New drama from ABC The messengerbased on a best-seller by Markus Zusak, it effectively asks you to leave your logic at the door and go with its heightened mix of drama, dark comedy and magical realism.
How else to explain his fantastic plot of strange playing card instructions for a young cab driver, Ed (Will McKenna).
He lives in his late father’s run-down house in a declining rural town where most of the action he sees is the adjacent railway line and a congaline of bar flies making their way to the local pub.
And he’s an accidental hero too, having stepped up to prevent a robbery of the local beer stall. He has three friends with whom he plays weekly cards: coffee kart manager Audrey (Alexandra Jensen), “city psycho” Ritchie (Kartanya Maynard) and loser friend Marv (Chris Alosio).
While Ed is dealing with his own struggles, he unexpectedly receives a playing card with a local address, no further information, and no indication of who sent it to him. Curiosity gets the better of him, he discovers the elderly Milla (Maggie Dence) with whom he can’t help but make friends.
Further addresses will appear on the card, leading him to the apartment of an abusive husband, and to a young woman on her daily jog. What does all this mean and how are they interconnected?
Against this backdrop are subplots involving his friends, with Audrey evading the property of a local furniture dealer (Felix Williamson), Ritchie faking his daily meds, and Marv generally scurrying for distraction in a town with little.
Frankly, writer Sarah Lambert and director Daniel Nettheim’s first few episodes raise more questions than answers, with whimsical touches to bend your mind. Will McKenna portrays a likable protagonist, as a fairly blank canvas upon which these demands and dilemmas are posed. Watching the amazing Maggie Dence still at work after all these decades is a pleasure, and Chris Alosio contrasts the very serious role of her currently seen in 10’s north coast.
With such a young cast, not dissimilar wild river, ABC seems to be doing its best to pitch to younger viewers. Not sure if this will connect with core ABC viewers, and perhaps could be better framed as premium YA content.
At 8 episodes, the series will also need to start giving some solid answers to its universe soon and have a very satisfying explanation for everything.
The Messenger airs Sundays at 8:20pm on ABC.