Harrow–Pilot (Actus Reus)

The job of a pilot is to establish a show’s premise and characters and set up story arcs for the season. I felt that the pilot of Harrow pulled this off beautifully, even if it did so slowly.

The episode starts with an unknown figure pouring concrete over a body and disposing it in the river, followed by the opening credits and then cutting to titular character, Dr Daniel Harrow (Ioan Gruffudd), watching High Noon avoiding his obligation to do an autopsy on a clown still in full make-up. While this quick and seemingly random transition seemed clunky, the following moments made up for it by displaying both Harrow’s personality and unique intelligence, and why he’s such a good pathologist.

I feel that the contrast between Harrow’s intelligence and brilliance in his work, and his strained relationship with his daughter was a bit of cliche, nevertheless, it does provide balance to his character. Harrow’s arrogance in his job is realistically contrasted by his anxiety, desperation and failure to make amends with apparently long-suffering daughter, Fern (Ella Newton). I felt that Harrow’s efforts to make amends were undermined by the predictable outcome–of course they wouldn’t be sailing off into the sunset or rather Bora Bora as, if they did, there would be no series to watch. It was only a matter of what would cause Harrow to change his mind and when.

While I felt that the focus on Harrow’s family dynamic fell flat, the A story of Harrow looking into Olivia Reimers’ murder was solid. Rather than going down the cliche road of Harrow investigating Olivia’s death just after her body was found, he investigates it by being coerced by Olivia’s father, Bruce (Gary Sweet). While Sweet’s performance was fantastic, I do feel he has been typecast as an aggressive character. While this subplot ultimately had a predictable outcome, what I believe worked well was the slow process of putting all the jigsaw pieces together from Bruce showing Harrow the carved letters “KU” on the bathroom vanity, to Harrow trying to repeatedly deduce how Olivia died, to discovering the brilliant way in which Olivia tried to save herself, which ultimately led to the reveal of why she was murdered, and lastly how Harrow managed to prove that Kurt was Olivia’s killer.

The insertion of the attempted foal drowning didn’t add anything to the episode as there was no resolution provided to it, and it was clearly only inserted as a means for Harrow to meet his love interest, Saroya (Mirrah Foulkes).

As I was watching the episode, I kept thinking that the opening scenes had been completely forgotten so I was surprised by the twist at the end. At best, Harrow is disposing a body, at worst he is a killer himself. On second viewing of this episode, I found this reveal raised more questions than provided answers–did he really want to go to Bora Bora with Fern to make amends or to flee? Why dispose of the body in the river and not elsewhere? Why bother purchasing his surgical tools back from the pawnbroker when they were clearly used in the murder?

Overall I felt that the pilot of Harrow established its premise and characters beautifully, balanced out the drama with a great amount of subtle comedy, and successfully managed to keep the twist a secret until the right time. I also felt that the pilot lacked action, however I believe this is a deliberate choice by the writers–this crime drama is going to be more of an intellectual slow burn than an action-packed wildfire. One of Harrow’s great one-liners perfectly summed up what kind of crime drama this series will be–“that’s the cause not the reason”.


Stray Observations:

-Running gag: Harrow’s daily insults to Fairley on the latter’s office door.

-Harrow has a parking sign ready to go whenever he feels like illegally parking.

-Most Australian dramas have been set in either Sydney or Melbourne, I appreciated the choice of the show’s crew to be different and go with Brisbane.

-Best one liners:

  • “I hate clowns” (Harrow)
  • “You really shouldn’t interrupt a guy watching High Noon” (Harrow to Maxine)
  • “I don’t drink with people who break into Bettie” (Harrow to Bruce)
  • “I thought real men gave their cars girls names” (Simon to Harrow)
  • “Working with you is like competing in the Olympics of sexual harassment” (Simon to Harrow)
  • “I always imagined the bail fairy to be taller” (Harrow to Maxine after his arrest)
  • “That’s the cause not the reason” (Harrow to Fairley on Olivia’s brain haemorrhage).


One thought on “Harrow–Pilot (Actus Reus)

  1. Interesting that they had to chip the concrete away from the bones. If the body was ‘fresh’ when placed in the sleeping bag then the flesh would have decayed long after the concrete had set, leaving the bones to rattle around in the resulting cavity.


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