Described by director Rachel Ward as “The Sopranos in thongs”, the fourth episode of The Straits returns with a literal bang. Picking up after last week’s cliff hanger that left Harry Montebello (Brian Cox) shot three times by the mysterious hunter Vlad (Richard Cawthorne), we find that naturally Harry is not dead. Killing of the patriarch in only the third episode would have been very unlikely. Harry was saved thanks to an operation that placed a piece of metal in his head, deflecting Vlad’s bullets from doing any harm.
As Harry lies comatose, the rest of the family rally in their own ways to avenge Harry’s attempted assassination. Only Sissi (Suzannah Bayes-Morton) briefly attempts to escape after finding a stash of money in the now deceased Paddy’s (Kym Gyngell) house. Sissi is the black sheep of the family, and yet is terribly similar in her own opportunistic ways.
Ward’s direction is detailed with background movements synchronised with interesting precision, aided by another strong script from Blake Ayshford. This is best seen when Vlad enters the hospital as Gary (Firass Dirani) and Lola (Emma Lung) have an import discussion. Both movements could have been two interesting moments on their own, but combining them provides for an exciting moment.
Several questions are posed with the identity of Harry’s assassin. Taking a telephone call outside the hospital, we are compelled to wonder: who is Vlad working for? Establishing that Vlad was not indeed Russian, but Australian, is mysterious identity is even further queried upon his death. Other relationships are called into question as Natasha (Rachael Blake) appears at the hospital with her son. As Kitty quickly ushers out the child, the question is put forward: does Kitty know of the affair and even speculate on the paternity of Natasha’s child?
Employing black magic, Kitty (Rena Owen) interjects the vengeance of Harry’s assassin as Gary and Marou (Jim Bani) chase down Vlad in the bush. In a comical moment Gary lets out a fart and while humourous, really detracts from a critical moment in the scene. Teaming a spiritual connection within a crime drama is rarely seen within television series and welcomed a very interesting development for Kitty. It is very exciting to watch Owen eat up all of the strong material that is thrown at her.
Ending on yet another cliff hanger when Marou blows up a building, the music makes it very hard to separate any comparisons with The Sopranos. The lyrics repeat “get yourself a gun”, in the same style as The Sopranos opening theme by Alabama 3. Perhaps The Straits is trying to be self referential and intertextual, but it really need not be. With a talented multicultural cast in an area of Australia that is rarely seen on television, The Straits has the power to stand on its own strong feet.
The Straits airs Thursdays at 8.30pm on ABC1, as well as on ABC2 and iView.