Macey Chipping as Issie in TVNZ’s new teen drama Mystic. (Photo: TVNZ)
Macey Chipping as Issie in TVNZ’s new teen drama Mystic. (Photo: TVNZ)

Pop CultureAugust 26, 2020

Review: Mystic takes Pony Club Secrets and turns it into a gripping teen drama

Macey Chipping as Issie in TVNZ’s new teen drama Mystic. (Photo: TVNZ)
Macey Chipping as Issie in TVNZ’s new teen drama Mystic. (Photo: TVNZ)

Looking for a family friendly drama to enjoy this lockdown? TVNZ’s new teen series Mystic might be the perfect choice. 

Out in the television galaxy, somewhere between the giddy orbit of Paw Patrol and Riverdale, lies a dark void where young adults wait patiently for their next favourite series. While there are plenty of TV shows made for children and older teenagers, it can be tricky finding smart, safe shows aimed at a young teen audience, like Netflix’s The Baby-Sitters Club or A Series of Unfortunate Events. It’s even rarer to find a recent New Zealand drama that ticks these boxes.  

Great news then, because Kiwi drama series Mystic arrives on TVNZ 2 this week. Based on Stacy Gregg’s best-selling Pony Club Secrets book series of books, Mystic is an adventure thriller set on the rugged west coast of the North Island. It’s the perfect family show to watch during Lockdown 2.0, a series filled with compelling characters, plenty of drama and a supernatural twist that will appeal to young adults (and older adults) alike.

Mystic centres on 14 year old Issie (Macey Chipping), who has moved to New Zealand from London with her mother following the death of Issie’s dad. Issie is miserable, stuck in the tiny town of Kauri Point with only her grandmother’s pet pig Gunter for company. Lonely and grieving, she books a flight back to England and makes a secret plan to ditch dull New Zealand for her old life in London.

But Issie begins to experience strange visions of a mysterious horse, visions that nobody else can see. After she makes friends with an eclectic group of teens who hang out at the nearby stables, Issie discovers she has a talent with horses, and helping injured wild pony Blaze gives her a new sense of purpose. The visions make Issie wonder if there’s a special reason she should stay in New Zealand, and she’s determined to find out just what that is.

“There’s strange stuff happening,” Issie tells her mother, as she tries to make sense of her new home. Issie already has a lot to deal with, but when a new industrial development threatens the local environment, Issie has a new fight on her hands. What can Issie and her new friends do to save the Kauri Point community from environmental disaster?

Mystic is an international production between TVNZ and CBBC, and features a cast of well known English and New Zealand faces. Issie’s mother Amanda is played by Laura Patch (After Life), Kirk Torrance (Outrageous Fortune) plays grumpy stable manager Sam, and the supporting cast includes Phil Brown, Jacqueline Joe, Cathy Downes and Johnny Brugh. Mystic is directed by Peter Salmon (Offspring), and writers include Amy Shindler, Beth Chambers, Stacy Gregg and Steph Matuku.

Mystic is a recognisably New Zealand series, but the show’s smart storytelling and beautiful scenery will have global appeal. It takes the ingredients of a gripping drama series — adventure, humour and plenty of surprises – and wraps it up in a beautifully filmed package. Issie’s supernatural visions add an intriguing layer to the drama, and there’s plenty of time to get to know Issie and the characters of the quirky Kauri Point community. It’s the type of small town where everyone knows everyone, where the buses don’t run on Sundays, and where performing acupuncture on your pet pig seems entirely normal. Issie’s grandmother, by the way, is a legend, and Gunter is a lucky wee swine. 

It’s also a treat to have a new teen drama built around a group of dynamic young adults.  The kids of Mystic are dealing with adult issues like grief and self-discovery, but they’re also just teenagers doing teenagery things, making questionable choices and getting mad at their parents. They’re prepared to stand up and make their voices heard, and their determination to protect the environment will resonate with the show’s intended audience.

That’s because Mystic is a teen drama made specifically for teens. It’s a show that puts these determined kids at the centre of their own story, setting them on an exciting adventure into mysterious and dangerous places. You don’t have to love horses to love Mystic, and you don’t even have to be young to enjoy it. But in a world where quality teenage dramas are far and few between, it will certainly help. 

Mystic screens on TVNZ 2 each weekday afternoon from Wednesday 26 August, and on TVNZ OnDemand.  

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