One Lane Bridge, now available on DVD from Acorn Media, is not your usual police procedural/detective show. While at first sight it might appear to be a straight forward Who Done It? as the series progresses the plot carries it into territory not usually traversed by the genre.
Set in the beautiful scenery of New Zealand’s country-side (anyone who has seen any of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien adaptations will have a severe feeling of deja-vu) the “One Lane Bridge” of the title is the focal point of not only a police investigation, but of the show’s otherworldly connections. For, it turns out that the local farmer whose body is found under the bridge is not the only death associated with the site. (One Lane Bridge is in reference to the fact the road narrows to one lane on the bridge)
The show starts off prosaically enough with new Detective Ariki Davis (Dominic Ona-Ariki) being welcomed to town by his boss Stephen Tremaine (Joel Tobeck). Davis is receives a quick introduction to the people of the town when he’s enlisted to help look for an elderly farm owner suffering from dementia who has wandered off.
This is his first introduction to the Ryder family who will be central to the murder investigation that is at the heart of the story. For its the eldest son of the family, Andrew ‘Grub’ Ryder, (Dean O’Gorman) whose body is found under the bridge. Considering Ryder was taking anti-depressants and anxiety medications the initial thought that he committed suicide is understandable.
However, the more the police look into the matter Tremaine, who is an old friend of the Ryder family, reluctantly agrees with Davis, there are sufficient grounds for it to be considered murder. As with all these types of inquires the deeper they delve into case the more secrets the police uncover.
It seems like everywhere Davis turns there is a new possible suspect ranging from family members to neighbours. While the suspect pool keeps growing his investigation is complicated by the fact he begins to have visions associated with dead man and the bridge. At first he resists the idea that what he is seeing has any bearing on reality, but finally has to accept the power of his ‘gift’.
Of course that doesn’t mean anything unless he can back up his visions with proof. How can he go to his boss and tell him “Hey I keep seeing Grub’s ghost and he’s trying to tell me something”?
While this type of plot line could easily become hackneyed and cliched, the creators of One Lane Bridge have done an excellent job of making it very believable. From the Davis’ character’s resistance to believing in what he’s been seeing and his erratic behaviour as he tries to run away from his ‘gift’, to Tremaine’s reluctance to accept his subordinate’s intuitions, the process of discovery is handled intelligently and realistically.
It also helps that the cast is uniformly excellent. Both Tobeck and Ona-Ariki give fully nuanced and rich performances while the supporting cast is replete with actors familiar to anyone who has watched any New Zealand or Australian TV. When this is combined with great direction, and the breathtaking scenery serving as the backdrop for the show, it makes for a wonderful experience. Even better, the ending implies there’s the chance of a second series.
One Lane Bridge is a wonderful example of how to make a great six part detective story. This is great television you won’t want to miss.