This week on Cleverman, Liz realises that the time difference whilst Steph was travelling meant she couldn’t frantically text her thoughts to Stephanie; Nerida and Linda continue to be smarter and more competent than the men of the family (sadly, we don’t get to see much of Alinta); Blair makes a truly terrible pun; Kora calls Koen an arse; Sloan continues to be deplorably boring and Steph texts ‘wow WOW’ to Liz quite a lot.
Because we had to wait until Steph’s return to Australia to review these, we’re reviewing them together, plus a season overall.
Liz: Three renowned Indigenous stage actors out of five.
Steph: Three renowned Indigenous stage actors out of five.
Liz: Three renowned Indigenous stage actors out of five.
Steph: Three and a half renowned Indigenous stage actors out of five.
There sure has been a lot going on, hasn’t there?
No Award’s Feelpinions:
Okay so first, I’m so mad about Ash being an inexplicable pile of ash, and also when Blair (BLOODY BLAIR) is like “did you fuck her?”, as if Ash’s death means she loses her agency in being a willing participant in a shagging. How COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE. What a classic, classic fridging.
A text conversation:
Steph: Why is Marcus Graham still alive?
Liz: Every time a female character is fridged, a white man gets stronger
Aunty Linda is so great, everywhere. Every moment of Alinta is also excellent. Great use of Waaru yelling at his mum, thus making him more morally culpable/terrible. Everything about the beach fight was fantastic, because it was all bitterness and family and knowing exactly, exactly where it hurts.
I’m really over the pregnancy storyline, but I’m definitely, definitely unimpressed with Jorah Mormont’s gaslighting of Frances – did that clinic exist literally solely so that he could have his wife impregnated with scientifically dubious business? I am pretty confident that he did. Liz and I were really hoping that he’d die in the finale, and that he appears to have survived is the worst.
I’m over all of the white-person storylines. I get that they exist in part because Cleverman is, in its way, the story of Australia, and the story of Australia includes shitty white-person narratives, but the storylines are frustrating and boring and terrible and full of deplorable people. If I must witness deplorable people, can’t I just have complex, deplorable brown people? We already have Indigenous Australians in the role of deplorable (Waaru a lot, that uncle who wouldn’t teach Latani to fight), and Asian-Australians in the role of deplorable (East Asian Evil Lab Tech; South Asian Evil CA Headset Dude (call me)). I’m set!
I have a lot of questions and they all remain unanswered, and I don’t know if I’m happy or sad about that. I am, at the very least, happy that we’re moving towards a season two. I look forward to more Indigenous superheroes, and also more Indigenous ladies.
I’m currently watching Underground, a US cable drama about a group of escaped slaves making their way from Georgia to the north, and that also has a frustrating and often dull subplot about a white couple with fertility issues. Is this compulsory for any series that dares focus on people of colour?
I was quite cross at the reductive and objectifying treatment of Ash’s death, however much I appreciate inappropriate puns (why did her body turn to ash, anyway?), and that enhanced my discomfort with the treatment of Charlotte’s pregnancy.
I should confess that one of my problematic faves when it comes to tropes is Terrible Alien Pregnancies — but Orphan Black has been doing Mad (Reproductive) Science stories so well that Cleverman‘s failings become more obvious. Charlotte’s agency and power have been stripped away as the story progresses, and it’s incredibly frustrating that she can’t get a win.
By contrast, Araluen gets an amazing win, killing Matthews (ABOUT TIME) and escaping from the brothel — but her story is left hanging. The last we see of her is her running through an urban wilderness, resplendent in a hoodie and evening gown. A great moment, but I wish we could have seen her reunited with her family and reintegrated into the main plot before the final cliffhanger.
The other women get great moments, from Linda’s breakdown and recovery to Alinta’s loyalty to Latani (my new OTP!), and Kora returning to her dimension. (Linda shouting at Blake was also a highlight.) But this is mostly a story about blokes. Which is fine, men have their place, I guess, but I was a bit disappointed by the overall imbalance. It especially annoyed me that Nerida wasn’t there for Linda.
I’m also disappointed because I somehow got the idea that Slade was killed in the final fight with Koen — never quilt and review, guys — so there came a point where I texted Stephanie to tell her that Waruu is the worst, even worse than the special effects for the Namorrodor. WELL, HE IS. He told his mum he was glad she had cancer! YOU DON’T GET TO SPEAK THAT WAY TO DEBORAH MAILMAN!
Now, reading all this, you might think I didn’t enjoy it at all. And that would be wrong! I liked Cleverman a lot, and I will buy the Blu-ray when it comes out, but it had a few serious flaws. Some, like the pacing, will be resolved as the writers get more experience; others, like the treatment of women, require a more complex discussion. (If Ryan Griffen is reading this — I will totally buy you a beer and ramble happily about Latani and how she is a superheroine in her own right next time you’re in Melbourne.)
- Nerida’s breakdown in the patio area between apartments was great! (Sad, obviously, but great)
- That cage business, wtf
- You know shit’s getting real when one bloke calls another a dog
Wish list for Season Two:
- Better pacing
- Jarrod Slade to spontaneously combust in the first 30 seconds and then never be heard from again
- Not necessarily more women, just better use of the women
- Koen’s FACE
- If we MUST continue with white person stories, some varied evil (or not evil) Asians please to brown it all out
This one isn’t a wish for the show itself, but for the fandom: Cleverman has the makings of a perfect Yuletide and Festivids fandom, and I really hope we get some great fic and vids for it. But please, for the love of baby quokkas, don’t write fic featuring the Dreaming, don’t make up Dreaming stories, just leave that whole field to the people it belongs to.