Jay Swan, a detective, returns home to an outback town to solve the murder of a teenage Indigenous girl, whose body is found near a trucking route out of town.
'A dead Indigenous girl, no more than 16 years of age, is discovered in a drain underneath a highway in the aptly named Massacre Creek area. The drain is flanked by the wide, impossible expanses of outback Australia – a place where screams go unheard and violence can be wrought without any real fear of reprisal. Her throat has been cleanly slit by an unknown assailant for an unknown reason, and wild dogs have already taken to her corpse. This is how Ivan Sen’s Mystery Road opens.' (Introduction)
'In the middle of the nineteenth century, Marcus Clarke famously described the Australian outback as displaying a “Weird Melancholy” (qtd. in Gelder 116). The strange sights, sounds, and experiences of Australia’s rural locations made them ripe for the development of the European genre of the Gothic in a new location, a mutation which has continued over the past two centuries. But what does it mean for Australia’s Gothic landscapes to be associated with the affective qualities of the melancholy? And more particularly, how and why does this Gothic effect (and affect) appear in the most accessible Gothic media of the twenty-first century, the television series? Two recent Australian television adaptations, Wake in Fright (2017, dir. Kriv Stenders) and Mystery Road (2018, dir. Rachel Perkins) provoke us to ask the question: how does their pictorial representation of the Australian outback and its inhabitants overtly express rage and its close ties to melancholia, shame and violence? More particularly, I argue that in both series this rage is turned inwards rather than outwards; rage is turned into melancholy and thus to self-destruction – which constructs an allegory for the malaise of our contemporary nation. However, here the two series differ. While Wake in Fright posits this as a never-ending narrative, in a true Freudian model of melancholics who fail to resolve or attend to their trauma, Mystery Road is more positive in its positioning, allowing the themes of apology and recognition to appear, both necessary for reparation and forward movement.'
Source: Author's introduction.