Cleverman, the Australian-New Zealand and American television series, which premiered on U.S. Sundance and ABC Australia networks on June 1, illustrates one of the most twisted ways that various communities can co-exist in the same society.
The show brings a touch of fantasy, dystopia, and claustrophobia into a single setting filled with a lot of hate and remorse between two communities, which the greater society and by extension the government has sought to manipulate for private gain.
Cleverman stars Hunter Page-Lochard as Keon West who inherits Cleverman powers from his half-brother’s uncle, Jimmy (Jack Charles) at the expense of Waruu West (Rob Collins), the next in line. The story revolves around the two half-brothers that have been set on a collision course by their uncle, who just before dying passes his Cleverman powers to Keon, rather than Waruu.
The Cleverman has featured in several Australian aboriginal cultures over the years and is mainly depicted as an important figure in the society who connects the present and the dreaming.
However, in the Cleverman TV show, the Cleverman is a very powerful figure in the society, who possesses the ability to give a breath of life, heal, summon spiritual creatures from the skies, use telepathy, and others yet to be revealed in future episodes.
Aboriginal Australian folklore gets familiar sci-fi take in SundanceTV's ‘Cleverman' https://t.co/f4gygjL975— tbt* (@tbtnewspaper) May 30, 2016
Another interesting storyline of Cleverman revolves around the livelihoods of the Hairy people (Hairies) and their relationship with the government and the society as a whole.
After the government ordered the Hairies who wished to blend in the society to shave their hairs and maintain a human-like appearance and behavior, those who refused to ditch their traditional look were confined in a “safety zone,” one which they are not allowed to leave.
However, living conditions inside “The Zone” are far from accommodating, and this has resulted in a strained relationship between the Hairies and those who chose to shave their hair and are still living within the dystopic zone.
The situation on the ground is well illustrated in the season premiere when Keon and his friend Blair Finch (Ryan Corr) collude to lure a family of Hairy people outside “The Zone” with the promise of a better place to live in.
Keon then makes a call to the “sick and twisted” media organization, which, with the help of the police, end up killing a Hairy minor. Keon gets his paycheck for providing information which led to the arrest of three members of the Hairy family including Boondee (Tony Briggs), the head of the family.
On the other hand, the media organization comes up with a strikingly cold story by airing all the events that took place during the arrest, including a gruesome altercation between Djukara (Tysan Towney) and the police officers.
Meanwhile, after realizing what his half-brother did, Waruu West, together with a member of the Hairy people, confronts Keon, and in the process, Keon’s finger is ripped off. This is one of the facts about the Hairy people that scare the rest of the society.
While the Cleverman has his supernatural powers, the Hairy people are hardened and have extra strength, and their fingernails are pointed and extremely sharp. This makes them fearsome and unpredictable.
Nonetheless, due to the Cleverman powers that Keon possesses his finger is reattached after placing it back to its position. This is when he truly realizes that he has inherited Cleverman powers from his dead uncle. He even cuts his hand in front of his friends to confirm that he is now the Cleverman.
While Cleverman has received a modest IMDb rating of just 5.9, its Rotten Tomatoes ratings are high at 88. This explains why the series has already been renewed for a second season as of June 2, following the premiere episode.
Oceania fantasy television series appear to be growing an audience following the success of The Shannara Chronicles, which was renewed by MTV for Season 2 in April. Cleverman looks set to follow that path.
[Image via Sundance]