Deep Water

I promised Stephanie that I’d watch SBS miniseries Deep Water over the weekend, and report back to No Award about (a) whether or not it’s worth watching, and (b) whether it contained any amazing/hilarious auscore.

Unfortunately, my plan hit the most Australian snag ever — my internet was too slow to stream the final two episodes via the SBS app. And I’m on the NBN. I mean, really.

(I was attempting to airplay to my AppleTV from my iPad — I might have had better luck hooking my laptop up to the TV, but I was like, come on, it’s 2016, we’re not animals here! Also, I have to rearrange half my living area to make a stable place for the laptop to sit, and it’s all a lot of effort when the series is just $9.99 on iTunes. Or $7.99 in standard definition, and let’s face it, it’s not like I have the bandwidth for HD or a TV that will do it justice.)

The fact that I’m going to pay money to finish the series probably answers question (a) — I was enjoying it, and found it a worthwhile way to spend a Saturday evening (but not enough to move my laptop). But Stephanie was probably expecting a proper post, and I guess that’s fair, so…

Deep Water is inspired by true events. In the 70s and 80s, there was an epidemic of assaults on gay men in the Bondi area, along with an improbable number of “accidental” deaths, some of which may have been the work of a serial killer. Thanks to homophobia, little was done about it: victims were reluctant to report to the police, the police didn’t really care, and the media didn’t pay much attention. Most shockingly, it seems likely that most of these attacks and murders were committed by teenage boys. And, let’s reiterate, the possible serial killer.

The miniseries is part of a multi-pronged examination of these events by SBS. There are features on the deaths and contemporary investigations, interviews with people associated with the suspects — few of whom were ever caught or prosecuted — a series of podcasts, a documentary — and this, the fictionalised account. Everything can be accessed through this portal on the SBS site.

You may ask why, in the era of Making a Murderer and Serial, we needed a fictionalised version of this story at all. But with the real crimes still largely unsolved, and the victims’ families still actively seeking justice, maybe they’re supplying the resolution and justice that real life hasn’t provided. (Maybe. I’ve only seen half the series, remember.)

Or maybe it’s just an opportunity to get some talented Australian actors and let them do their thing amidst beautiful scenery. The series stars Yael Stone, best known as Morello, the manic pixie nightmare girl with a horrimazing accent on Orange is the New Black, with Noah “I had such a crush on him ten years ago” Taylor, along with William McInnes, Danielle Cormack and a truly hideous fake moustache that spends its time glued to Taylor’s upper lip.

(I hope the moustache is fake, I couldn’t bear it if it were real.)


Tori Lustigman was a country cop, but she and her son have moved back to Sydney after the breakdown of her marriage. She’s partnered with Nick Manning, an odd combination of condescension, sad puppy dog eyes and terrible facial hair.

The series is set in the present day, opening with Tori called away from the beach on Australia Day to the scene of a shocking murder: a young gay man has been killed and mutilated in his beachside flat. It looks like a crime of passion, but Tori goes from zero to SERIAL KILLER like she’s already read the back of the DVD. Which, in a way, she has — her brother drowned at Bondi in the late ’80s, and she has long held doubts about his death. So she’s not really surprised when it becomes clear that a serial killer is targeting gay men via a hook-up app called Thrustr. (I know. I know.)

What you should picture for Deep Water is the complexity and melancholy of a Scandi drama, but on a beach. Tori isn’t as aloof and emotionally unavailable as the archetypical Scandinavian heroine, but, despite her introduction as the everywoman the audience can identify with, she’s still deeply flawed and complicated.

This leads to a great twist in the second episode, where Tori and Nick are being investigated after Nick fatally shoots an armed suspect. We’ve been invited to identify with Tori and her naked disapproval of Nick’s actions, so it’s extra-shocking when the investigators — including surprise!Renee Lim — pull the rug out from under her, pointing out all the ways she’s responsible for letting the situation develop.

My main beef with the show is probably not going to be shared by everyone — but because so many victims and suspects are white men, I had an awful lot of trouble telling characters apart. (It took me an episode and a half just to recognise William McInnes — for ninety minutes, I was calling him Guy Who Ate A Sherbie In His First Scene. Sherbie Guy for short, obvs.)

It’s weird to have an SBS show with so many white people, although that’s mostly just the second episode (s0 far) — the first contemporary murder victim is a Muslim, who fought with his Iranian boyfriend about whether or not to come out to his family. That may change again in the final two episodes?

Just how Australian is this show?

For Stephanie, a round-up of #auscore elements:

  • William McInnes’s Sherbie
  • (I love Sherbies so much, you have no idea how many I eat at Continuum committee meetings. It’s a problem. A delicious problem.)
  • Sooooooooooooo many beach scenes
  • But no shots of the Harbour Bridge or Opera House, ‘cos SBS doesn’t have to pander to international audiences SO THERE
  • Craig McLachlan is there
  • There’s a subplot about the police letting a promising rugby league player get away with super sketchy stuff
  • The whole Grim Reaper ad is shown
  • That advertisement is truly terrifying, and also horrible in terms of its “welp, AIDs has been a thing for a few years, but now it’s killing the straights, so we’ve decided to care” subtext



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