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Leah Purcell stars in High Country (Photo: Supplied)
Leah Purcell stars in High Country (Photo: Supplied)

Pop CultureMay 4, 2024

Review: High Country is the ideal crime drama for a cold winter night

Leah Purcell stars in High Country (Photo: Supplied)
Leah Purcell stars in High Country (Photo: Supplied)

ThreeNow’s new murder mystery series takes us on a dark, damp journey into the Australian wilderness.

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High Country is ThreeNow’s new Australian eight-part crime drama, set in a remote part of the Victorian highlands. It tells the story of a police detective who is transferred to the small town of Brokenridge, and begins to investigate a series of local disappearances. The more the detective delves into the disappearances, the deeper she finds herself entangled in a web of murder and lies.

What’s good?

If you love a Scandi-noir drama, you’ll enjoy High Country. The scenery is spectacular, with the snowy mountains and thick forests a refreshing change to the dry and dusty vibe of other Australian crime thrillers like The Tourist or Mystery Road. You can practically feel the damp, heavy air of High Country through the screen, and the brooding setting suits the show’s dark storyline. High Country was created by the team behind Wentworth, another Australian series that knows the power of an intense environment.

Leah Purcell (Wentworth, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart) is hugely compelling as the no-bullshit city detective Andie Whitford, who’s sent to Brokenridge to replace retiring police chief Sam Dyson (Derry Girls’ Ian McElhenny). Andie discovers a missing man even before she’s reached town, and is shocked to learn that five people have vanished in the area over the past few years, all within a 40km radius. “In the city, we call that a pattern,” she tells Sam. “Out here, it’s a fact of life,” he replies.

New Zealand actor Sara Wiseman in a scene from High Country (Photo: Supplied)

Purcell leads a talented cast, including New Zealander Sara Wiseman (who plays Andie’s wife Helen), Aaron Pederson, Linda Cropper and McElhenney. The series captures all of those intricate relationships that exist in an isolated rural community, a place where everyone is connected to everyone else, and they all have secrets. Andie is an outsider who struggles to connect with the community, but her investigation into these disappearances also leads her on a path of discovery about her own Indigenous heritage and culture.

What’s not-so-good?

“People disappearing into the wilderness” is… not exactly a new idea for a murder mystery. And it feels like High Country ticks every box in the genre: big city cop arrives in a small town, everyone in the community has something to hide, and the police officer’s private and personal worlds are about to collide. It’s the same familiar premise that the brilliant Deadloch was poking fun at.

The first episode felt like it needed something else to make it really stand out in a crowded field, but it’s still a solid crime thriller with a great cast and plenty of twists. Purcell’s compelling performance is highly watchable, and the cliffhanger at the end of episode one left me wanting more.

The verdict: Watch it

If you’re looking for something dark and moody to hunker down with on a cold winter’s night, High Country will satisfy. The performances are strong, the scenery is stunning and the storyline will keep you interested – just don’t expect this comfortable murder mystery to venture too deep into the unknown.

High Country streams on ThreeNow.

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