DVD Review: The Code – The Complete Season Two

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Explosive techno-thriller sees two brothers drawn into a web of political subterfuge and conspiracies.

Riffing on topical headlines, the second season of The Code is an urgent suspense-filled glimpse into the shadowy world of digital activists and corrupt private security firms. From Canberra’s corridors of power to West Papua’s lush jungles, the series delivers a hot and sweaty thrill-soaked ride which asks questions about how far government should be allowed to go in order to protect personal freedoms and national security in the Wikileaks age.

Trouncing its first season, The Code‘s politically-charged second series is top-loaded with a succession of intrigues; bullet-ridden bodies of Australian citizens are found in West Papua, the abduction of a child sparks fears he is being auctioned on a darknet chat room, and a notorious hacker is in the possession of an encrypted file that could plunge entire countries into a technological dark age. This cyber crime show doesn’t attempt to ignore that we now live in a post-Edward Snowden world and tackles head-on the thorny issue of hacktivists and the agenda of those trying to apprehend them.

Conceived as a one season show, the producers played all their creative cards in a single session not expecting Australian broadcaster ABC would commission a follow-up. As production progressed on the first batch of episodes the core creative team watched as the actors brought their characters to life the possibility was floated of continuing the story.

During early stages of pre-production revelations about Edward Snowden and the NSA began to appear in the press. Showrunner Shelley Birse sensed that state surveillance would be effective story material for the second outing.

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Set shortly after events of the first season, Jesse (Ashley Zukerman) and Ned Banks (Dan Spielman) are confronted with the consequences of chaos they unleashed. As they prepare to bury their mother police officers arrive to notify them that an extradition order has been served. Facing the possibility of trial in an American court where sentencing will be far more severe Jesse and Ned agree to assist the Australian government in exchange for assurance that they will not be sent overseas.

Capricious hacktivist Jan Roth (Anthony LaPaglia ) is hosting an online bazaar on the darknet. Among the listings for illegal weapons, drugs, and political extremist ideologies is an auction for a missing teenager. The government is eager to track down the child before he is sold to a pedophile sex ring. Jesse’s services are secured to shut down the auction and trace the adolescent.

The Code truly takes flight after the teenager has been found. Other series might have made the abuduction and auction the central plot but here it’s a McGuffin to kickstart the story and draw our heroes back into action. The story shifts its focus in the final three episodes and launches towards its dramatic conclusion at breakneck speed. Have the authorities lied to Jesse? How far will they go to ensnare Jan Roth? In the battle to maintain digital security who polices the police?

Corporate, political, and national security power plays on a grand scale set against the backdrop of Canberra’s corridors and West Papua’s exotic landscape. This second outing for vulnerable but gifted hacker Jesse, journalist brother Ned,and girlfriend Hani (Adele Perovic) is filled with uncertainty and paranoia.

The Code – The Complete Season Two is available to order from Amazon.

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DVD Review: The Code

Hacking into BBC Four, and onto DVD, Australian techno-conspiracy thriller The Code proves Europe doesn’t have a monopoly on Noir.

Slick and compelling, a six hour drama filled with interweaving strands of subterfuge and murky morality. The spectacular unspoilt landscape of Australia’s outback is contrasted with grubby dealings in the corridors of power in a series that has more in common with Hostages and Edge of Darkness than Neighbours or Home and Away.

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Series creator, and script writer, Shelley Birse has been working in Australian drama for twenty years. She spent time in Israel during the Arab Spring and was aware of the role played by pro-democracy hacktivists in bypassing online protocols to access suppressed information and disseminate video files and documents.

Recipient of a grant from Scribe, a project partly backed by Screen Australia to foster new talent. The financing gave Birse space to develop The Code without the pressure of immediate deadlines. With additional time to research and write the series she sculpted a suspense filled drama that mined ever present fears of data protection in the Wikileaks era and the dirty tricks governmental agencies will employ to shut down leaks.

Before the first episode had aired the series had won awards and been pre-sold to several territories, including America and Canada. In Australia its première trounced main rival, Big Brother, in the ratings and landed a place inside the week’s top ten most watch programmes.

Alex Wisham (Lucy Lawless of Xena, and Battlestar Galactica) is a teacher in remote New South Wales township, Lindara. One night she notices that her truck has been “borrowed” by Clarence, a young boy she has been looking after.

Forced to meet surreptitiously because of his girlfriend’s dissaproving parents, Clarence has taken the vehicle without permission. An evening joyriding around the surrounding area ends in tragedy for this young couple when a tanker collides with the truck.

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Journalist Ned Banks (Dan Spielman) is fed a story by a member of the government’s press team about a cabinet minster’s extramarital relationship. In the bundle of incriminating evidence is a piece of paper with Lindara scrawled on it. Unsure how this connects to the governmental matter he’s reporting, Ned decides to dig deeper and soon finds himself investigating why the scene of a fatal car crash has been tampered with.

The corpse of Clarence’s girlfriend has been removed from the vehicle and the only tangible proof she was in the truck is a mobile phone with a corrupted video file. Curious about the footage’s Ned allows his hacker brother Jesse (Ashley Zuckerman) to attempt a repair of the damaged content.

Poor quality footage recovered from the phone documents the horror of the collision and its aftermath. A shaky frame contains a number plate. Jesse tracks the vehicle to bio-tech company but his attempt to breach their online security portals triggers an investigation by a cyber crime unit.

Operating on the mild end of the autistic spectrum, Jesse is living under parole conditions and is banned from using WiFi, internet connected mobile phones, or consorting with other hackers. Fellow computer whizz Hani (Adele Perovic) offers to assist when the Bio-Tech company tries to infect Jesse’s computer with Malware. Accepting her offer means he runs the risk of being sent to prison.

Stunning cinematography that practically begs the viewer to board a plane, subtle and smart screenwriting completed by first rate acting makes this a show to remember and enjoy all over again on DVD.

The Code is a sophisticated crime series packed with moments of high-wire tension that signals the emergence of a new form of Noir. The Australian film industry has justly been recognised for its consistently high quality productions since the release of Picnic at Hanging Rock. Now is the time to start treating the country’s TV with similar levels of respect. If more shows are produced to this standard, not getting a UK release would be criminal.

The Code can be ordered from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Code-Series-1-DVD/dp/B00NFK1T0W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1415007338&sr=8-1&keywords=the+code