Catching up with Australian political thriller The Code

This post is about Series 1 of The Code.


The last couple of weeks have been busy, so it was only last night I realised that a bit of a gem is currently being shown in the BBC4 Saturday night crime slot.

The Code is a six-part Australian political thriller, which begins with the mysterious death of Aboriginal teenager Sheyna Smith in Lindara, a remote New South Wales township. For reasons that are unclear, the circumstances of her death have to be hushed up, so when Ned Banks (a journalist for an internet newspaper) and his brother Jesse (an internet hacker on the autistic spectrum) start to investigate, trouble comes a-calling. Back in Lindara, Sheyna’s schoolteacher Alex Wisham gets pulled into the case in unexpected ways.

Jesse does stuff that he most probably shouldn’t do

I caught up with the first episode this evening, and very much liked what I saw. The plot is gripping, the characterisation is excellent, and the production is sleek and stylish, with wonderful shots of the Australian outback calling to mind New Zealand’s Top of the Lake. By coincidence, the character of Ian Bradley is played by David Wenham, who also appeared in Top of the Lake, and there’s another well-known face in Lucy Lawless (Xena; Spartacus; Battlestar Galactica) as Alex Wisham. Dan Spielman and Ashley Zukerman create a very nice dynamic as brothers Ned and Jesse.

Shades of Top of the Lake (wide open spaces hiding secrets and lies), The Bridge (young Jesse) and Sherlock (the neat use of graphics) – what’s not to like?

There’s an article exploring the drama with its creator Shelley Birse over in The Guardian (some spoilers). Note also the irony of an Australian political thriller being partially funded by the Australian government!

There’s a BBC guide to the characters and cast here.

24 thoughts on “Catching up with Australian political thriller The Code

      • With luck. It seems to have taken PBS a bit of a time to realize there’s good Oz TV as wellb as good UK TV, but they’ve been showing the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries, so maybe the breakthrough has come at last.

      • Fingers crossed. We’ve not had that much NZ or Oz TV crime drama shown here, but it’s an obvious market to explore, given that we share a common language.

  1. I’ve been downloading The Code from torrent files (I live in the States and hate waiting for good foreign dramas to actually air here) and absolutely LOVE this series! I was thrilled to see the incredibly versatile Ashley Zukerberg cast as the techy savant. For those who are interested, he’s had a good sized role in Manhattan (period drama about Oppenheimer and the bomb) in which he equally excelled.

  2. Totally agree Mrs P. I’m also finding The Code really very gripping, as with the other Aussie drama, Secrets and Lies currently being shown on Channel 5. The Aussies make some very good dramas like The Slap a couple of years ago. We should really get more of them. Hint hint BBC4…..

    • Thanks kathy p. There do seem to be some great Aussie dramas coming our way at the moment. I’ll certainly be seeking out more in the future – splendid stuff.

  3. Wow. On your recommendation, we have just dipped into the first two episodes. Very classy. Can it hold up? Fear that it may run away with itself but the characters are beautifully drawn and that first episode set up an extraordinary pace, quite unusual for a new serial – they often warm on you. There are clearly a few twists to come but the hint of rotten odour from the establishment is always a useful ingredient for the likes of me! See you guys on Saturday. Hwyl Gordon


    • Great isn’t it? Really glad you’re enjoying, Gordon. Glad too that I spotted it, as it had nearly passed me by. I know what you mean about series sometimes not managing to fulfil their early expectations. The first few episodes are often full of promise, but so much depends on the finale. Happily, I’ve already heard lots of positive reports about episodes 3 and 4…I think I may try them out this evening. And yes, just down our collective political street 🙂

    • Thanks, crimeworm – glad we’ve made contact!

      I watched the last couple of episodes earlier this week, and thought they pulled off a very good ending. A really strong series all the way through.

  4. Thanks Mrs P for the tip off. It must be a cultural thing but I find that when I first watch a drama series from a country I am unfamiliar with it takes me some time to adjust to the differences viz Catarella the comic almost slapstick policeman in Inspector Montalbano or the very stilted and inaccurate representation of of a person with Autistic spectrum or Aspergers by the female police-officer Saga Norén in the series “The Bridge”, played by Swedish actress Sofia Helin, In contrast Ashley Zukerman played Jesse Banks superbly in my opinion.

    • Thanks, billiobob. I know what you mean about that kind of cultural adjustment (not sure I ever quite got the hang of Catarella), and I agree that the characterisation of Jesse in The Code was excellent. I also very much liked the interplay between him and his brother – the complexities of their relationship were beautifully and sensitively portrayed.

  5. Hi!

    I just wondered about the portrayal of the aborigine culture in this show, given the premise – is it sensitively dealt with or problematic? I’m reluctant to watch it if it’s problematic and/or stereotyped! I’m a huge crime drama fan, but often find non-problematic portrayals of non-normative issues hard to come by – if it isn’t degrading to women, it is to someone else. Incidentally, in relation to one of your other posts, I did like The Fall – it is by no means revolutionary or groundbreaking, but there are some attempts (not always successful) to explore the role of women, especially in positions of power, that make it (I personally feel) easier to watch than quite a lot of others!

    • Hi Lizzy,

      I thought that the portrayal of aboriginal culture in The Code was very sensitively handled. I can’t really say more without giving lots of the plot away, but I thought it steered a good course, particularly in its portrayal of power dynamics. Is there stereotyping? I didn’t think so, but a different viewer might see things that I didn’t see. Would be interested in hearing your view if you do watch it.

      Thanks for your take on The Fall as well. Not quite in the right place to watch myself as yet, but that may change!

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