Worried about what the government might be able to do with your metadata? You ain’t seen nothing yet.
I can’t think of any Australian TV thriller that’s as beautifully plotted as The Code. It’s a cynical and intelligent look at power and surveillance, and just how far it can reach across the country, right here and now. But above that, it’s packed full of irresistible, edge-of-your-seat revelations and an essential chase for truth.
In a fictional, remote town called Lindara, two teenagers are involved in a serious, suspicious car accident. At the same time, Ned Banks (Dan Spielman), a journalist working for an independent news site “Password”, is given an explosive story about a government MP from a government communications director. Ned plays executioner, running the story and causing serious harm to the MP’s career, but inside the file the communications director handed him, there’s a reference to Lindara. Ned is instantly suspicious — what does an accident out in the middle of nowhere have to do with Canberra?
With the help of his hacker brother Jesse (Ashley Zukerman), who has Aspergers, and Alex (Lucy Lawless), a teacher from the indigenous school in Lindara, Ned tries to uncover that connection, but finds himself up against something bigger and darker than he’d anticipated.
Along with creator and writer Shelley Birse’s complex but accessible narrative, the show benefits from slick cinematography and a distinctive visual style, thanks to director Shawn Seet (who directed many episodes from the various Underbelly series). He juxtaposes a espionage-saturated image of Canberra with the empty expansiveness of the outback (filmed on location in Broken Hill). Canberra actually comes out looking quite sexy as politicians and public servants throw their weight around the corridors of Parliament House.
Whenever somebody is browsing the net, or hacking into a system, we see screen details superimposed across the characters’ faces as they search. One particular hacking sequence, where Jesse realises he’s been discovered and hacked in return, is full of tension. A chase plays out across the internet that’s as thrilling as any action sequence you’ll see on TV.
It’s also well-acted across the board, but there’s particularly strong work from Ashley Zukerman and Lucy Lawless (yes, Xena!) in the first episode. David Wenham is also appropriately menacing in his brief appearance as the Deputy Prime Minister and Adam Garcia turns in an energetic performance as the editor of “Password”.
Much will depend on how the stories unfold and how the various, divergent plot points come together. But after the first episode, there are questions you can’t wait to have answered.
The premiere episode of The Code airs Sunday 21 September at 8.30pm on ABC. The series is made up of six one-hour episodes.