Secret City

4 out of 5

Created by: Joanna Werner

covers season 1

You know what doesn’t really matter in Secret City?  Sexuality and gender identification.  And yet you have a prominent trans woman character, and a gay character, and excepting one sudden hiccup of a conversation between two people who have been involved with the woman, neither of these elements play a role in the story.  They’re just characters.  The trans woman (played by Damon Herriman) certainly has to shirk off some frustrating comments from co-workers – which is sadly likely the reality of living that life – and this does result in a purposefully demoralizing moment for the character, Kim, but the point is still not exactly her identification.  For a couple of episodes, I kept expecting some obnoxiously loud shoe to drop where they started addressing this aspect of things, but: nope.  Kim plays a vital role in the story.  She happens to be trans.

While I don’t know if this was intentional, this is representative of a lot of what Secret City represents: expectations.  For the viewer, we might expect this to evolve into some typical TV timely commentary, but it doesn’t.  For the plot, SC involves a political mess between Australia and China – Kim is part of a government agency monitoring communications, interest piqued in a curious death by her reporter ex-wife Harriet, played by Anna Torv – and the expectations of the public of their government, and how those are constantly thwarted by an endless slew of backchannel maneuvering and I’m-not-saying-this-but-you-know-what-I’m-saying information.  The show is something of a low key thriller, with technology and conspiracies and journo research and reach presented (to me) realistically and believably, but man does it prove its worth by translating those mundanities into tense stakes, which have our characters flung from relative safety to danger in a heartbeat.  We’re kept mostly in tow with Harriet’s digging in to that death, which is, of course, wrapped up in whatever’s going on between the two aforementioned countries, as war brews and Snowden name-drops cue us in to informational security concerns, and putting us on ground level with her progress prevents the series from pulling any overtly twisty nonsense.

There is a bit of a stretch to keep things going, even at six episodes; declarations of “I’m doing this for so-and-so” are made multiple times, and once, at episode four or five, the main story chunks are in place, we’re essentially just waiting for the fallout, there are enough characters and enough moving gears to keep the viewing continually interesting.

No points docked for the most ridiculously boring credit sequence ever.

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