The Brokenwood Mysteries TV review: Season 1 Episode 1 "Blood and Water"

On the surface this long-running New Zealand-based TV series may seem like a run-of-the-mill detective drama but it has proved to be a great discovery for this reporter.
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Our household has largely exhausted sources of murder mysteries to watch. We’ve sat through far too many Midsomer Murders re-runs and during lockdown managed to watch almost every series going, some dating back quite a few decades (such as Bergerac and Wycliffe).

So we gave The Brokenwood Mysteries a go, streaming it on the Acorn TV add on available on Amazon Prime. While the show uses a fairly standard premise, I’d say it does everything pretty well. It has enough light-hearted and humorous moments, there are four distinctive and likeable characters and every episode feels fresh and well-written.

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As far as plots go, they often give you enough breadcrumbs to work out the identity of the killer well before the dénouement. As with all shows of this genre there are several red herrings thrown in front of the viewer, but these never actively mislead, and unlike many similar programmes there is usually only a single fatality per episode rather than a pile of bodies by the end. And rather than focusing on catching psychopaths, many of the crimes are either committed impulsively or as a result of a series of really, really, bad decisions.

Neill Rea as Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd (Photo: South Pacific Pictures)Neill Rea as Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd (Photo: South Pacific Pictures)
Neill Rea as Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd (Photo: South Pacific Pictures)

Two of the show’s main characters barely feature in the first episode so I’ll mention them and move on to the shows leads. Dr Gina Kadinsky is the station’s Russian pathologist and Sam Breen is a Detective Constable. Jared Morehu is one of several recurring characters and he is introduced in this episode. Neill Rea stars as Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd with Fern Sutherland opposite him as Detective Kristin Sims.

Brokenwood, the fictional town where the show is set, is portrayed as a place where everybody knows everyone and their business, with many moving there to escape the big city and enjoy life at a slower pace. At the start a body is found in the river, with police believing the man committed suicide by jumping in and drowning. All though not apparent why, Shepherd is sent by HQ to help with the investigation and takes over as the lead, when Brokenwood’s senior officer Gary McLeod seems disinterested in the case.

As well as introducing the setting, this episode focuses on the tension between Shepherd and Sims. Sims bristles under Shepherd’s unique leadership style, which contrasts with how the station has been run up to this point. The two main things everyone knows about Mike Shepherd is he drives a classic car and loves country music. He notices the small details, is a believer in hard legwork and is someone who keeps calm and composed under fire (literally as is in this episode). If you’re struggling for a show to get your teeth into and you’re a big fan of detective/murder mystery shows, you could do far worse than giving Brokenwood a try.


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With so much to introduce in the show’s first episode, this does a pretty good job of getting everything in without making it feel rushed. It’s clear that Shepherd is the show’s lead, so it’s no surprise at the end he decides to stay in Brokenwood.

As you watch more episodes, you’ll know what to look out for. Alibis that seem too watertight are something to be suspicious of, and once I knew the body of the wife had been placed in the ditch rather than left, and she had been wearing a coat that looked too big for her, I immediately suspected someone had meant to kill her husband and not her years before. From the start the sister seemed the obvious culprit. This was only confirmed when we found about the note on the missing coat that had been in the file Gary had squirreled away (we previously knew he had shown it to the sister years before).

A great start to the series.

If you also enjoyed this episode or the series too, email me at [email protected]

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