Deep Water: Murder Down Under

Deep Water from Peccadillo Pictures

Loosely based on a real-life series of murders in the 1980s and 1990s, four-part Australian TV mystery Deep Water plays out like CSI: Bondi Beach, complete with melodramatic music, moody cops and shifty suspects. But a strong gay premise gives the series some weight, grappling with some intense themes and offering subtle insights into issues that still gurgle throughout society.

In present-day Bondi, a gay Muslim man is found naked and violently murdered, and detectives Tori and Nick (Orange Is the New Black’s Yael Stone and Peaky Blinders’ Noah Taylor) take the case. Tori immediately notices some similarities with unsolved cases 25 years earlier, when a number of gay men, including her surfer brother Shane, were found bashed on the rocks near the beach. And as the body count begins to rise, she’s desperate to solve those cold cases and figure out why the killing has begun again now. Soon, the cops discover that the killer is using the hook-up app Thrustr to lure his victims to their doom, so Tori sets up a fake profile.

The cast is excellent, with quite a mix of very hot men who are either muscled gay lifeguard types or murderous bigots. One of the nastiest pieces of work is played by none other than the steel-eyed beefcake Craig McLachlan, who had long-running roles on both Neighbours and Home & Away.

Over the four hour-long episodes, there are plenty of suspects as Tori pieces together a gang of young thugs who have grown up to be business owners in Bondi. In fact, there are so many characters, both victims and suspects, that keeping all of their names clear becomes a bit of a chore. You’ll want to have one of those detective-style noticeboards of your own just to remember who’s whom. But just go with it; everything becomes clear in the end.

The central focus of this show is Tori’s growing obsession with this case, which puts everyone she meets in danger. This keeps the gay element in the background of the story. Even so, queer themes are right at the centre of everything that happens and come up in strained conversations she has with a range of friends and suspects. And it’s enjoyably distracting when Tori’s good pal Oscar (silver fox Jeremy Lindsay Taylor) goes marching in the Mardi Gras parade wearing only a tiny red Speedo. Cue a Thrustr message from the killer and a boneheaded decision to face him alone.

Much of this show is a rather standard police procedural drama, complete with rampantly unbelievable plot points and officers with serious conflicts of interest. But there’s some depth in the story, as it touches on how prejudice against migrants today echoes the harsh, dismissive feelings about the burgeoning gay population in the late-1980s. And some very clever personal touches along the way make sure that the conclusion carries a surprising emotional kick.

Deep Water is out now on VOD and DVD from Peccadillo

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