Complete control stars Rachel Griffiths and Deborah Mailman in a tense political drama set in Australia. Infighting, backstabbing and covert maneuvers are a hallmark of political dramas, and there is plenty of it. The stakes are high in every situation and tension drives the plot.
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Complete control ran two seasons in Australia. It aired on Sundance Now in the US and both seasons are available on AMC+. A third season is planned for 2024.
In season 1, Rachel Anderson (Rachel Griffiths) is the Prime Minister. She sees a viral video of an indigenous woman, Alex Irving (Deborah Mailman), standing up to a murderer. Alex lives in the outback of a small town. She is an activist and fighter for the city and for the rights of the indigenous population.
Rachel seeks out Alex and installs her in parliament as a senator for Queensland. She promises to be an ally and help Alex achieve her goals. But you know how political promises go. . .
Alex is a single mother with a son named Eddie (Wesley Patten). She and Eddie live with her mother. They have family nearby in their small town. Alex knows everyone in town, especially a married man named Tom (Aaron Pedersen) with whom she has a history. She also knows all the indigenous elders who have real authority in the community.
Season 1 is about Alex learning her way around Parliament, meeting the other lawmakers and power brokers, and figuring out how to make things happen. At first she is naive and confident, but that doesn’t last long.
Alex works with Jonathan (Harry Richardson) and Tracey (Celia Ireland) in her office.
There is a season-long subplot involving a young Indigenous girl named Jess (Shantae Barnes-Cowan). Jess escaped from prison after the guards murdered her cellmate and the authorities covered it up. She wants Alex to do something about it.
In season 2, Alex leaves the Senate and holds elections for the House of Representatives. She stands as an independent and gathers helpers during the elections. Her main helper is her brother Charlie (Rob Collins), a political science professor who knows politics. They hire Joely (Steph Tisdell) to help with social media and Leo (Harry Greenwood) as their technology guru.
There is another indigenous MP: Paul Murphy (Wayne Blair). In season 2, Alex teams up with him and a group of other independents to achieve her goals.
Season 2 is full of ubiquitous threats and bullying, both online and in the real world. That increases the tension for Eddie at home and for Alex at work.
I described Alex’s role in the story primarily because she is the change maker. Rachel is everywhere, as are many of the people Alex interacts with in the political parties and in her personal life.
Rachel Griffiths and Deborah Mailman headed an excellent cast. Rachel Griffiths was also part of the writing and production team. The heavy lifting in terms of performance was Deborah Mailman and she did everything right. An excellent performance. The character Alex Irving was complex, troubled, imperfect and a courageous fighter for what was right. She joins the ranks of the most interesting female characters of all time.
Thematically, the storylines dealt with racial issues, the treatment of women, the rights of indigenous peoples, abuse of power, bullying and harassment, parenting and more. Each episode was complex and compelling.
Season one was directed by Rachel Perkins. Wayne Blair directed season 2. The list of creators includes Stuart Page, Darren Dale of Blackfella Films, Miranda Dear and Rachel Griffiths, with help from seven writers. Whoever was in charge of herding this group of cats and keeping the story consistent did a good job.
If you’re a fan of political intrigue, I hope you can find a way to watch this series. I’m definitely looking forward to season 3!
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