Bay of Fires

Anika whisks her family to Mystery Bay to escape hit men, but lands in a Tasmanian town where everybody has a secret.

If “Quirky” has become an Australian genre then ABC’s Bay of Fires is surely the latest entry.

‘Mystery Bay’ Tasmania is where Anika Van Cleef (Marta Dusseldorp) finds herself with two children Otis (Imi Mbedla) and Iris (Ava Caryofyllis) after a whirlwind of Chechen hit men, murder, pythons, roadkill and a shinky real estate salesman.

How she ended up her is a bit of a blur to Anika herself, given she has had to flee for her life in less than two days.

But she struggles to keep her cool whilst trying to adapt to her new, inexplicable circumstances when she arrives in the kooky, barely-inhabited town on the west coast of Tasmania.

The mix of desperation and crime crafted by writers Andrew Knight (SeaChange, Jack Irish) and Max Dann (Mako Mermaids, Bed of Roses, Mortified) is deliberately vague, giving the appearance of a snap witness protection extrication when two hit men are inexplicably pursuing her as the new CEO of ProsperAus Finance (a role she inherited from retiring father, played by John Stanton).

But a mysterious woman Airini (Rachel House) whisks her to Mystery Bay in a do-or-die plan with the new identity of ‘Stella Heikkinen.’

“It sounds like two beers,” Anika replies.

“Today’s the day you cut off ties to everything and with everyone you know,” Airini warns.

Mystery Bay is full of bizarre and dodgy characters including two truck driver Jeremiah (Toby Leonard Moore), real estate salesman Francis (Stephen Curry), local publican Jodie (Emily Taheny), brooding local Thaddeus (Matt Nable), CWA President Frankie (Kerry Fox), local blind resident Graham (Nicholas Bell), garage manager Connor (Bob Franklin), cop Jason (Andre de Vanny) and eccentric friends Magda (Pamela Rabe) and Heather (Roz Hammond).

The bulging cast also includes Tony Barry, Yael Stone, Nikolai Nikolaeff, Rhys Muldoon, Ben Winspear and more.

Mystery Bay, aka Misery Bay, is also a character unto itself. Filmed largely in the heritage town of Zeehan, there are parallels to the western genre with strangers striding into a town where all the locals harbour a secret. This leaves ‘Stella’ frustrated by plenty of closed doors, mistruths and revelations while she is still coming to grips with her own topsy-turvy circumstance.

“Trust no-one,” Airini has warned her, possibly borrowing an X-Files mantra.

But Stella also has two kids uprooted from their lives without any information and making demands of their frazzled mother.

Marta Dusseldorp contrasts her calm, heroic starring role in A Place to Call Home and determined prosecutor in The Twelve for a role that puts the mania in Tasmania. This is a series she has co-created and co-produced, drawing upon her years in the industry.

Emerging talent Imi Mbedla and Ava Caryofyllis are both outstanding as her kids, while the oddball town allows for plenty of Australian actors in spirited supporting roles. Stephen Curry acts with his teeth, Kerry Fox is unnervingly friendly, Rachel House is stinging in an ambiguous role and the duo of Pamela Rabe and Roz Hammond (and their pig Truffles) look like they have just walked out of Grey Gardens. I just hope there is enough screen time for all.

It’s hard to grasp where Bay of Fires is headed -and the significance of 1983 scene with a government plan hatched in Canberra.

Scripted television ignored Tasmania for too long and we’re now inundated with options, yet the backdrop of a fading minetown main street and this colourfully quirky cast is reason enough to get some answers to its perplexing premise.

Bay of Fires airs 8:30pm Sunday July 16 on ABC.

11 Responses

    1. Have to agree (sadly). No issues with quirky (loved every bit of Jack Irish) but this crosses the red line into silliness. Big MD fan so really wanted to like it. Unfortunately, a big miss.

  1. The first episode was awful. One main sticking point being that the character Marta is playing is so unlikeable, I don’t really care what happens to her. But overall the tone is just really off. I might watch the 2nd episode just to see if it gets any better but I doubt it.

  2. The first ep was … off beat and not at all what I was expecting. I can’t decide if it’s trying too hard to be one thing when it should be the other or it’s just trying to tie down its story. Is it my fault for putting too much faith in Andrew Knight and Marta Dusseldorp? I’ll give it another week.

  3. For those who know Tasmania well,the title of this show is very confusing.Bay of Fires is the name of a real place in North East Tasmania,while in this series it is a fictional town on the West Coast of Tasmania,which looks nothing like the east coast of the island.I wonder why the creators of the show did this?

Leave a Reply