Twelve Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream This Month
Spend your couch time watching an Emma Corrin-led murder-mystery, 'Scott Pilgrim' in anime and Awkwafina's new comedy.
November 30, 2023
Not all that long ago, the idea of getting cosy on your couch, clicking a few buttons, and having thousands of films and television shows at your fingertips seemed like something out of science fiction. Now, it's just an ordinary night — whether you're virtually gathering the gang to text along, cuddling up to your significant other or shutting the world out for some much needed me-time.
Of course, given the wealth of options to choose from, there's nothing ordinary about making a date with your chosen streaming platform. The question isn't "should I watch something?" — it's "what on earth should I choose?".
Hundreds of titles are added to Australia's online viewing services each and every month, all vying for a spot on your must-see list. And, so you don't spend 45 minutes scrolling and then being too tired to actually commit to anything, we're here to help. We've spent plenty of couch time watching our way through this month's latest batch — and, from the latest and greatest through to old and recent favourites, here are our picks for your streaming queue from November's haul.
BRAND NEW STUFF YOU CAN WATCH FROM START TO FINISH NOW
SCOTT PILGRIM TAKES OFF
When word arrived that a new version of Scott Pilgrim was on its way, it felt as inevitable as the person of your dreams having a complicated romantic past. That said, making a Scott Pilgrim anime series also felt more fitting than most similar movie-to-TV jumps. Thanks to the manga-style aesthetic that filled Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novels, the video game-esque plot about battling seven evil exes and the cartoon vibe that Edgar Wright brought so engagingly to his 2010 big-screen live-action adaptation, imagining how O'Malley and co-writer/co-producer BenDavid Grabinski (Are You Afraid of the Dark?) — plus Wright (Last Night in Soho) again as an executive producer — could bring that to an eight-part animation was instantly easy. And so, called Scott Pilgrim Takes Off rather than Scott Pilgrim vs the World, this series begins as a straightforward Scott Pilgrim anime, introducing the same tale that's been spread across pages and cinemas (and played through via a video game, too) right down to repeated shots and dialogue.
Meet Scott Pilgrim again, then. The Michael Cera (Barbie)-voiced twentysomething bassist is once more fated to fall in love with literal dream girl Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ahsoka), who first appears to him as he slumbers, then fight the seven folks who dated her before him. When sparks fly, he also has his own amorous mess to deal with, including that he's dating high-schooler Knives Chau (Ellen Wong, Best Sellers) and remains heartbroken over being dumped by now-superstar singer Envy Adams (Brie Larson, The Marvels). He's still in Sex Bob-Omb! alongside his friend Stephen Stills (Mark Webber, SMILF) and ex Kim Pine (Alison Pill, Hello Tomorrow!). He still gets Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha, Sense8) introducing him to his battles to be with Ramona. Accordingly, just like Kim shouting "we are Sex Bob-Omb!" at the beginning of a set, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off starts with comfortable familiarity. But at the end of its initial instalment, after every detail looks like the graphic novels and film given the anime treatment to the point of feeling uncanny, in drops the first twist. There's reimaginings, and then there's this playful take that adores the comics and movie, pays homage to them, riffs on and even openly references them, but charmingly shirks the idea of being a remake.
LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY
Brie Larson makes a great Captain Marvel. She's even better as Elizabeth Zott. In the 2015 Room Best Actress Oscar-winner's first non-franchise on-screen role since 2019's Just Mercy, she turns executive producer, too, guiding a page-to-screen adaptation of Bonnie Garmus' bestseller that needs her performance as its star ingredient. A chemistry genius and then a TV cooking show host who is forced to battle sexism as both, Elizabeth is as complicated as the holy-grail project that she works in secret as a lab technician, and as the recipes that she later perfects for television audiences. Regardless of whether you've read Lessons in Chemistry's 2022 source material or are coming anew to the small-screen version, the character is magnificent to watch because Larson steps into her shoes so completely. Elizabeth is direct, determined and conscientious. She's not just nonplussed about being likeable, but near-allergically averse to that being her primary goal. She's curious and dryly funny, too, albeit careful about who she's open with. But being serious and rightly cautious about how 50s and 60s America routinely disregards women doesn't mean that she's anything but authentic, whether she's asserting what she's always held dear, navigating life's traumas or finding space for others in her life.
Lessons in Chemistry starts with a brief jump forward to cameras and adoring viewers, and with Elizabeth's Supper at Six series an established hit. It'll take half of the broader show to get back to TV cooking with no-nonsense science explanations, an appreciation for domestic duties and an uplifted fanbase, but the opening burns an imprint, signalling that its lead character's days of being expected to make coffee for male-only Hastings Research Institute scientists are numbered. Although Elizabeth has a master's degree in chemistry, her Southern Californian employer cares little about that, or that she's the smartest person on their books, because she lacks a Y chromosome. Instead, they scold her for after-hours experiments — the only time that she can delve into her own work — and lack of interest in the company beauty pageant. It's at Hastings that Elizabeth meets Calvin Evans (Lewis Pullman, Outer Range), however, who inhabits another world when it comes to respect, yet resides on the exact same non-conformist turf. And it's through him and their romance that she'll meet his neighbour Harriet Sloane (Aja Naomi King, How to Get Away with Murder) in Los Angeles' Sugar Hill, in a series that expands upon the novel as it richly explores trauma and oppression.
After Selma, One Night in Miami and Judas and the Black Messiah arrives Rustin, the latest must-see movie about the minutiae of America's 60s-era civil rights movement. All four hail from Black filmmakers. All four tell vital stories. The entire quartet boasts phenomenal performances, too — complete with a Best Supporting Actor statuette for Judas and the Black Messiah's Daniel Kaluuya, plus nominations for his co-star Lakeith Stanfield and One Night in Miami's Leslie Odom Jr (Selma's David Oyelowo was robbed). Colman Domingo, an Emmy-winner for Euphoria and Tony-nominee for The Scottsboro Boys, deserves to join that Academy Awards list for his turn as Rustin's eponymous figure. His performance isn't merely powerful; it's a go-for-broke portrayal from a versatile talent at the top of his game while digging into the every inch of his part. Domingo doesn't only turn in a showcase effort in a career that's long been absent on-screen leading role, either; he's everything that Rustin hangs off of, soars around, and lives and breathes with. Focusing on Bayard Rustin, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom director George C Wolfe's latest feature already had a riveting and important tale to tell, but Domingo proves its stunning beating heart.
Rustin's namesake holds a place in history for a wealth of reasons, but here's one: it was at the event that he conceived, organised and gave almost everything he had to ensure took place that Martin Luther King Jr have his "I Have a Dream" speech. That moment at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963 will never be forgotten. Nor should Rustin's efforts in ensuring there was a protest — a historic demonstration with more than 200,000 attendees, in fact— to begin with against overwhelming pushback. Dr King (Aml Ameen, I May Destroy You) is a supporting player in this film, which explores the behind-the-scenes hustle and bustle from idea until the day, as well as Rustin's fight not just against racism but also homophobia as an openly gay Black man (including the battles he's forced to wage among his fellow crusaders for civil rights). Even while only covering a sliver of his subject's life, Wolfe largely takes the traditional biopic route, working with a script by Julian Breece (When They See Us) and Dustin Lance Black (an Oscar-winner for Milk); however, the potency of the Rustin's deeds and struggles, the importance of everything that he was rallying for and Domingo's electrifying lead performance all make his movie anything but standard.
Rustin streams via Netflix.
THE ARTFUL DODGER
For nearly two centuries, everyone has known the Artful Dodger's story. Charles Dickens wrote the character, aka Jack Dawkins, to life in 1838's Oliver Twist — and readers have thumbed through the pickpocket's part of the tale ever since. But what happened once the book's narrative ended? What if Fagin's apprentice was on the straight and narrow 15 years later, living in penal colony-era Australia? What if he was a navy-trained surgeon now plying his trade on the other side of the world from London, and great at it? What if Fagin is still alive despite Dickens' words on the page, and he's the latest convict arrival, complete with a plan that cares little about Dodge's new upstanding reputation? If you're wondering how the Aussie-set The Artful Dodger can exist, that's how: by telling the above story. Australian-made as well, with Jeffrey Walker (The Clearing), Corrie Chen (Bad Behaviour) and Gracie Otto (Seriously Red) directing, it's not an origin story — it's an after story. Two decades on from Love Actually, Thomas Brodie-Sangster (The Queen's Gambit) plays the show's namesake, while David Thewlis (Landscapers) is his former mentor.
This eight-part series also enlists a hefty lineup of Aussie talent, from Damon Herriman (The Portable Door), Miranda Tapsell (Aunty Donna's Coffee Cafe), Susie Porter (Mercy Road) and Tim Minchin (Upright) to Damien Garvey (Troppo), Jessica De Gouw (C*A*U*G*H*T) and Kym Gyngell (Black Snow). Chief among the homegrown actors is Maia Mitchell (Good Trouble) as Lady Belle Fox, daughter of the Governor, and an aspiring doctor herself — not that a female surgeon in the 1850s is approved of. That's the groundwork laid, with Dodge endeavouring to keep on the up and up, even with a shady gambling debt to pay on penalty of losing a hand, which he needs to continue his line of work; Fagin up to his usual scheming, plus ample gloating about how his pilfering instructions helped his protege earn his new calling: and Belle deeply uninterested in just finding a husband no matter what's expected of her. Energetically told, and always entertaining, the end result is anything but an old-school period piece.
The Artful Dodger streams via Disney+.
THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER
Daisy Ridley hasn't been on-screen enough in the past four years. After her pivotal role and excellent performance in the three most recent Star Wars movies adorned with Roman numerals — that'd be Episode VII — The Force Awakens, Episode VIII — The Last Jedi and Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker — neither Chaos Walking nor The Bubble have done her justice. The Marsh King's Daughter is her best part since her time as Rey, then, and a film that capitalises upon the resolve that she was so adept at portraying in the sprawling space opera. Here, Ridley is Helena Pelletier, in another flick that has father issues. She's also the titular figure, while Ben Mendelsohn (Secret Invasion) similarly swaps a tale set long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (aka his Rogue One: A Star Wars Story villain role) for something earthbound as that pivotal dad. Divergent and Voyagers director Neil Burger fills out his main cast with Brooklynn Prince (Cocaine Bear), Caren Pistorius (Unhinged), Garrett Hedlund (The United States vs Billie Holiday) and Gil Birmingham (Yellowstone), but it's both Ridley and Mendelsohn who unsurprisingly make this page-to-film thriller worth watching.
Here's a two-film trend: British actors named Daisy who were thrust to enormous fame via one big role, then took on American accents in movie adaptations of US books about complicated relationships in swampy surroundings. Where the Crawdads Sing made it to the screen first, of course. In The Marsh King's Daughter, everything that the young Helena (Prince) thought that she knew about her father is shattered when she discovers that their wilderness-based survivalist life in Michigan's remote reaches was been forged from kidnapping her mother Beth (Pistorius) and keeping her against her will. As an adult married to Stephen (Hedlund), and also a mother to Marigold (Joey Carson, House of Chains), the past she's spent decades trying to move on from returns to threaten her new family. Whether or not you've read Karen Dionne's 2017 book has no influence on knowing where this story will go, but Ridley is in sterling form. No one plays shady and downright chilling characters like Australia's own Mendo, too.
The Marsh King's Daughter streams via Prime Video.
Jeopardy! fans, or whichever quiz show takes your fancy, prepare to feel seen. If firing back answers while watching a daily slice of TV trivia or puzzles has ever been part of your routine, Quiz Lady understands, especially if you've ever built your schedule around it and found that half-hour stint your happy place. Since childhood, Anne Yum (Awkwafina, Renfield) has kept a standing date with Can't Stop the Quiz. Now in her 30s, she settles in nightly with her dog Mr Linguine — and she isn't just skilled at responding; rather, she's exceptional. Shy, introverted and terrified of public attention, she's content playing along from home instead of auditioning to give the real thing a go. Thanks to the title of director Jessica Yu (Misconception) and screenwriter Jen D'Angelo's (Totally Killer) movie, however, getting Anne into the studio doesn't come as a shock to audiences. For the character, it involves her mother absconding to Macao from her aged-care facility, leaving an $80,000 debt that local heavy Ken (Jon "Dumbfoundead" Park, Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens) comes to collect via dognapping, and Anne's chaotic older sister Jenny (Sandra Oh, Killing Eve) secretly filming a video of Anne in prime Can't Stop the Quiz savant mode, which goes viral.
For more Jeopardy! nods, Will Ferrell (Strays) plays host Terry McTeer, bringing his sketches in Alex Trebek's shoes in Saturday Night Live's Celebrity Jeopardy skits instantly to mind. Although he's not behind the microphone as he is in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, Jason Schwartzman joins Quiz Lady as the long-running Can't Stop the Quiz contestant who desperately wants McTeer's job, with his character feeling like a nod to Ken Jennings. That's all colour and texture, though. At this comedy's core is an adult coming-of-age story and a tale of two sisters finally finding common ground. Without Awkwafina and Oh splashing around their spectacular chemistry as those two squabbling siblings, and selling its slapstick antics and heartfelt emotions alike in the process — both gloriously playing against type, too — Quiz Lady could've easily faltered. With them, it's an entertaining odd-couple effort that's happily silly, frequently amusing and largely entertaining.
Quiz Lady streams via Disney+.
NEW AND RETURNING SHOWS TO CHECK OUT WEEK BY WEEK
It has always been impossible to watch TV shows by Nathan Fielder, including Nathan for You and The Rehearsal, without feeling awkwardness gushing from the screen. The films of Josh and Benny Safdie, such as Good Time and Uncut Gems, are such masterclasses in anxiety and chaos — and so astute at conveying life's anything-that-can-go-wrong-will certainty — that viewers can be forgiven for thinking that their chairs are jittering along with them. From Easy A, La La Land and Maniac to The Favourite and Poor Things, Emma Stone keeps proving an inimitable acting force. Combine Fielder, the Safdies and Stone on one series, then, and whatever sprang was always going to be a must-see. Exquisite new dark satire The Curse is also as extraordinary in its brilliance as it is excruciating in its discomfort. As well as co-creating the ten-part series, Fielder and Benny Safdie co-star, co-write and co-direct. Stone joins them on-screen and as an executive producer, with Benny's brother Josh doing the latter as well. The Safdies' regular collaborator Oneohtrix Point Never, aka Daniel Lopatin, gets the show buzzing with atmospheric agitation in one of his best scores yet — even after winning the Cannes Soundtrack Award for his unforgettable work on Good Time.
Yes, The Curse is everything that the sum of these parts promises. It's more, in fact, then even more again. It flows with disquiet like a burst hydrant. It fills each almost hour-long episode with a lifetime's worth of cringe. It's relentless in its unease second by second, moment by moment and scene by scene. It's also a marvellous, intense and hilarious black comedy that apes the metal Doug Aitken-esque houses that Stone and Fielder's Whitney and Asher Siegel like to build, reflecting oh-so-much about the world around it. The Curse takes the show-within-a-show route, with the Siegels eager to grace the world's screens as reality TV hosts. Their angle: environmentally sustainable passive homes that only use energy that they create, which Whitney and Asher consider their contribution to their adopted New Mexico hometown of Española. The newly married pair have American pay TV network Home & Garden Television interested in Fliplanthropy, as well as their efforts to green up the community, create jobs for locals, and revitalise a place otherwise equated with struggling and crime stats. Lurking between the couple and HGTV is producer Dougie Schecter (Safdie, Oppenheimer), Asher's slimy and manipulative childhood friend with a nose for sensationalism — particularly when he gets the scent of disharmony among his stars as they try to start a family, get their show on the air, build their gleaming houses, find ideal buyers, honour the area's Indigenous history and overcome The Curse's title.
A MURDER AT THE END OF THE WORLD
Whichever miniatures are stuffed inside a snow globe, a simple shake surrenders them all to the same fate: flakes falling in their tiny dome. Pop culture's enduring murder-mystery obsession can feel much the same way. When the pieces start raining down in Disney+'s seven-part miniseries A Murder at the End of the World, there's much that instantly feels familiar from a heavily populated field of recent and classics whodunnits. That checklist includes a confined single setting, potential victims cooped up with an unknown killer, rampant secrets and lies, fingers pointed everywhere, Nordic noir's frosty climes, an eerie butler, a wealthy host who might just have the most to lose and, of course, a gifted gumshoe sleuthing through the group. A Murder at the End of the World radiates its own Gen Z Sherlock Holmes vibe, though. That's even how its sharp protagonist is described, and early. In the role of 24-year-old hacker-turned-author Darby Hart, who is invited by billionaire recluse Andy Ronson (Clive Owen, American Crime Story) to an intimate Iceland symposium of bright minds, Emma Corrin (Lady Chatterley's Lover) also turns Agatha Christie.
The OA creators Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij have put their own intriguing, involving, can't-stop-watching spin on their addition to the genre, as they make clear early. As the duo share writing duties and split time in the director's chair — with Marling also co-starring — they take cues from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Stieg Larsson's sequels as well, all while also sliding their series in alongside Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery; however, the mood, ambition, pursuit of weighty themes, shadowy conspiracies, earnestness and love of telling puzzle-box tales match perfectly with their last show, plus their film collaborations Sound of My Voice and The East. Two timelines unspool: the present-day storyline at the ideas salon, where bodies soon start falling; and the the road trip that Darby took with fellow Reddit-aided citizen detective Bill Farrah (Harris Dickinson, Scrapper) to solve the case that fuels her debut novel. Both are compelling; shake this snow globe for more and you won't want to stop.
MONARCH: LEGACY OF MONSTERS
Godzilla is still big, but the picture around cinema's most-famous kaiju gets smaller in Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, the Japanese-created creature's new TV series. This ten-episode show sits within the American Monsterverse, which has previously filled movie theatres with 2014's Godzilla, 2017's Kong: Skull Island, 2019's Godzilla: King of the Monsters and 2021's Godzilla vs Kong — and it hits streaming with a scaled-down focus on family drama. People matter in Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, far more than they have in any of the US franchise's instalments so far. The folks hopping around the globe chasing the giant critter and its fellow titans are also worth caring about. As a result, there's nothing little about how engaging Monarch: Legacy of Monsters proves. Getting Kurt and Wyatt Russell involved helps. The real-life father-son pair portray the same character with not just ease but charisma. Wyatt slips into Lee Shaw's military uniform in the 1950s, Kurt (Fast and Furious 9) plays the retired elder version in the mid-2010s, and jokes reference how well the pivotal figure has aged to make the maths work out (in the later timeline, Shaw has to be in his 90s). Needing to make that gag is worth it for such stellar and captivating casting.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters isn't about Shaw's family, however — at least not as bonded by blood. In 2015, a year after the G-Day events of the 2014 film, San Franciscan teacher Cate Randa (Anna Sawai, Pachinko) is suffering from kaiju-inflicted PTSD and mourning her missing father Hiroshi (Takehiro Hira, Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story), making a trip to Japan to pack up his Tokyo apartment challenging several times over. There, she finds artist Kentaro (Ren Watabe, 461 Days of Bento), a shared history and links to secret government monster-hunting organisation Monarch. Those ties comes courtesy of a satchel filled with documents that Bill Randa (John Goodman, returning from Kong: Skull Island) is seen tossing into the sea in a 70s-set prologue; having possession of it sparks chaos for not only Cate and Kentaro, but also the latter's hacker ex-girlfriend May (Kiersey Clemons, The Flash). When a shadowy international outfit is on your trail, who can assist? Given that Shaw was a 50s-era colleague of Hiroshi's parents Keiko (Mari Yamamoto, also Pachinko) and Bill (played by Inventing Anna's Anders Holm in the earlier timeline), his help is swiftly needed. And amid Cate, Kentaro, May and Shaw's attempts to evade the "like the CIA, but for Godzilla" operation pursuing their every move, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters also dives into Shaw, Keiko and Bill's backstory.
This is a true story: in 2014, Hollywood decided to take on a task that was destined to either go as smoothly as sliding on ice or prove as misguided as having a woodchipper sitting around. Revisiting Fargo was a bold move even in pop culture's remake-, reboot- and reimagining-worshipping times, because why say "you betcha" to trying to make crime-comedy perfection twice? The Coen brothers' 1996 film isn't just any movie. It's a two-time Oscar-winner, BAFTA and Cannes' Best Director pick of its year, and one of the most beloved and original examples of its genre in the last three decades. But in-between credits on Bones, The Unusuals and My Generation, then creating the comic book-inspired Legion, writer, director and producer Noah Hawley started a project he's now synonymous with, and that's still going strong five seasons in. What keeps springing is always a twisty tale set in America's midwest, as filled with everyday folks in knotty binds, complicated family ties, crooks both bumbling and determined trying to cash in, and intrepid cops investigating leads that others wouldn't. Hawley's stroke of genius: driving back into Fargo terrain by making an anthology series built upon similar pieces, but always finding new tales about greed, power, murder and snowy landscapes to tell.
Hawley's Fargo adores the Coenverse overall, enthusiastically scouring it for riches like it's the TV-making embodiment of Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter's namesake. That film hailed from Damsel's David Zellner instead, and took cues from the urban legend surrounding the purported Fargo ties to the IRL death of Japanese office worker Takako Konishi; however, wanting the contents of the Coen brothers' brains to become your reality is clearly a common thread. Of course, for most of the fictional figures who've walked through the small-screen Fargo's frames, they'd like anything but caper chaos. Scandia, Minnesota housewife Dot Lyon (Juno Temple, Ted Lasso) is one of them in season five. North Dakota sheriff, preacher and rancher Roy Tillman (Jon Hamm, Good Omens) isn't as averse to a commotion if he's the one causing it. Minnesota deputy Indira Olmstead (Richa Moorjani, Never Have I Ever) and North Dakota state trooper Witt Farr (Lamorne Morris, Woke) just want to get to the bottom of the series' new stint of sometimes-madcap and sometimes-violent mayhem.
In gleaming news for streaming viewers, Mick Herron's Slough House novel series boasts 12 entries so far. In an also ace development, several more of the British author's books have links to the world of veteran espionage agent Jackson Lamb. That thankfully means that Slow Horses, the small-screen spy thriller based on Herron's work, has plenty more stories to draw upon in its future. It's now up to its third season as a TV series, and long may its forward path continue. Apple TV+ has clearly felt the same way since the program debuted in April 2022. In June the same year, the platform renewed Slow Horses for a third and fourth season before its second had even aired. That next chapter arrived that December and didn't disappoint. Neither does the latest batch of six episodes, this time taking its cues from Herron's Real Tigers — after season one used the novel Slow Horses as its basis, and season two did the same with Dead Lions — in charting the ins and outs of MI5's least-favourite department. Slough House is where the service rejects who can't be fired but aren't trusted to be proper operatives are sent, with Lamb (Gary Oldman, Oppenheimer) its happily cantankerous, slovenly, seedy and shambolic head honcho.
Each season, Lamb and his team of losers, misfits and boozers — Mick Jagger's slinky ear worm of a theme tune's words — find themselves immersed in another chaotic case that everyone above them wishes they weren't. That said, Slow Horses isn't a formulaic procedural. Sharply written, directed and acted, and also immensely wryly funny, it's instead one of the best spy series to grace television, including in a new go-around that starts with two intelligence officers (Babylon's Katherine Waterston and Gangs of London's Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù) in Istanbul. When the fallout from this season's opening events touches Lamb and his spooks, they're soon thrust into a game of cat-and-mouse that revolves around secret documents and sees one of their own, the forever-loyal Catherine Standish (Saskia Reeves, Creation Stories), get abducted. The talented River Cartwright (Jack Lowden, The Gold) again endeavours to show why being banished to Slough House for a training mistake was MI5's error, while his boss' boss Diana Taverner (Kristin Scott Thomas, Rebecca) reliably has her own agenda.
Slow Horses streams via Apple TV+.
There's no forgetting Scrublands' opening. There's no chance of not being hooked, either. After a Sunday congregation, as his worshippers disperse, Riversend priest Byron Swift (Jay Ryan, Muru) starts shooting with a sniper rifle. Five men are killed, with the man of the cloth not living out the fray himself. After that introduction, the bulk of this four-part series picks up a year later as the small, remote and deeply drought-stricken town is still attempting to live with an event that it'll never get over. In drives journalist Martin Scarsden (Luke Arnold, True Colours), who has been dispatched from Sydney to write about the situation 12 months after the unthinkable occurred. His welcome is mixed, with bookstore owner Mandy Bond (Bella Heathcote, C*A*U*G*H*T) initially frosty, then more open; police officers Robbie Haus-Jones (Adam Zwar, Squinters) and Monica Piccini (Freya Stafford, New Gold Mountain) varying in their cooperation; and resident chief landowner Harley Reagan (Robert Taylor, The Newsreader) blunt but reluctant. Among those who lost husbands and fathers, the response is just as complicated. Recurring among most of the townsfolk: the certainty that the picture painted of the cleric that changed everything isn't what it seems.
In the official tale doing the rounds, abuse allegations were levelled at the priest just days before the incident. So, in outside law enforcement's minds, that's the case closed. But Martin is increasingly unconvinced — and, far from writing the "torture porn" that he's initially accused of, starts digging deeper. The list of Australian films and TV shows that involve a big-city outsider galloping in to run through a regional area's problems, struggles and secrets is considerable, including The Dry, Black Snow, Limbo and Deadloch in recent years. Scrublands happily fits the bill. As those aforementioned movies and series have shown, and this page-to-screen effort based on Chris Hammer's novel as well, such as setup can provide the basis for weighty stories, meaningful performances and eye-catching imagery when presented with care, thought and style. As well as being involving and gripping, Scrublands is all of those things. Helming all four episodes, Greg McLean isn't in Wolf Creek or Wolf Creek 2 territory.
You can also check out our running list of standout must-stream shows from this year as well — and our best 15 new shows of 2023's first six months, top 15 returning shows over the same period and best 15 straight-to-streaming movies from January–June 2023, too.
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