Are you a couch potato? The kind of TV viewer who likes everything laid out neatly for you? If you said yes, then Dig is probably not for you.
This US series from the producers behind Homeland is an almost literal labyrinth of a show. For a start, there are three apparently disparate storylines set in three separate locations that have to be followed (and yes, they do eventually come together). Then there are the machinations of each plot (particularly the central one, set in Jerusalem) and the myriad characters, all making for a quite complex viewing experience. But then to top it all off, the screenwriters hold back on critical details, leaving the viewer to fill in the gaps. They clearly want you to have your brain engaged and to, well, dig.
As I mentioned, the central plot element is set in Jerusalem. There, FBI agent Peter Connelly (Jason Isaacs) is assigned to the US Embassy. His job description seems to be a bit nebulous, but it involves a fair bit of liaison with local police officer Det. Golan Cohen (Ori Pfeffer). Perhaps Connelly’s being shielded somewhat by embassy attache Lynn Monaghan (Anne Heche), with whom he has a semi-serious sexual relationship. One night in the crowded streets, Connelly spies a young woman with vividly red dyed hair. She’s Emma Wilson (Alison Sudol), an American student working on an archeological dig in the ancient city. After a friendly drink, Emma shows Connelly around the dig site, a cavernous space under the streets. They part and Connelly retires to his sparse apartment. The next day though, a bombshell drops when Emma is found murdered and Connelly (apparently the last person to see her alive) could be considered the prime suspect.
Elsewhere, a group of Jewish elders inspects a newborn red calf in Norway and prepares to send it on a mammoth journey under the care of Avram (Guy Selnik); while in the Arizona desert, a cult led by the softly spoken but menacing Tad Billingham (David Costabile) is sheltering a young boy, Josh (Zen McGrath) in an isolated bunker. His assigned carer, Debbie (Lauren Ambrose) feels sorry for the boy, who apparently has never been outside. When she tries to help Josh, events turn both violent and tragic.
From there, the series unfurls into a mystery involving ancient texts, unscrupulous officials, dangerous terrorists and international politics. I can’t say much more without going into the kind of mysteries that are central to a show like this. Suffice to say, there’s a lot to like here if you stick with it.
As you might gather from the cast list, the performances are first-rate. Jason Isaacs (the Harry Potter films) does a mix of action hero and experienced campaigner as the central protagonist Connelly; and delivers on both fronts. He’s well matched with Ori Pfeffer (World War Z) as the younger, more cynical detective. Anne Heche (Men in Trees) is likeable as the diplomat, but keeps her character’s motivations closely guarded as the script demands. Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) is terrific as the confused but well-meaning Debbie, while David Costabile (Breaking Bad) is suitably creepy as the cult leader.
It only took one episode for me to be hooked on Dig. This is intriguing television – it makes you work, but it delivers on its promises. The best thing is you can currently watch it the traditional way on SBS; on binge on the whole series via on-demand provider Stan. Give it a go – you won’t be sorry.
Channel: SBS One; Stan
Day & time:
SBS – Thursday 9.30 pm (also via SBS On Demand)
Stan – on demand
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television