In my blog post on this year’s TV Week‘s Previews issue, I quoted from it that Bite Club “will revolve around two detectives who fall victim to a shark attack, they survive but have to deal with massive psychological repercussions, and later work together to hunt down a serial killer.”
Based on this premise, or rather the summary of it, the pilot has only lived up to half its potential.
The pilot kicks off with Zoe Rawlings (Ash Ricardo) and Dan Cooper (Todd Lasance) surfing and contemplating marriage and where to have a honeymoon. Knowing the premise of the show and the vast amount of underwater shots, there was an ominous vibe to these scenes, which are proven when a shark suddenly attacks Zoe from under her surfboard and drags her down, with Dan going after her to save her, only for him to get dragged down himself. I thought that these scenes were realistic but not overly graphic, but ended up throwing out that thought when it was revealed Dan’s leg was bitten off. The scenes of the rescue and Zoe and Dan being separated in the process were also realistically well done and well performed by Ricardo and Lasance.
It then cuts to three years later where a seemingly recovered Zoe is swimming in the ocean and sees someone on rocks in the distance, and then follows with a scene of her showering which reveals the full extent of her abdomen injury from the shark attack. Considering how catastrophic Dan’s injury was, I appreciated the subtle reveal of Zoe’s injury.
After this set up, the episode dives into its case for the week with a murdered and mauled woman on the beach, who is revealed to be Audrey Lynette Gibson, a woman who has been missing for five years whose case was handled by Dan. Dan suspected her ex-husband did it but could never prove it without Audrey’s body.
I felt like the case of the week was undermined by the focus on Zoe’s and Dan’s backstory. Since the shark attack, Dan left Zoe to go away for a month, which turned into three years, spending most of it travelling while on extended leave without pay, working security for a few mines, and setting up a “bite club” of shark attack survivors, helping one (surfer, Amber Wells) out throughout the episode. Zoe wasn’t really developed in this episode, since the shark attack she has continued to work and is in a relationship with a psychologist, Kristof, that works for the police. What I appreciated was the contrast between the trauma that they are experiencing. Dan’s trauma, such as the pain his prosthetic causes him and his fear of the water, was more obvious and focused on than Zoe’s trauma which manifests itself in the form of flashbacks in her dreams.
The overwhelming focus on Zoe’s and Dan’s backstory did have a redeeming quality, the trauma they are clearly still experiencing and have to deal with, helped them solve Audrey’s murder. While Dan’s trauma and inability to enter the water did hinder them briefly, it was ultimately Dan’s need for a shark app that led to them proving Audrey’s ex-husband was indeed her murderer. I’m hoping that the case of the week in future episodes doesn’t have an obvious perp or that the solution comes to them through apps, but I won’t deny the fact that the app was a unique way to come to the solution.
As the case for the week was in the process of being solved, the department found a burnt Jane Doe. At the end of the episode, Dan talks about how a burnt John Doe was recovered from a well three-and-a-half years earlier with the same bite mark and the right incisor missing, the incisor detail bothered him. As the burnt Jane Doe also has an incisor missing, Dan reveals there is a serial killer on the loose and at the end of the episode, the serial killer is revealed to be Senior Constable Stephen Langley (Dominic Monaghan).
In all honesty, this reveal didn’t really surprised me as the writers went out of their way to show Langley was a little off, from his seemingly lack of social skills around Claire (Darcie Irwin-Simpson), to his fascination and Twitter interactions with Amber (Marny Kennedy). Nevertheless, finding out his motivations and the inevitable confrontation between him and the department when he is eventually caught, will make an interesting story arc.
Overall, the pilot did its job in establishing the premise of the show and establishing the characters, however I felt that the focus on Zoe’s and Dan’s backstory was excessive.