CLEVERMAN Review: “A Man of Vision”

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This week on , Waruu and Koen’s rivalry finally heats up and we might just get a man-vs.-demon showdown after all. But first, Jerrod and Charlotte roll up to a medical clinic where Jerrod’s scientist friend pretends not to recognize him from the human/Hairy trials in last week’s episode. Charlotte agrees to try a new form of reproductive therapy that uses Hairypeople blood or DNA. Sure enough, it works; Charlotte gets morning sickness when she and Jerrod host Waruu and Nerida for dinner. Later, Charlotte performs an ultrasound on herself at work and finds something irregular about the baby’s heartbeat. Back in their coastal palace (seriously, if I ever win the lottery I want these people’s architect), Jerrod Slade tries to convince Charlotte to stop working at The Zone, for her own pregnant-ass safety. Charlotte refuses. Later, Jerrod Slade takes a phone call from Minister Matthews, who orders The Zone to be cleansed. He’s planning on putting condos up there. He shows Araluen his plans and says she’ll be happy to be at the brothel when The Zone is cleansed.

Jarrod Slade (Iain Glen); Single- Cleverman _ Season 1, Episode 5 - Photo Credit: Lisa Tomasetti/SundanceTV/GPTV/Zone140

Blair and Koen pick up Ash — who is literally a pile of ashes now — off the pub floor. Later, Koen has visions while holding Kora’s hand. Blair’s not doing so well and still blames Koen for Ash’s death. He confronts Koen with the news that he knew Koen and Ash were having an affair. They almost fight and Kora, sensing the strain between them, tries to calm Blair. Koen and Blair take Kora to The Zone to see Aunty Linda, who can see many layers within Kora and identifies her as an important ancestral spirit. Kora tells Aunty Linda, speaking in a strange tongue, that she sent for Cleverman to rescue her. Aunty Linda concludes that Koen has to send Kora home — back to her own dimension.

Kora (Alexis Lane); Koen West (Hunter-Page Lochard); Single- Cleverman _ Season 1, Episode 5 - Photo Credit: Lisa Tomasetti/SundanceTV/GPTV/Zone140

Jerrod tells Waruu he wants to help Waruu’s efforts in The Zone. He agrees to donate massive amounts of money if Waruu gives him Koen. Waruu tries to pass Slade’s donation off as philanthropy later to Nerida until Aunty Linda busts in and demands to speak to her son — Waruu. Linda summons Waruu over to her apartment, saying Koen needs his help. They show Kora to Waruu and ask for Waruu’s help sending Kora home. Waruu says first Koen must kill the evil demon in order to save the Hairys. Koen protests but he holds firm. They’ll kill the demon tonight. They lure the demon to the beach with a bonfire feat. dead deer and other savory demon-tapas. Koen blows this whole endeavor off and Waruu crouches by the bonfire chanting to attract the demon. Okay Cleverman, we get it. Waruu is the one who plays by the rules and takes his job seriously and Koen does not give a f*ck and somehow is still Cleverman and life is not fair — you don’t have to keep hammering it in.

Back at the office, Nerida finds Waruu’s Go-Pro footage from the night of the containment center killings and watches, distraught. Koen and Waruu have a fight by the bonfire. Koen says he’s seen his own death and accuses Waruu of staging this whole demon-seance as a plot to kill him and ascend to the Cleverman throne. Waruu resents Koen for the death of their mother, who was apparently a prostitute, and calls Koen a bastard. They punch the shit out of each other until Koen staggers off. Waruu comes home with a battered face to face a very grouchy Nerida. She confronts him about killing a man in the containment center and asks point-blank what the deal is with Slade. Waruu doesn’t tell her. Nerida will have none of him and walks off.

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Meanwhile, in the brothel, one of Frankie’s employees makes a costly mistake that ends with Araluen getting her hands on a phone. Frankie threatens Araluen with her cattle prod if she finds out Araluen’s hiding the phone and Araluen says, heartbreakingly, “Who would I call?” Towards the end of the episode, Minister Matthews reveals he’s spoken to Frankie about buying Araluen outright, which would isolate her from her family even further. Tensions brew in The Zone between the residents and the CA officers. A CA officer violently attacks an old man named Max and maces him. Charlotte gets pissed and goes on a tear, laying into a Containment Authority officer in front of a gathering crowd of protestors. As Charlotte tries to make an impassioned speech on behalf of the Hairys, someone pelts her with an egg.

Djukara catches Koen in The Zone later, recognizing him as the coyote who sold his family out way back in Episode 1. Djukara holds him at gunpoint, and blasts one in Koen’s neck. Koen somehow doesn’t die (I guess being Cleverman has its perks) and heads to Aunty Linda’s to confess his sins. Aunty Linda’s at an appointment with Charlotte the next day when a little Hairy boy comes in with strange burns on him. Linda orders Alinta to go get Koen and tells Charlotte this is the work of the demon. She tells Koen it’s time to step up. Koen’s nervous and says he’s not the one, but Aunty Linda strong-arms him into seeing the child anyway. Koen burns some leaves and performs a healing spell on the child, and the ghost of Djukara’s little sister, who died in the plot, appears to him in a vision. Koen makes peace with her and in doing so finds a renewed sense of purpose as Cleverman.

Oh, Cleverman. I just… I don’t know what to say. I had so much hope for us. Next week is the season finale of this show. And like… we might see this demon? Maybe? And while I’m glad Koen finally decided to get on board with his mystic destiny, with only one episode left to go, his newfound vigor feels like somewhat of a wasted opportunity. I’m thrilled we got to see more of Aunty Linda, and that we finally learned Koen’s deep dark secret — he’s a bastard child of his father and a prostitute — but I’m just not sure what the point is of waiting 5 episodes to learn this information about him was, especially since Koen is our main character and all.

The stakes for all characters in Cleverman have built, yes, this is true, but in many instances it feels like we’ve just reached the midpoint when in fact we’ve only got one episode left. Araluen, for example, kind of stopped having an arc when she went into the brothel. Her scenes just kind of became different shades of unfortunate. Also, Waruu and Koen’s rivalry, much like a volleyball in a high school tournament, kind of spiked out of nowhere this week. Their fistfight on the beach felt bizarre because we haven’t seen them in a lot of scenes together so the fight felt like a quick escalation. Cleverman has been a unique and thought-provoking ride. It certainly feels timely and discusses issues of race and class oppression that resonate in any city around the world (this week’s Jerrod Slade/Minister Matthews exchange about liquidating The Zone to turn it into condos felt especially exemplary of this), but so far I feel like it’s just showed us situations rather than told us a story. I hope next week’s finale proves me wrong, but I’m not optimistic. Still, I’m interested to see how they close out the season next week.


Season 1, Episode 5 (S01E05)
Cleverman airs Wednesdays at 9PM on Sundance

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Ellen is a writer mostly because she can’t be a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race.

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Ellen Duffy | Contributor
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