Cleverman is an Australian television drama program based on an original concept by Ryan Griffen. The series premiered on 1 June 2016 on SundanceTV in the United States and 2 June (other side of International Date Line) on ABC in Australia.
|Country of origin|
|No. of series||2|
|No. of episodes||12|
|Picture format||1080i (HDTV)|
|Original release||1 June 2016 –|
2 August 2017
The six-part drama series reimagines several stories of the Aboriginal Dreamtime in a modern, superheroic context, and reflects on racism, asylum seekers and border protection. Its central story revolves around two estranged Gumbaynggirr brothers who are forced together to fight for their own survival when one of them is passed the mantle of the "Cleverman". Creatures from the Dreaming also feature in the series' real world dystopian landscape.
The series was renewed for a second series on 2 June 2016, set six months later, having received A$450,000 in funding from Screen NSW. The second series aired another 6 episodes in 2017, concluding the series with a total of 12 episodes.
The Cleverman is an important figure in many Australian Aboriginal cultures. Series creator Ryan Griffen describes the Cleverman as "like the Pope of the Dreamtime ... the conduit between the present and the Dreaming". The version in the television series combines many Cleverman traditions from different Aboriginal clans to create a superheroic version, with powers relating to the Dreaming's connection to past, present and future.
The Hairypeople or "Hairies" are designed by Jacob ("Jake") Nash, production designer for the Australian Aboriginal Bangarra Dance Theatre, and realised by the Weta Workshop, known for their work on The Lord of The Rings and other fantasy and science fiction films. The Hairypeople in Cleverman are inspired by Australian Aboriginal mythology of hairymen drawn from multiple Aboriginal peoples, including the Gamilaraay and Bundjalung people of northern New South Wales. In the series, they speak Kumbainggar, another language from northern New South Wales.
In the world of Cleverman, Hairies are stronger and hardier than humans, covered in thick facial and body hair, and have tough, sharp fingernails. They also have much longer lifespans. They share some things with Aboriginal Australians, including a knowledge of land, culture and the Dreaming. Their DNA differs enough from humans to be considered a different species. They come to the notice of modern human society six months prior to the beginning of the series, in an event known as "Emergence Day". Those who choose to live their lives as they always have—covered in a coat of hair and speaking their traditional languages—are confined to "The Zone" by a fearful government. To escape, some Hairies become "shavers", learning to speak English and removing their body hair in order to blend in with human society.
- Hunter Page-Lochard as Koen West, Waruu's half-brother, an outcast who lives with his white friends Blair and Ash. To fund their pub, 'The Couch', he smuggles Hairypeople for money then turns them over to the CA for the reward. This results in the death of young Hairy girl Jyra, causing him self-doubt. After the passing of his Uncle Jimmy, Koen inherits the powers of the Cleverman and gains abilities such as healing, the left eye of the Cleverman, the ability to see visions when touching others or from the dreaming, along with the war club Nulla Nulla. He has a toxic relationship with his half brother Waruu, which grows worse with jealousy as Waruu always wanted to be Cleverman. Koen ran away from the Zone and was found by Blair, becoming friends while having a secret affair with Blair's girlfriend, Ash. Over the course of the series he begins to gradually accept his role as Cleverman, finding redemption in his previous actions and facing up to Waruu. Koen returns to the Zone and kills the namorrodor, usurping Waruu as leader of the community.
- Rob Collins as Waruu West, Koen's older half brother, activist for equal rights amongst humans and subhumans, who hoped to be chosen to be the next Cleverman. Married to Nerida and father of Alinta; having an affair with Belinda Frosche. Lives in the Zone.
- Deborah Mailman as Aunty Linda, estranged mother of Waruu and adoptive mother of Koen; dying of cancer and is knowledgeable of the Dreaming. Lives in the Zone.
- Iain Glen as Jarrod Slade, married to Charlotte and an enterprising man whose agenda involves the Hairypeople and Koen.
- Frances O'Connor as Dr Charlotte Cleary, married to Slade, yet is unsuspecting of his agenda. A humanitarian, she runs a free clinic in the Zone.
- Ryan Corr as Blair Finch, Koen's childhood friend and the boyfriend of Ash.
- Tasma Walton as Araluen, a Hairy woman, caring wife of Boondee and mother of Djukara, Latani and Jyra. Was captured and forced to work in Frankie's brothel, servicing Geoff Matthews.
- Tony Briggs as Boondee, a Hairy man, protective husband of Araluen and father to Djukara, Latani and Jyra. Still held in containment.
- Stef Dawson as Ash Kerry, Blair's girlfriend who is in a complex relationship with Koen.
- Jada Alberts as Nerida West, Waruu's wife and Alinta's mother. Has a strong relationship with Linda and knows of her husband's adultery. Lives in the Zone.
- Tamala Shelton as Alinta West, Waruu and Nerida's daughter. An ally to the Hairypeople and resentful of the adulterous relationships of both her father and mother. Lives in the Zone.
- Rarriwuy Hick as Latani, a young Hairy woman, daughter of Araluen and Boondee, sister to Djukara and Jyra. The only member of her family to avoid capture, she makes her way to the Zone and befriends Alinta.
- Tysan Towney as Djukara, a young Hairy man, son of Araluen and Boondee, brother to Latani and Jyra. He is very hot-tempered, vengeful and easily influenced. Waruu and Harry free him from a CA containment centre and take him to the Zone with Mungo and Kulya.
- Andrew McFarlane as Geoff Matthews, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, who is against the Hairypeople, though his true agenda is to redevelop the Zone. He is a client of Frankie's who is regularly serviced by Araluen.
- Marcus Graham as Steve McIntyre, who directs the Containment Authority (CA), a private security outfit operating under the authority of Matthews but in the employ of Slade.
- Rachael Blake as Marion Frith, a politician who replaces Matthews, and attempts to bring the CA under tighter government control.
- Clarence Ryan as Jarli, a Hairy warrior from the Bindawu tribe. He is extremely antagonistic towards the humans, or "skins", and casually kills them when opportunities arise. He is unapologetic about Hairypeople who die as a result of his actions, impatient with his elders, and seeks to provoke a war.
- Luke Ford as Tim Dolan, a former police officer who was forced into private-sector security work for the CA, but sympathizes with the Hairypeople. He is often partnered with Hendricks.
- Alexis Lane as Kora, a Dreaming spirit who was summoned by Uncle Jimmy prior to his death; needs Koen to send her back to her dimension.
- Leeanna Walsman as Belinda Frosche, a Channel 8 reporter; has a sexual relationship with Waruu.
- Jack Charles as Uncle Jimmy West, the original Cleverman who chose Koen to succeed him over Waruu. Was in league with Jarrod Slade before he had himself killed by a Dreaming creature called "Namorrodor." He returns as a ghost to help train Koen.
- Adam Briggs as Maliyan, a violent-minded Hairy man who clashes with Waruu. A community leader in the Zone.
- Lynette Curran as Virgil, a reclusive yet inventive woman who aids Latani, making her human contact lenses.
- Robyn Nevin as Jane O'Grady, a talk-show host who discusses the Hairypeople with Waruu and Matthews.
- Josh McConville as Dickson
- Mansoor Noor as McIntyre 2IC
- Rhondda Findleton as Frankie, a vicious brothel madam who purchases Araluen.
- Isaac Drandic as Harry, a Hairy man and Waruu's right hand. Lives in the Zone.
- Katie Wall as Rowena, a drug addict working as Frankie's assistant.
- Miranda Tapsell as Lena, a Hairy woman who defeats several would be attackers on a bus.
- Rahel Romahn as Ludo
- Sam Parsonson as Taki
- Val Weldon as Jyra, a Hairy girl, daughter of Araluen and Boondee, sister to Djukara and Latani. She is killed following her family's capture; her spirit possesses another Hairy child until Koen releases her, earning her forgiveness.
- Aileen Huynh as Dr Everick, a scientist in Slade's employ, experimenting on Kora and Hairypeople.
- Nancy Denis as Eve, a nurse working with Charlotte.
- Trevor Jamieson as Uncle Max, an Aboriginal elder who runs a gym in the Zone.
- Kamil Ellis as Mungo, a Hairy boy who escapes capture with Djukara and Kulya and hides in the Zone.
- Waverley Stanley Jr. as Kulya, a Hairy boy who escapes capture with Djukara and Mungo and hides in the Zone.
- Mark Winter as Bill Hendricks, Tim's partner in the CA, a sadist who preys on Hairypeople. He is responsible for Mungo's death and later torments Latani.
- Tessa Rose as Yani / Gwen, an older Hairy woman who had lost all her children and, tired of living in fear, volunteered for the Inclusion Initiative. Happily reborn as Gwen, she does not want to leave her new home.
- Les Chantery as Deepak Malhotra
- Nicholas Hope as Dr. Mitchell
- Alan Dukes as Nurse Robert
- Israel Dedeigbo as Daku
- Anthony John Ah See as Gawu
- Alec Doomadgee as Darana
- Lasarus Ratuere as Bakanah
- Taylor Ferguson as Audie Martin, a young woman who becomes romantically interested in Koen.
- Megan Hind as Taylor Diaz
- Lisa Flanagan as Harah
- Sarah Armanious as Lucia
- Tasneem Roc as Sarah Gottlieb, a journalist
- David Barnett as Riwarri, a Hairy and companion of Jarli
- Megan O'Connell as Farugia, a CA officer
The series premiered on 1 June 2016 on SundanceTV in the United States and 2 June (other side of International Date Line) on ABC in Australia. Series 2 premiered on those same networks on 28 (29) June 2017.
Series 1 (2016)
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date|| Viewers|
|1||1||"First Contact"||Wayne Blair||Michael Miller & Jon Bell||1 June 2016 (US)||197,000 (US)|
|2 June 2016 (AU)||452,000 (AU)|
|Koen West and Blair Finch smuggle a Hairy family into a vacant apartment, then immediately call the Containment Authority (CA) for the fugitive reward. Reporter Belinda Frosche films their apprehension, in which Djukara and Araluen resist and Jyra is killed. Djukara is taken to a containment centre and branded. Network executive Jarrod Slade repeatedly broadcasts the killing against the government's wishes. Uncle Jimmy brings Koen the Nulla Nulla war club. Slade pays Jimmy to put a spirit into a corpse, and later Jimmy is killed by a creature. Waruu West, a community leader in the Zone, learns that Koen is the duplicitous smuggler and has Harry sever his finger. However, the digit reattaches and Koen finds he has regenerative powers.|
|2||2||"Containment"||Wayne Blair||Michael Miller & Jon Bell||8 June 2016 (US)||140,000 (US)|
|9 June 2016 (AU)||330,000 (AU)|
|Djukara attacks the containment centre guards and is beaten. Boondee is punished in his place and Djukara submits to being shaved. Araluen is spared execution but sold to Frankie. Latani is aided by lonely neighbour Virgil. Koen visits Aunty Linda, his foster mother, who tells him that being the Cleverman is his chance to start over. He has painful visions which compel him to a secret lab where he retrieves Kora. Waruu participates in a TV interview with politician Matthews, but an ambush piece implies that a boy and Jimmy were killed by a Hairy.|
|3||3||"A Free Ranger"||Leah Purcell||Michael Miller||15 June 2016 (US)||158,000 (US)|
|16 June 2016 (AU)||257,000 (AU)|
|Waruu and Harry sneak into a containment centre to film the living conditions. They free Djukara, Mungo and Kulya, but Djukara is shot by a guard who Waruu kills. Dr Charlotte Cleary saves Djukara with a transfusion from Maliyan. McIntyre mutilates the guard's body to match the other attacks, provoking Matthews. Latani hides in a salon; the staff capture her to sell her hair on the Internet, but she escapes. She finds her way to the Zone and argues with Djukara. Araluen is groomed for Frankie's clientele. Slade meets Waruu and later Koen, admitting to working with Jimmy, combining ancient knowledge with cutting-edge technology. Koen tries to communicate with Kora. Ash confronts him over the vision he had of her.|
|4||4||"Sun and Moon"||Leah Purcell||Michael Miller||22 June 2016 (US)||123,000 (US)|
|23 June 2016 (AU)||241,000 (AU)|
|Eight people are killed at an old-age home. Waruu reluctantly goes to Koen, identifying the creature, a namorrodor, and warning that more people will die unless he acts. Djukara goes to free Boondee from the containment centre, but finds the place abandoned. Protestors turn back food deliveries to the Zone; Waruu suspects political involvement and tries to meet Matthews, who is at the brothel with Araluen. He leaves to meet Belinda for a story on the Zone, but is waylaid by McIntyre who threatens him for the Hairy fugitives; Waruu notes his evidence proving the Hairies' innocence in the guard's death and that the scene was staged. Belinda is not well-received at the Zone, and Nerida advises Waruu to get his act together before he loses everything. Slade begins human experimentation; he tests a new approach on himself, gaining Hairy strength and endurance. He sends McIntyre to retrieve Kora; in a failed hostage exchange Ash is killed.|
|5||5||"A Man of Vision"||Wayne Blair||Michael Miller||29 June 2016 (US)||146,000 (US)|
|30 June 2016 (AU)||217,000 (AU)|
|Slade sets up a fake fertility clinic to implant Charlotte with a hybrid genes; Charlotte later finds the foetus is weeks ahead in its development. Slade gives Waruu A$30 million to rebuild the Zone in exchange for Koen. McIntyre admits to Matthews that he staged the guard's death, which put public opinion behind his agenda; Matthews decides to take advantage of this by raiding the Zone despite the likelihood of a carnage. Koen and Blair flee to the Zone with Kora, who Aunty Linda believes is an ancestral spirit that needs to be sent home. Linda arranges a meet with Waruu, who says a higher priority is killing the namorrodor, but the brothers get into a fight. Afterwards, Nerida confronts Waruu over killing the guard, and Djukara confronts Koen for destroying his family. Koen loses confidence, and Linda makes him lead a smoking ceremony to release a spirit from an ill child. Koen finds that the spirit is Jyra, who smiles at him before leaving.|
|6||6||"Terra Nullius"||Wayne Blair||Michael Miller & Jane Allen||6 July 2016 (US)||129,000 (US)|
|7 July 2016 (AU)||232,000 (AU)|
|Koen takes Kora to an old fig tree Jimmy had shown him and releases her back to her world, restoring the balance. Cages are assembled at the edge of the Zone, while the Hairypeople inside arm themselves for a fight. Charlotte suffers abdominal pains and panics when she can't find the fertility clinic. The CA orders humans to leave the Zone, which they say is a haven for criminals. Slade tells Waruu that Matthews is seeking to redevelop the Zone, and gives Waruu video of Matthews with Araluen to discredit him. He insists that Waruu deliver Koen. However, when Waruu learns that Slade is behind the CA and thus the Hairy disappearances, he tells Koen about Slade's activities. They go to Slade's lab and Koen attacks him but is overwhelmed by Slade's enhanced strength. Slade admits to deaths in his experiments, and Waruu takes his offer to reap the benefits. Mailyan threatens to execute Blair but is shot dead by Waruu, who has taken the drug and manically explains that he obtained title to the Zone, but is stunned at the lack of enthusiasm. The namorrodor reaches the assembly and Waruu confronts it but is knocked back; he protects an ungrateful Linda. Koen, after overpowering Slade, arrives and defeats the creature. While watching the news coverage, Araluen strangles Matthews then escapes. As dawn approaches, the Zone is barricaded and armed against an expected CA assault.|
Series 2 (2017)
The show has been met with favourable reviews on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, where the first season was given a rating of 91% based on reviews from eight critics. The first series of Cleverman received generally favourable reviews on Metacritic scoring a rating of 61/100 based on reviews from seven critics.
A review from the Boston Herald stated, "Cleverman is unlike any other TV miniseries you've seen before. The gritty Australian production uses a sci-fi backdrop to test notions of racial identity and integration with a twist of supernatural terror", and went on to say "The first episode is confusing, introducing a multitude of characters and agendas. Stay with it. The second episode brings several of the characters and the conflicts into focus."
Mike Hale of The New York Times stated that "Cleverman has a rough immediacy in its pacing and cinematography that helps to make up for its deficiencies elsewhere, and if you have an appetite for sci-fi conspiracy thrillers, it's worth sampling." A review from The A.V. Club said "Cleverman is full of potential" but "is too busy building a world to tell a story."
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