a Professor of Forensic Psychiatry at Melbourne University, to consult.
Jane is also parent to step-daughter Zoe (Mavournee Hazel) and happily ensconced with partner Ben (Craig Hall) who is against her returning to criminal work. But against her better judgment she assists Tom and his Operation Stingray team, comprising Det. Senior Sgts. Nick Tanner (Rick Donald) and Mila Bronski (Ming-Zhu Hii) plus ‘Unsworn Officer’ ‘Kip’ Lee (Mark Coles Smith) (is it just me or is their headquarters’ interior modelled on the former Channel Seven home at Pyrmont?).
Across the opening telemovie, written by producer Roger Simpson and directed by Mark Joffe, the victim toll rises. But could there be links to the past, when a note is sent warning of “Retribution”? Jane becomes more embedded in the hunt, while there are further complications on the homefront. A free-spirited Mandy (Claudia Karvan) arrives on the scene, although just how is something of a spoiler.
The overall shift from telemovies to series format is achieved with considerable confidence, and Gibney looks better than ever as a mature forensic psychiatrist. Mavournee Hazel and Karvan both uphold the strong female performances. It’s good to see a diverse force at work too. The guest stars are also none too shabby, from the likes of John Waters, Justin Rosniak and, in episode two, Jacqueline McKenzie reprising a former Halifax role.
Special mention to Geoffery Hall ACS for his photography of Melbourne, with plenty of eagle eye access to the CBD. Overall the show looks slick and contemporary.
But it’s also the plotting that makes this a strong starter, cleverly juggling the personal curve balls for Jane with the cat and mouse killer pursuit. Episode 2 maintains the pace, giving me confidence this will be an enjoyable ride.
Halifax: Retribution airs 8:45pm Tuesday on Nine.