The Kates' Smart and Hilarious Murder-Mystery 'Deadloch' Kills It as a Crime Drama and as a Comedy
Get cracking — Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan's new series is one of the streaming highlights of the year.
June 02, 2023
Trust Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan, Australia's favourite Kates and funniest double act, to make a killer TV show about chasing a killer that's the perfect sum of two excellent halves. Given their individual and shared backgrounds, including creating and starring in cooking show sendup The Katering Show and morning television spoof Get Krack!n, the pair unsurprisingly add another reason to get chuckling to their resumes; however, with Deadloch, they also turn their attention to crime procedurals. The Kates already know how to make viewers laugh. They've established their talents as brilliant satirists and lovers of the absurd in the process. Now, splashing around those skills in Deadloch's exceptional eight-episode first season — which streams via Prime Video from Friday, June 2 — they've also crafted a dead-set stellar murder-mystery series.
Taking place in a sleepy small town, commencing with a body on a beach, and following both the local cop trying to solve the case and the gung-ho blow-in from a big city leading the enquiries, Deadloch has all the crime genre basics covered from the get-go. The spot scandalised by the death is a sitcom-esque quirky community, another television staple that McCartney and McLennan nail. Parody requires deep knowledge and understanding; you can't comically rip into and riff on something if you aren't familiar with its every in and out. That said, Deadloch isn't in the business of simply mining well-worn TV setups and their myriad of conventions for giggles, although it does that expertly. With whip-smart writing, the Australian series is intelligent, hilarious, and all-round cracking as a whodunnit-style noir drama and as a comedy alike — and one of the streaming highlights of the year.
The place: Tasmania, in the fictional locale that gives Deadloch its name (that Deadloch Lake means 'dead lake lake' doesn't go unmentioned). That first body: a local gym owner and ProBro entrepreneur ("it's protein for bros," is the sales pitch), who'll soon have burning pubic hair, too ("holy shit, his dick's on fire," is the response). The key police duo: Senior Sergeant Dulcie Collins (Kate Box, Stateless), a by-the-book type who traded being a stressed Sydney homicide detective for a quieter life for her vet wife Cath (Alicia Gardiner, Wakefield); and Darwin Major Crimes division's Eddie Redcliffe (Madeleine Sami, The Breaker Upperers), who asks "how long has shrivel dick been dead for?" about the deceased, is as loud as her Hawaiian shirts and fluoro camouflage getup, and intends to catch the easy culprit ASAP so she can hightail it back north. That Deadloch's initial victim is male gives the standard dead-girl trope an instant a gender-switched twist — even the genre's best, from Twin Peaks and The Killing to True Detective and Top of the Lake, have leaned upon it — but that isn't the source of Deadloch's humour, nor should it be.
As recent comedy hits Only Murders in the Building and The Afterparty also know, murder itself isn't amusing either. Rather, it's the chaos around it and the people who get caught up in it that can be comic, which is where Deadloch frequently tickles ribs — that, and lampooning everything from small-town gentrification and tourist-courting winter festivals to arrogant detective archetypes and the male-centric world order, plus the show's glorious way with dialogue and Aussie swearing. Again, the series isn't funny because heterosexual white men comprise its rising body count, or because women are doing the investigating. The way that Deadloch's blokes react, the pressure piled on from the top and the frenzy swirling around is pointedly sidesplitting, though. This is a whodunnit with something to say, because there's no escaping the vast difference between the urgent demands for action from its fictional males and the off-screen reality when women are killed.
Who did it? As Eddie leaps to obvious conclusions amid spitting out a non-stop barrage of insults, Dulcie's detective muscle memory kicks in. Deadloch's odd couple have help from constables Abby Matsuda (Nina Oyama, Koala Man) and Sven Alderman (Tom Ballard, Fully Furnished) — one as eager as can be, especially with forensics; the other affable but seeing policing as just as job — and hear theories from almost everyone. That includes doctor and mayor Aleyna Rahme (Susie Youssef, Rosehaven), the driving force behind Deadloch's just-commenced Dark Mofo-influenced Winter Feastival, who is determined to keep the festivities going. And, as Eddie struggles with baggage from back home and Dulcie grapples with investigating her friends, their quest also leads them to Margaret Carruthers (Pamela Rabe, Wentworth), the town's most powerful figure, whose husband was Deadloch's previous mayor.
Also adding thoughts and complications: new widow Vanessa Latham (Katie Robinson, Five Bedrooms); bakery owner Vic O'Dwyer (Kris McQuade, Irreverent) and her gastropub chef daughter Skye (Holly Austin, Miss Fisher & the Crypt of Tears); the rabble-rousing Phil McGangus (Shaun Martindale, Sissy); obnoxious pathologist James King (Nick Simpson-Deeks, Winners & Losers); and aspiring AFLW player Tammy Hampson (Leonie Whyman, Mystery Road: Origin) and her studious cousin Miranda Hoskins (Kartanya Maynard, The Messenger). The list goes on, with the pool of suspects similarly broad. Whether they're vocally vicious — Phil spews misogynist vitriol, particularly about Deadloch's influx of lesbian tree-changers — or seemingly oblivious, this cast of characters is also aware that the town's facade isn't as calm and cosy as it appears. Indeed, McCartney and McLennan examine Australia's horrific race-relations history as well as the country's gender politics, interrogating how both blighted the show's setting long before multiple murders upset its supposed idyll.
If The Kates had penned Deadloch as a book, it'd be a can't-put-down page-turner. On streaming, as cinematographers Katie Milwright (The Clearing) and Simon Ozolins (Heartbreak High) revel in a Tasmanian gothic look, their tale is that propulsive and addictive. And, the show's deeply layered writing — with Sami, Kim Wilson (Wentworth), Christian White (Clickbait), Anchuli Felicia King (Class of '07) and Kirsty Fisher (Mustangs FC) scripting with McCartney and McLennan — couldn't have a better roster of actors bringing it to life under directors Ben Chessell (The Great), Gracie Otto (Seriously Red) and Beck Cole (Black Comedy). Playing it straight and giving the series its emotional centre, Box could've walked straight in from Broadchurch. Tasked with thundering in, Sami is a comic genius as Eddie, ensuring that the character's unflinching honesty couldn't be more pivotal, and that Eddie is never a one-note OTT outsider.
Trust McCartney and McLennan to give TV another tremendous pairing, swapping their own The Katering Show and Get Krack!n dynamic for Box and Sami killing it. Trust them to leave viewers with the feeling that every The Kates' project leaves: wanting more right now. Their time as a food intolerant and an intolerable foodie ran over two seasons, then their breakfast television stint repeated the feat. Here's hoping that Deadloch at least matches them — while its creators don't grace the screen this time, this crime-comedy ranks among The Kates' best work in every other way.
Check out the trailer for Deadloch below:
Deadloch streams via Prime Video from Friday, June 2.
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