Hello Aussies, Kiwis, and all nominal subjects of the British crown! Due to popular demand, AfterEllen has decided to run full recaps of Janet King, and I couldn’t be more pleased, since there’s a lot of great material to sink your teeth into with this show. There is also a tough, intelligent queer woman as the title character, which is about as rare as snow on Christmas (I hope you guys like southern hemisphere jokes).
In spite of the title, Janet King is really an ensemble drama, so in the interest of clarity, let’s do a brief rundown of the major players.
So just keep that list handy in case you get lost. Now let’s jump right in. The show opens with a man administering morphine to his ill wife, and right from the get-go the tone is polished and the shots manage to convey both empathy and a certain prosecutorial distance. The woman dies while the soundtrack plays a song that sounds like it was written specifically about giving a fatal dose of narcotics to someone you really love. Cut to the present day, when it transpires that the man with the morphine was Steven Blakely, former Important Personage to the Australian Police (bear with me while I learn all these Australian titles). Following the death of Mrs. Blakely, an investigation is launched to determine whether the fatal dose was an accident or euthanasia. Watching this story unfold is Janet King (Marta Dusseldorp), who is preparing to return to work as a prosecutor after taking a year off for maternity leave.
This is the face of a woman you want on your side.
You learn so much about Janet in this first scene. When she scans the headlines, she’s a hawk: a single-minded predator. But then she looks up and sees her family all around her and has to hunt for her phone under a pile of diapers like any struggling parent. The way her ambition and her loyalty pull her in opposite directions is a great thing to keep an eye on this episode. Like, she almost cannot get in the car to go to work because she has to kiss her daughter one more time. And the way her assistant stares at her drives home what a big change that is for her.
WHAT HAS MOTHERHOOD DONE TO YOU. PLEASE GO BACK TO BEING THE ROBOT I KNOW AND LOVE.
Her first day back, Janet is thrown right into a trial against a pedophile (yay work!). The man, Alexander Moreno is accused of telling an undercover cop posing online as a 13 year-old girl to masturbate for him. His defense, crazily, is that he knew that she wasn’t really 13. See, because the cop used the word “parents” and REAL 13-year-olds would call them “rents” or “parentals” or “creeps.” And we should totally trust this guy, because if anyone is hip to the language of the kids, it’s a pedophile.
Janet goes back to her office to text her wife and pump some breast milk and pray she can get all the bad men behind bars before her own children turn 13.
Gays! They go to the store too!
Back to the main plot, Steven Blakely’s old friends at the Police Department—headed by Steve Rizzoli (it keeps weirding me out that he doesn’t have a standard-issue Italian cop New York accent)—are trying to protect their old friend while at the same time not seeming soft on crime. Their solution is to put dangerously slick former cop Owen Mitchell in charge of the case, with the understanding that he won’t push for a tough sentence.
But the Director of Prosecutors and the Case Allocator have other plans. Specifically they are wary of being too close with the cops. So it’s to be Janet King on the case!
What we know: Stephen Blakely administered three syringes of morphine to his wife in ten minutes but claims he did not know it would kill her. Janet’s eyebrow shoots way up when she hears this. Blakely’s son also claims that his mother never said anything to the effect of “Gee, this life business sure is a drag. I do hope someone offs me soon.” With this information in hand, Janet makes the controversial choice to charge Blakely with manslaughter, as opposed to the lighter charge of assisted suicide.
Of course this ruffles a few feathers and also shakes out this lady.
That’s cool; my mom usually just demands bloody marys.
She claims that Blakely has always been corrupt and failed to investigate the murder of her daughter in 1994. My theory: she is crazy but that doesn’t make her wrong.
Let’s check in with Lina Badir, shall we? She’s so pretty and nice and she can take our minds off this whole moral conundrum business.
You are perfect. Please never be sad.
Lina’s job right now is to sift through thousands of images of child pornography, which leads to the following exchange with Richard (the lesbian looking fellow, in case you’re losing track).
Um, Janet King, did you just meet me at the intersection of psychology, morality, and a hot lady? HAVE YOU BEEN READING MY DIARY?
Continuing in the vein of child porn, Janet tries to secure a conviction for Alex Moreno, but the judge—who reminds me Dolores Umbridge in terms of his condescension and the degree of loathing I feel for him—actually lets him off. Moreno leaps from the witness box and embraces his wife and CONSPICUOUSLY RED-HAIRED DAUGHTER.
THAT ONE. THAT ONE RIGHT THERE.
Janet is stymied about this verdict, but rather than merely being angry and insulted, she uses it to fire her prosecutorial zeal on the Blakely case.
When Blakely hears that Janet is going for a manslaughter charge, he is incensed.
Sorry bro, this is Australia, not Louisiana.
Under duress, Blakely pleads guilty to manslaughter. But the more Janet goes over the evidence, the more something seems out of place. And indeed, she discovers that Blakely hadn’t called for a refill for his wife’s meds in three days, which would seem to indicate some level of premeditation. Using that as evidence, Janet pushed for serious prison time, which draws the ire of Rizzoli, who calls her a “selfish dyke.” To her credit, Janet is unfazed, at least publically.
Her decision inadvertently causes some friction in the cop-lawyer marriage of Campbell and Badir. So distracted and distracted is Lina that she fails to notice the CONSPICUOUSLY RED HAIRED CHILD among the child porn pictures.
The next day, Steven Blakely fails to show up for his own sentencing hearing. The cops go to his home, where they find his wallet and phone sitting on the table and a note on his laptop saying simply “PLEASE FORGIVE ME.” To which I would reply “IT’S HARD TO FORGIVE YOU WHEN YOU ARE SHOUTING AT ME IN CAPS LOCK.”
So there’s a lot of plot to get through here, but the real meat of Janet King is the toll the characters’ work takes on them. Even over the course of a single episode, we’ve seen Janet go from someone who has to be torn away from her family, to someone who sends her wife to bed all alone.
Gays! They make wrong choices too!
So what did you think of the first episode? Will you be back for more?
Next time: Bikies! Blakely! Breast-feeding!