Tangle: articles

Tangle tops the list

I WOULD just like to issue a warning about Tangle: I'm about to discuss tonight's enthralling fifth episode, and during that process it's possible I'll be needing to bring up the preceding four instalments, so if you've recorded this series and haven't watched it yet, or might want to get on board at some point in the future, or have any other scenario where you don't want to find out anything crucial, you should just be aware of what you're getting into.

I have never seen an Australian drama as good as this one. I'll just say that at the outset. Family drama, I'm talking about.

Domesticity at close range. So I'm not including Blue Murder in this grand statement, or Phoenix, or Scales of Justice.

But the big ones of the past decade that everyone uses as local drama markers, Love My Way and The Secret Life Of Us, never quite had Tangle's level of personal risk. These people have a lot to lose.

If Tangle was running on, say, Seven, the Brothers & Sisters crowd would leap on it and hoist it beyond a million viewers.

I don't want to liken it to Brothers & Sisters though, because it's better — less melodramatic, for one thing. And when you think about the weight of the cast on that show, Sally Field and Ron Rifkin and Rob Lowe . . . OK, maybe not Rob Lowe so much . . . and the kind of money they have access to — I counted 22 writers in the credits listed on the industry website IMDb — Tangle is that much more impressive.

But I don't want to diminish it by measuring it against anything else, because basically, by any standard, this is quality television.

So. Where are we now? It's episode five, and things which were complicated to start with are becoming a real mess. The key developments tonight involve Tim (Joel Tobeck) and his career as a state politician, which suddenly looks like getting a major boost, assuming Tim has the stomach to do what's required.

There's a scene towards the end of the episode between Tim and his old and buggered mentor Pat (Frank Gallacher, always a pleasure) outside Parliament House in Melbourne . . . it only lasts a couple of minutes but it's as powerful and as ugly as anything you'll see on television.

And then there's Ben Mendelsohn's character Vince Kovac.

God knows how he's going to end up.

He's clearly a thug, but to what degree, well, we'll see.

He delivers the line tonight that is emblematic of the entire series: "No one's got anything to worry about as long as we all own our dirty little secrets and keep them all to ourselves," he tells one of his circle.

It sounds more threatening when Vince says it than it maybe did just then. The parents of the grounded kids have a meeting tonight at Vince and Allie's (Justine Clarke) to try and hash out why their offspring would've thought it was reasonable to: a) discover a dead body in bushland and not tell anyone, b) cut off the guy's finger to keep as a souvenir, and c) take his keys and break into his house and wander about whenever they felt like it.

Vince tries to mitigate the damage by telling the others that he used to get up to stuff when he was a teenager, and cites as an example of normal youthful hijinks the time he "iron-barred" somebody in the face.

Stunned silence from everyone. He's still having an affair with his son's friend's mother Em, who is also at the meeting and passing herself as Vince's best friend Gabriel's girlfriend.

It's not fooling everybody though.

I'm also wondering about John Brumpton's character Bryan Dougherty, who's a grub and a sleazebag and an opportunist. And, PS, a journalist. His son is the one who did the actual cutting off of the dead finger.

In the wrong hands, Tangle could've been unwatchable, because the people in it are so revolting.

Nasty and manipulative and self-absorbed. And that's why it's so clever, because despite their deep awfulness, I can't wait to see what happens to them.

By Dianne Butler
October 21, 2009
The Courier-Mail