When Ryan Griffen noticed that there were no indigenous superheroes for his son to look up to, he came up with the basic concept of Cleverman, which blossomed into a six-part TV series that takes the tales of The Dreaming and applies them to a dystopian Australia. Despite the show’s futuristic setting, parallels with modern Australia run deep, from government run detention camps for Hairypeople (a stand-in for numerous oppressed people), through to indigenous rights and identity.
Koen West (Hunter Page-Lochard) is a disenfranchised bar owner, who thinks nothing of grassing up “illegal” Hairypeople immigrants, aka Hairies, in return for cash. He’s clearly a man out of touch with his own heritage. Inheriting the title of Cleverman from his Uncle Paddy (Jack Charles no less), and much to the chagrin of his older brother, Waruu (Rob Collins), Koen must reluctantly defend his people from the creatures that dwell in Sydney’s shadows. Elsewhere, we follow two members of a hairy family, Araleun (Tasma Walton) and Djukara (Tysan Towney), who have been incarcerated in different ways. We even stop off to watch Game Of Thrones’ Iain Glen playing a businessman with a dodgy line of work.
Cleverman is rich detail, and you can get joyfully lost in discovering the stories that influenced its narrative. There’s so much going on in Cleverman that the first episode hits the ground running and refuses to wait for those who can’t keep up. That eventually becomes an issue, as with only six episodes to unspool its numerous threads, Cleverman does leave some frustratingly by the wayside come the finale. This, however, simply highlights how engrossing the show is, with Koen having to perform the same rights of passage any superhero has to, as well as plugging himself back in to his own heritage. With a second season already greenlit, Cleverman is sure to become an important TV property.