‘Cleverman’ Season Finale: Laying Claim to “Terra Nullius”

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On the finale of the shortened first season of “Cleverman,” things came to a head in the Zone, as Containment Authority moved in to take over the area, by any means necessary and the Hairies, along with a few human supporters, prepared for battle, in “Terra Nullius.”

The title refers to “nobody’s land,” a law used to legally oust natives from their land if said people were thought to be “uncivilized” and “lawless,” which was first applied to Australia and their indigenous peoples when the British attempted to claim the territory as their own and oust the natives from their own land.

You can see the obvious parallels between this and what was going on in the show, to say nothing of America’s own dubious practices when it comes to our own land and the Native Americans that lived here first. Note also that this episode aired not long after the 4th of July, which may or may not have been coincidental.

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Whatever the case, the episode marked the Hairypeoples’ own bid for independence and the right to live peacefully in their own territory without being hassled by outsiders. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until next season to find out the outcome, as the show ended before the actual confrontation between the CA and the Hairies.

I was actually taken a bit by surprise at the shortness of the first season, which I realize is fairly standard in Britain, for instance, where such things are common, but not so much here in the States, where even the summer shows go at least around 13 episodes or so. Clocking in at a stealth six episodes, “Cleverman” certainly didn’t overstay its welcome, but unfortunately, it also ended just as things were truly getting interesting as well.

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Don’t get me wrong, it was still a worthwhile show overall, with much to recommend, from the solid cast, much of which was made up by oft-impressive local natives, with a few scattered names here and there to lure in those who might not have watched otherwise, such as “Game of Thrones” vet Iain Glen and “A.I.” star Frances O’Connor; to the intriguing premise that was quite different from typical summer fare and entrenched in fascinating Aboriginal lore.

That said, with the decidedly brief nature of the first season, the show was so densely packed with mythology and characters that it was often borderline overwhelming trying to keep up and make heads or tails of it all. Indeed, just as I was starting to get truly familiar with the various characters and understand the mythos to a certain extent, it was over.

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Still, there are worse things than to leave an audience wanting more, so at the very least, I’m sure some viewers will be watching next season for sure, if only to find out what happens next, what with everything left so open-ended. To put things into perspective for the relatively uninitiated, imagine if the last season of “Game of Thrones” had ended just before the actual battle in “Battle of the Bastards,” as each side was headed for one another, ready to tear each other to pieces.

Or, if you’re unfamiliar with that show, think of if “Braveheart” ended before that final battle, but after the rousing speech that led into it. Indeed, the comparative speech here was also oddly muted, thanks in no small part to the unexpected death of one of the cooler characters, though the one right before the end fared slightly better, at least until it was revealed that there would be no battle just yet.

There were a few minor skirmishes, including the one between Koen (Hunter Page-Lochard) and the basically super-powered Jarrod (Glen), who was revealed to have been taking some sort of serum that both extended one’s lifespan significantly and made one ultra-strong in the process, allowing the playing field to be somewhat more level between the two.

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In the end, though, Koen was able to escape, albeit not before Jarrod got a hold of a sample of his blood, which, to the best of my knowledge, he left behind when he took off, so look for that to figure into next season’s plotline. Koen then proceeded to go from out of the frying pan and into the fire, as he returned to the Zone, only to find the place under attack from the mythical beast that killed Jimmy in the premiere.

Though brother Waruu (Rob Collins), who gave the first speech I alluded to, with decidedly indifferent results, put up a good fight when the beast attacked Aunty Linda (Deborah Mailman), using the cudgel Jimmy gifted to Koen and he absconded with after the confrontation with Jarrod, ultimately, the beast was too much for him to handle.

Enter Koen, who picked up the stick and took over where Waruu left off, managing to defeat the creature by driving it into his belly like a stake, upon which the beast glowed as if electrified and died, disappearing afterwards into nothingness, leaving only the stick behind.

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The newly-appointed Cleverman’s mettle finally proven, it was time to turn his intentions to the next impending threat, the troops converging upon the Zone. Rallying his people and everyone else who stayed behind to fight, they all took up arms and waited, until a lookout rushed in saying that they were coming, much like The British in the Revolutionary War, and then…cut to black.

That was all she wrote, sadly, but I guess that’s one way to get people to tune in next season, if only to see what happens next. I will be among them, definitely. Oh, don’t get me wrong, the show had its flaws, to be sure. Some of the acting was a bit shaky here and there, no doubt due to the inexperience of some of the newcomers, and while the Hairy make-up was suitably impressive, most of the CGI-driven effects were a bit laughable, especially that beast Waruu and Koen fought in the finale.

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As such, the practical effects were much more effective, from the revelation that Kora (Alexis Lane) was actually possessed by an elder from another dimension trapped in a much younger woman’s body by a simple reflection in a mirror, to the grisly aftermath of the creature’s attack on Jimmy in the premiere.

I get that the show is relatively low budget, but maybe stay away from creature effects until the show can afford to do it justice. As it stood, the beast looked amusingly cartoonish, rather than threatening, which I’m guessing wasn’t intentional.

Besides, the show doesn’t need stuff like that, when the other low-tech effects are so much better, without all the flash, i.e. the way the Cleverman knocked back Jarrod in the lab when he went after him. That was cool without being nearly as elaborate as the creature face-off.

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That said, I am looking forward to finding out more about the mythology of the Cleverman and the like. For me, that was easily the most fascinating thing on the show. Especially when you consider how inherently unlikable a lot of the characters were for pretty much the entire season.

I get that the first season was all about Koen coming to terms with his newfound powers and becoming a better person slowly but surely, which was fine, but when you consider the fact that most of the others weren’t much better than he was, that was kind of a problem. Interestingly, though, the bulk of the most sympathetic characters were women, which was cool, at least.

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Still, maybe spread the wealth a bit next season, with a few more relatable, down-to-earth characters that one can side with, what with almost all of the guys corrupt and/or murderous and all of the women tormented and terrorized at some point. I get that it’s a dark, Dystopian world, but a little lightness here and there wouldn’t have hurt matters that much.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the show, despite the slow start and the general confusion I had about what exactly was going on with…well, pretty much everything. Beyond the obvious- the fact that a certain contingent of humans hate the Hairies and want them eradicated- I was at a loss as to what was up a good half of the time, especially early on.

After a certain point, I started to get the idea, and then…the show ended. So, yeah, while the short first season makes for a relatively stealth viewing experience- I almost wish I’d binge-watched the entire thing- it also could have been a, um, hair(y) longer and that much more effective as a direct result.

The good news is, despite being a bit of a hit-or-miss affair, it was just interesting enough for me to want more, so there’s that. I just hate that we have to wait a good year before finding out the outcome of the big battle at hand. That’s just not right, “Cleverman”!

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What did you think of the season finale? Were you disappointed the show left you hanging as well? Were you glad that Araluen got her revenge on Matthews and escaped? Were you sad Maliyan got killed? Will the group turn against Waruu because of it? Were you glad to see Koen finally embrace his role as Cleverman? Has he, in fact, learned from his mistakes? Does he deserve to be leader in spite of what he did? Sign off on this and more down below and see you next season!