When Aboriginal Detective Jay Swan is assigned to investigate the disappearance of two young men from an outback cattle station, he clashes with local cop Emma James. Together their investigation will uncover a past injustice that threatens the whole community.
Mystery Road episode guide
Episode 1: Gone
When there is a mysterious disappearance on an outback cattle station, Detective Jay Swan is assigned to investigate. Working with local cop Emma James, Jay’s investigation uncovers a past injustice that threatens the fabric of the whole community.
When Indigenous detective Jay Swan arrives in the remote town of Patterson to investigate a mysterious disappearance from an outback cattle station, he thinks it will be an easy three day job. But it soon becomes clear that this is not a simple case. Not only does the missing local Indigenous teenager Marley know the country, but he would have stayed with his vehicle. It also appears there may have been force. But by who? And why?
Jay now has to work with smart, tough local cop Emma James. Born to a wealthy pastoral family and proud of her pioneering history, Emma’s life is embedded in the town. But Emma has her own secrets — bound up in the history of the town. Jay is also saddled by the arrival of his daughter Crystal, who’s run away from her own trouble at home.
When it becomes apparent that Marley was not alone, and that another farm hand is also missing, Jay’s focus turns to the cattle station owner Tony Ballantyne. When it is revealed that Tony is Emma’s brother and that the land where the boys went missing belongs to the family, Jay wonders why she didn't tell him that up front. Did the boys stumble on something? Is Emma covering for her brother? When everyone knows everyone, anyone could be a suspect… including Emma.
Episode 2: Blood Ties
As the police search for Marley and Reese, the early morning interstate bus arrives in Patterson bringing trouble in two forms — Larry Dime, convicted paedophile and Marley's uncle who has been released on parole after 10 years in gaol; and Georgia Clarke, a teenager who has seen the news and recognised Reese as her boyfriend Simon, who went missing two years earlier.
At the same time, Detective Jay Swan and Sergeant Emma James are finding it hard to put their differences aside. Emma is finding it difficult working with Jay — who doesn’t tell her anything about where his inquiries are taking him. The investigation leads them back to Emma’s family station where they discover that Marley and Reese checked out a work rifle but never returned it. Is Emma's brother Tony merely careless with his workers and guns… or is he hiding something? Jay discovers Tony wants to put Ballantyne station up for sale, but Emma doesn't want to part with her family property.
Jay digs further and finds Reese had told his girlfriend Shevorne something was going on with the water at the station. Jay goes out alone to investigate. He finds that although the station is supposed to have an unlimited supply of water, the bore’s lines and troughs are empty. For Jay it’s more confirmation that he can’t trust anyone, especially Emma, as he thinks she’s either hiding or ignoring the deep underbelly of Patterson that’s beginning to surface.
Meanwhile Emma is shocked to find Larry has returned to town and is finding himself a physical target from angry townspeople who don’t want him back. But there is one major clue that reveals itself. Larry’s prison visitor logs show only one person called on Larry in the last 10 years… it was Marley one week before he went missing. Despite Jay’s pleas to the 'good' man of old, Larry refuses to reveal why Marley visited him or what they discussed, leaving Jay and Emma back at square one. When Emma realises Jay is investigating behind her back, she tries to get him re- assigned but to no avail.
Under pressure from the police, Shevorne is living in fear due to Larry’s return. Unaware that Georgia is stalking her believing that Shevorne has stolen ‘her’ boyfriend Reese (aka Simon), she is followed on her walk home after a late shift. Hearing someone breaking into the house, Shevorne freezes in terror and manages to phone Emma… but can she get there in time?
Episode 3: Chasing Ghosts
Assuming it is Larry who has broken into Shevorne’s house, Emma and Jay burst in to find it’s Georgia. Georgia is convinced Shevorne is involved in Reese’s disappearance — but then the heartbreaking truth comes out: Reese is not Simon. As Georgia gives back Shevorne’s phone, videos are discovered showing the location of Reese and Marley's secret drug stash — at Two Mile where Larry has been staying. Is he involved after all?
Discovering the stash is gone, Jay and Emma are skeptical that Larry doesn't know anything about the drugs. However they still have another suspect: Shevorne. Under pressure, and threatened with being charged over concealing her involvement with the drug stash, Shevorne admits Reese had a plan. One big deal, sell it all at the rodeo and make enough money to leave town. Insisting she has no idea where they got the drugs from, Shevorne does have an idea who stole them: backpacker Eric.
Jay needs no excuse to go after Eric, who has been a thorn in his side since their first meeting. Eric is dangerous, charming and has Jay's daughter Crystal under his spell. With the population having just tripled for the annual rodeo, police resources are stretched. So if Jay wants to catch the backpackers red handed, he will have to do it alone. Distracted by Shevorne being accosted by Larry, Jay goes to Shevorne’s aid and confronts Larry and as a consequence loses the backpackers in the crowd.
With the backpackers cornered on the road out of town, Emma and Jay confront them only to discover that they have an extra passenger — Jay’s daughter Crystal. Under pressure Eric’s girlfriend Genevieve reveals the guy who was selling drugs to Reese and Marley is Erroll — the cattle truck driver Tony regularly uses out at the station. Jay tracks Erroll down on the highway and pulls him over. With a large stash of ice found hidden in the truck, Erroll confesses that Reese came to him with a proposition: sell to me instead of the main drug king in town — security chief Tyson Zein. Had Tyson found out Reese was edging into his territory and kidnapped or killed the boys? As Jay and Emma tell Marley’s family what they believe happened, Shevorne arrives at the house. She thinks she knows where Marley might be.
Episode 4: Silence
With questions hanging over Marley's return and the whereabouts of Reese, Emma brings him in for a formal interview. Revealing little, Jay and Emma take Marley back to the shed where he was found, and their suspicion only grows. Nothing Marley says adds up with what Jay can see on the ground, and he is visibly shocked when they tell him that Reese is not his real name.
As Jay and Emma go their separate ways, Jay tries to figure out where Marley has really been while Emma confronts Larry. They have a heated conversation that has been brewing for 10 years, but Larry refuses to help solve the mystery. Meanwhile Jay is closing in on the truth. A visit to Shevorne confirms that Marley arrived in town a few days ago and Shevorne has been hiding him. But as long as Shevorne denies everything, he’s got no proof.
Realising that Marley has skipped town with his girlfriend Jaz, Jay Intercepts the bus, and hauls Marley off, taking him to the railway crossing where the blood was found.
Despite strong arming Marley he reveals nothing. While Jay stands at the road he sees a ridge in the distance with a water hole below. He may know where Reese is. Climbing down the cliff face to the waterhole, Jay wades into the water… and finds Reese’s body, with a rifle tied to it. Reese has been shot.
Arrested but refusing to speak, everything points to Marley’s guilt. But Jay doesn’t think it adds up — why would Marley shoot his best friend in the back. Sure that there has to be some other explanation, Jay confronts Emma with his theory. But the wheels of the law are already in motion and Jay needs more than a ‘feeling’… he needs evidence.
Episode 5: The Waterhole
As Reese’s murder reverberates through the small town of Patterson, his grieving mother Liz asks to hold her son’s memorial at Black Springs. However when the request is refused by the local Aboriginal Elders, citing that Black Springs is a ‘sorry place’ — Emma is confused. Black Springs is on her family’s land, how can it be a sorry place?
Convinced Marley is not responsible for Reese’s murder, Jay is in a race against time to find the evidence to back up his case before the boy ends up in prison for a crime he did not commit.
And having gone from being the footy hero to the town pariah — Marley is beginning to crack.
Troubled about Black Springs being a sorry place, Emma begins to investigate the history of their family’s property. She uncovers another crime committed at Black Springs long before the murder of Reese; a crime which still reverberates in Patterson; a crime that changes her understanding of who she is and threatens to destroy her relationship with her brother.
With Mary having cleared out, Crystal helps her father find a breakthrough in the case. But it’s too late. Overcome with fear and guilt, Marley breaks bail and runs to see his uncle Larry. He is arrested, and Emma has no option but to send him to prison. Hoping to finally get the truth from the boy, Jay persuades Emma to let him drive Marley to prison. But on the way they are attacked, and are forced to fight for their lives.
Episode 6: The Truth
Having outrun their attackers, Jay holes up with Marley in an outback shed and Marley finally tells Jay everything — what happened that fateful night and the last time he saw Reese: the boys were ambushed out in the desert, and tried to escape — Marley got away but Reese didn’t. Where he can’t identify their attackers, Marley assumes it has to do with undercutting Tyson’s drug trade. But Jay thinks there’s more to it than that. He still thinks the whole attack has something to do with Larry… and Shevorne. He just has to figure out how.
When Jay finally returns to town with a smashed up police vehicle and no Marley he has some explaining to do. Jay reveals his reason for not trusting Emma enough to tell her where he's stashed Marley her brother is cheating the local people out of the truth about the value of Ballantyne Station. Emma refuses to believe it, until Tony finally confesses.
But Emma is in for another shock — as Shevorne reveals that Larry is innocent and tells them who really raped her 10 years earlier. Now Emma's whole life is in turmoil. Everything she has believed in is under question — her family, her history and her abilities as a police officer. But the one thing she can do now is stop another tragedy — Marley being gaoled for a crime he didn't commit.
With the man who really raped Shevorne now knowing the police are on his tail, the only way he can get away is if he silences Shevorne forever.
Jay and Emma have to work together to solve the crime and save both Marley and the person this has been about all along… Shevorne.
- Aaron Pedersen - Jay Swan
Judy Davis - Emma James
Deborah Mailman - Kerry Thompson
Wayne Blair - Larry Dime
Colin Friels - Tony Ballantyne
Anthony Hayes - Ryan Muller
Tasia Zalar - Shevorne Shields
Madeleine Madden - Crystal Swan
Aaron L. McGrath - Marley Thompson
Rohan Mirchandaney - David Sharma
Meyne Wyatt - Cedric Thompson
Tasma Walton - Mary Swan
Ernie Dingo - Keith Groves
Van Vuuren - Reese Dale
Eddie Baroo - Tyson Zein
Ningali Lawford - Dot
John Waters - Travis James
Arthur Angel - Chris Kollias
Jessica Falkholt - Genevieve Leclaire
Peter Docker - Luke Roberts
Benjamin Hoetjes - Eric Hoffman
Kris McQuade - Liz Rutherford
Alex Jones - Linda Ballantyne
Erroll Shand - Erroll Campbell
Teresa Moore - Jaz
- Release dates
- 3 June 2018 - Australia
20 August 2018 - Canada
20 August 2018 - USA
22 September 2018 - UK
- Video/DVD release date
- 15 August 2018
- M - Mature
- Antony Partos, Matteo Zingales
Shot in Kununurra, Western Australia.
Mystery Road Series 1 was the top 3 Australian TV series in 2018, with 1,275,000 viewers (metro and regional).
Note: Film might not be available at all suppliers.
Find "Mystery Road (TV series, Season 1)" on DVD or BluRay
Disclosure: I get commissions for purchases made through some of the below links.
Browse a list of Aboriginal film suppliers and distributors
Other films by Rachel Perkins
- 1993Freedom Ride – Blood Brothers
- 2001One Night The Moon
- 2008First Australians
- 2010Bran Nue Dae (Brand new day)
- 2012Redfern Now (Series 1)
- 2013Redfern Now (Series 2)
- 2014First Contact
- 2014Black Panther Woman
- 2015Promise Me
- 2016First Contact (Season 2)
- 2017Jasper Jones
- 2019Total Control (Series 1)
- 2021First Wars
Use the Aboriginal film timeline to discover films you never heard of.
Take the quiz: Are you an Aboriginal movie buff?