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Series / Mystery Road

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Tales of two Swans.note 

Mystery Road is an Australian crime TV series spun off from the films Mystery Road and Goldstone, with Aaron Pedersen reprising his role as Aboriginal police detective Jay Swan. The first season aired in 2018, whilst the second was broadcast in 2020.

Season One (according to Word of God set between the two films), has Jay sent to an isolated cattle-raising community in the outback to investigate the sinister disappearance of two young jackaroos, one a local Aboriginal youth and the other a white backpacker. Season Two sees Jay visiting a small town on the coast to investigate the case of a drug-dealer found decapitated in a mangrove swamp, although he also becomes involved in a local Aboriginal police officer's attempts to solve the mysterious disappearance of her sister a few years before.

A prequel miniseries, Mystery Road: Origin, begun airing in 2022, starring Mark Coles Smith as a younger Jay Swan. In this series Jay, newly appointed as a detective, returns to his home town and promptly gets embroiled in family drama. Meanwhile, the new criminal lawyer in town is investigating the years-old murder of the brother of Mary, the woman who Jay will end up marrying. A second season of Origin is in development.

This series includes the following tropes:

  • Arranged Marriage: In the second season, Fran's missing sister Zoe was unhappily awaiting an arranged marriage, and is thought by some to have run away from it. In fact, her fiance was a laidback sort who was happy to let her back out of it, but the tyrannical local Aboriginal leader who brokered the engagement was so angry at having his authority disrespected that he murdered her and her boyfriend.
  • Artifact Title: The title Mystery Road comes from the original movie. Neither season of the TV series takes place anywhere near the eponymous Mystery Road.
  • Bar Brawl: Jay's daughter Crystal almost immediately gets into a fight with another Aboriginal girl in a bar once she comes into town, which he berates her over afterward.
  • Buddy Cop Show: Both seasons pair Jay with a female local cop partner, although they're very different: Emma in the first season is a middle-aged white Sergeant who is related to other important people in the community, while Fran in the second season is a young Aboriginal woman who is alienated from most of her relatives due to them disapproving of her being a cop.
  • Clueless Deputy: Muller comes off as this. He is even accused of being a mole because of how much he hinders the investigation in the first season.
  • Cop Hater: Larry although justified as he had been arrested for a crime he did not commit, and then found guilty because he was ill-advised by the police.
  • Cowboy Cop: Jay is not too worried about standard police procedure. In both shows, local cops call him out over his tendency to do his own thing and not respect their own responsibilities.
  • Defective Detective: Jay is a stoic and unhappy man whose family life is an utter wreck.
  • Dirty Cop:
    • The second season has Owen, the corrupt local Sergeant, and Simon, a corrupt former cop who turns out to be the boss of the drug gang.
    • In Origin, Peter, the local head cop, helped Patrick cover up his murder of Jay's father.
  • Doomed by Canon: Subverted with Crystal in the first season. A line in the previously-released but later-set Goldstone suggested that she might be dead, and a scene in the final episode has her confronted by the villain in a way that implies he might kill her. But he doesn't actually commit any violence on her.
  • Due to the Dead: In the second season, Sandra places the recent skeletons she found in her archeological dig on the church doorstep in a muddled and drunken effort to pay respect to them without becoming involved in the case.
  • Dysfunctional Family: Jay's family in Origin. His father Jack and brother Sputty are both alcoholics, his mother left his father years ago, and he hasn't seen any of them in years.
  • False Rape Accusation: What turns out to be at the root of the first season's events — Keith raped and tried to kill Shevorne and when she survived forced her to accuse Larry, who was his political rival.
  • Gangland Drive-By: In the first season, while Jay is taking Marley to prison, a truck pulls up alongside them and the passenger opens fire on both of them with a shotgun.
  • Good Old Ways: Subverted in the second season in which it turns out that the traditionalist Aboriginal leader Jimmy Two murdered Zoe and her boyfriend in an honour killing. When this comes out, the other local Aboriginal people show nothing but contempt for it.
  • Iconic Attribute Adoption Moment: In the fourth episode of Origin, when Jay finds the straw hat that he will wear in all the later-set films and TV shows in a box in his father's house.
  • It's Personal: Happens to Jay in both seasons. In the first season his disturbed daughter turns up in the town hoping to reconcile with him, but then gets involved with some of the suspects, while in the second season his wife turns out to have moved to the town and to be dating one of the suspects who ends up being the Big Bad. In the second season, Fran is the sister of a young woman who disappeared years before and is suspected of having been murdered, and her determination to solve the case interferes with Jay's main investigation.
  • Just Got Out of Jail: In season 1, one suspect is Larry, the uncle of the Aboriginal young man who disappeared, and a recently released convict. He was framed though.
  • Just Keep Driving: In a pivotal incident in the first season, a road train collides with a motorbike, kills the rider and keeps going. It turns out that the driver genuinely didn't notice due to his high position and the flimsiness of the bike meaning that he wasn't aware of the impact.
  • Last Disrespects: In Origin, Sputty turns up to Jack's funeral late and drunk, interrupts the service, and pours whisky over the coffin.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: In Origin, the mysterious group of men in Ned Kelly masks who are committing armed robberies in the area.
  • Married to the Job: Jay, according to Mary. He neglected and walked out on his family to pursue his career.
  • Meaningful Look: Jay and Mary exchange a few of these now she has someone else.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Larry is not guilty. Season 1 does not go into the court case as much but he does prison time because of it.
  • Minority Police Officer: Season 1 has Jay Swan and Sharma. It's a diverse cast in general.
  • The Missus and the Ex: A particularly angsty one when Jay follows the sound of laughter to find Mary and Simon together.
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome: The first season involves the simultaneous disappearances of both a black teenager and a white one (although both are male), with many Aboriginal characters feeling this trope is in play during the investigation.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: In Origin, Max resigns from the police after killing Texas in dubious circumstances out of panic (he had been shooting at Jay, but had the gun pointed in the air when he emerged from behind the container and may have been trying to surrender).
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge:
    • In the first season, Emma comes off as this, especially when she doesn't step away from an investigation that involves her family property. She says no one else is going to care about "an aboriginal kid and a drug dealer.. no offence". She does however appear to have a change of heart as the season progresses.
    • In Origin, Max, who in her first scene assumes that Jay (in civilian clothes) must be the person responsible for an armed robbery, seemingly just because of his race. Later on she appears basically honest, however.
  • Oh, Crap!: In the second season, Mary realises that Simon is probably the Big Bad while having a romantic dinner with him at his isolated house.
  • One Degree of Separation: In the first season, the local sergeant Emma is the sister of the owner of the local cattle station, who is one of the suspects, and the ex-wife of the local Amoral Attorney who ends up representing practically everyone she arrests. Justified by the smallness of the town.
  • Outside/Inside Slur: Jay gets insulted more than once for being a "coconut" (i.e. not really Aboriginal, but white on the inside) and related insults because he's a police detective who's accused of locking up his own people (most suspects in fact are white).
  • The Place: Also an Artifact Title. Mystery Road was an actual location in the original movie, but it does not appear in the series.
  • Police Brutality:
    • Jay a little with Marley in Season 1, when he is sick of not getting any answers out of people who are clearly lying.
    • In Origin, the solution to Josh's murder. Rex, the former local cop, killed Josh and three other local youths on different occasions while carrying out over-enthusiastic "street justice" on them.
  • Pseudo-Crisis: At the end of one episode of the first series, it's suggested that Shevorne's house has been broken into by Larry, who was sent to jail for raping and attempting to murder her. In the resolution to the cliffhanger, it turns out to be a different and much less threatening character.
  • Queer Establishing Moment: For Cindy, one of the other local cops in Origin, when she kisses the barmaid of the local pub while they're doing stunts in a car.
  • Rats in a Box: Used in the first season by Jay and Emma to persuade Keith's two accomplices to confess, by making each of them think that the other is ratting them out.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: In Origin, Jay is teaching Mary to shoot by using beer cans as targets. As soon as Jay has put a can on a fencepost, Sputty, who has grabbed the rifle, suddenly shoots it while Jay is still standing right next to it.
  • Robbing the Dead:
    • A major plot element of the second season is a conflict between the local Aboriginal people and a white archeologist excavating a site. The Aborigines see it as desecration of their ancestors' graves, while the archeologist sees it as expanding human knowledge and producing evidence of the past that could potentially be politically helpful to them.
    • In Origin, after Jay's father dies, his brother Sputty invites the other local Aborigines to take their pick of his possessions, leading to a full-on fist fight between the two brothers when Jay objects to it as this. Later, however, Sputty is shocked and offended when Jay starts wearing Jack's hat and shirts.
  • Rural Gangsters: In Season two, whilst investigating a decapitated body found in the Mangrove swamps outside the small isolated town of Broome in largely rural Northern Australia, Jay uncovers the area is the source of the largescale cocaine smuggling operation that he's been hunting for years, with drug labs in the outback producing the products and it being smuggled out through Australia by long-distance truckers stopping at the local truck stop. As it turns out his ex wife's new love interest, the charming local businessman Simon is the mastermind and the local police boss Sergeant Owen is in his pocket.
  • Suppressed History:
    • In the first season Emma discovers that one of her ancestors murdered a number of local Aborigines by poisoning the local spring. It turns out that the Aborigines remembered it, but Emma and her brother were left ignorant by their ancestors.
    • In Origin, the "Ned Kelly" gang turn out to be militant local Aborigines trying to draw attention to the injustices of the town's past. Jay rips down the wallpaper of the local pub to reveal old murals glorifying the repression of Aborigines.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: In Mystery Road: Origin, Jay and Mary are played by Mark Coles Smith, and Tuuli Narkle respectively.
  • Two-Person Pool Party: In Origin, Jay and Mary have their first kiss while swimming in a local lake.