Mystery Road, BBC 4, BBCiPlayer, written by Michaeley O’Brien and directed by Rachel Perkins.
If there’s a drama series on BBC 4, usually, I’m watching it. After the medieval Spanish drama, The Plague, I watched Mystery Road. No subtitles needed for the latter. In many ways the six episodes of the Australian drama is condensed into one in Goldstone. Essentially, it’s the same story.
Outsider, Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen), investigating the disappearance of two missing young men, one aboriginal, one white in Mystery Road, and a young Asian female in Goldstone finds himself locked into close-knit outback town controlled by a minority of white folk for white folk and having something to hide.
Jay is the black fellah, the black Swan among whites and as a federal agent he needs to team up with local cops. In Goldstone it’s the fresh-faced and white kid Josh Waters (Alex Russell). In Mystery Road it’s red head and cranky cop Emma James (Judy Davis) whose brother and her owns most of the land on which the town depends for employment.
Land value, of course, in such an arid continent is linked to the proximity to water. Think of the plot of Jack Nicholson’s Chinatown and you won’t be far off the mark in where Mystery Road leads.
In Goldstone, think of the title of the town, and mineral wealth locked up in the land. In this stripped down version of Mystery Road, the black fellahs, the local aboriginal community have voting rights on what to do with the land. There reverence for the land, the sacred lands, stands in the way of corporate greed. The Mayor (Jacki Weaver) is brilliant as the fixer lining her own pockets and making sure everybody gets a share of the pie (she bakes pies and gives one to Swan and Waters) while the black fellahs get none.
And she and they would have got away with it if it wasn’t for those pesky kids, Swan and Waters, as they used to say in Scooby Doo.
Truth stranger than fiction? I think we need Detective Swan in Scotland, maybe he could explain why knighted billionaire who bought the old BP plant at Grangemouth, and like his fictional alter-ego in Goldstone, promised a Klondike of local jobs, which never happened, and led to mass sackings and industrial actions, but moved to Monaco for tax reasons, or non-tax reasons – he doesn’t want to pay tax – and had purchased what seemed like worthless bits of paper saying his company could drill for shale gas, when everybody knew that practice was outlawed in the United Kingdom – until this week. I’m quite willing to team up with Detective Swan. There’s certainly lots of corporate skulduggery and greed enough to be shared around.