Wolf Creek S01E03 “Salt Lake” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Fox, Tuesdays, 10pm
Writer: Peter Gawler
Director: Tony Tilse
Essential plot points:
- Eve heads to Salt Lake, where Taylor killed a camping couple seven years before, only to find Kevin – the yob who harassed her at the truck stop – waiting in her van. He attempts to rape her but she shoots him in the leg.
- She dresses his wounds but leaves him by the side of the road for the next vehicle to help him – but unfortunately the next vehicle is driven by Mick Taylor.
- Eve stops at a roadside cafe to change her tyre, but doesn’t do it properly and her wheel comes off, stranding her in the middle of the outback.
- Hill, still following clues to find Eve, finds Kevin’s mutilated body hanging from a tree.
- Gradually he, Mick and Kane all pass through the cafe looking for her, with the owner giving the latter two more information on where Eve’s gone, but not the cop.
- In the outback, a convict who has escaped from a crashed prison van collapses outside Eve’s van. She helps fix his wounds and gives him food in exchange for helping to repair the broken wheel.
- The next day Kane finds her and ties her up, but two passing tourists in another white van interrupt him. As he sees them off, she manages to retrieve the gun she stole from him – and fatally shoots him in the stomach.
- Detective Hill returns home after preparing a report claiming he’d found Eve in Alice Springs and tried to get her to return home, only to discover his wife with another man.
- Eve returns to the roadside cafe and learns Mick has been looking for her, telling the owner he’s going to Opalville. She gives chase, but he’s waiting for her.
At times, “Salt Lake” feels like an episode that’s just spinning wheels. Until the final few frames of the episode, the plot’s advanced little; Eve and Mick are still circling each other, Hill’s still doggedly one step behind, and nothing’s progressing.
But behind all that is an uneasy sense of things spiralling completely out of control. Eve twice takes a life – once inadvertently, and once in justifiable self defence – but the reckless streak hinted at in her conversation with Hill last time is coming more to the fore.
The circle hunting Eve is widening, with the biker gang which Kane and his brother led now swearing vengeance upon her. Hill, now a loose cannon after those marital difficulties hinted at last week explode in spectacular fashion, is after her despite falsifying police records he’d already found her. And Mick is almost taunting her, setting up campsite near her van and sending messages to her.
This is an episode which is setting up the long game. We’re only at the half-way point so the out-of-nowhere climax – as a shot rings out and the familiar white van lurches off the road, with Mick slowly stalking towards it – has to be a double bluff.
We’ve two new players added to the mix too: the devious Bernadette and the interesting Johnny, the escaped convict to whom there appears to be more than initially appears. In a show which feels almost claustrophobic at times, even though it’s set in the middle of the outback, two new faces give a wider sense of scope to the story.
A word again, finally, about Tony Tilse’s direction, which is staggeringly good. The visual impact of those empty vistas, especially in the opening dissolve from the burning car to the empty Salt Lake is especially noteworthy, while the visuals are strengthened by incredible use of the natural-seeming light, as the sun sets on Kane’s body.
The great thing about Wolf Creek is it’s impossible to predict where it’s going next. In three episodes, it’s gone from slasher flick to female revenge crusade to weird psychodrama. And it’s remarkably gripping at every turn.
- Deborah Mailman’s Bernadette is a brilliant addition to the cast. At first coming across as a slightly barking cafe owner, she becomes more devious and duplicitous as the episode unfolds, happy to sell Eve out to the bad guys and hinder the cops. We’ve been a fan of Mailman since the underrated The Secret Life Of Us (which was the Aussie equivalent of This Life) so it’s lovely to see her here.
- The prison van crash comes across as something out of Casualty at first – from the second we see the previously epileptic-fitting guard driving away, it’s obvious how this ends. Yet the staging of the crash, and the subsequent surprise explosion, is subtly done: off camera, letting the sound tell the story. Wolf Creek’s as economic in its storytelling as it is its budget.
- We mentioned Lucy Fry’s accent going from good to wobbly last time, but there are scenes in here where it feels like she’s forgotten she’s meant to be American. (That aside, her performance in this episode is so good, it’s almost forgivable).
- Less bad than damned wince-inducing: it feels weird to highlight something in a show featuring two shootings, a stabbing and someone having their gonads cut off as being gruesome, but the scene where Eve cuts her hair off with a knife is genuinely as horrible as it gets.
And the Random:
- Peter Gawler, who wrote 50% of this series, is a well-known name in Aussie TV, having worked on everything from Blue Heelers to Halifax FP. He’s perhaps best known as writer and producer of the awesome gangland crime series Underbelly. Seriously, if you’ve never seen it, it’s brilliant, especially its first couple of seasons, which are every bit as good as The Sopranos.
- Award-winning Aussie TV director Tony Tilse is another Underbelly veteran, but is probably best known to MCMBuzz readers as one of the directors on Ash vs Evil Dead and on our illustrious editor’s favourite show, Farscape.