At the heart of One Lane Bridge, which premiered today in the US and Canada, are a mysterious death and one man’s reawakened gift of second sight.

One Lane Bridge
One Lane Bridge: Dominic Ona-Ariki as Ariki & Joel Tobeck as Stephen — Photo courtesy of AMC Networks

But the series doesn’t open immediately with said death. Rather, we are introduced to the six-part drama by way of multiple dead bodies — directly on Queenstown’s infamous One Lane Bridge, below it in the water and on the rocky shore, and hanging from it.

What the heck happened here?!?

The answer is not straightforward but, as we shall see over the course of the series, intriguing.

Newly arrived in Queenstown is Ariki Davis (Dominic Ona-Ariki, Jonah, Shortland Street), an ambitious young Māori detective from Auckland who’s come here “to learn from the best,” meaning his new boss, the veteran copper Stephen Tremaine (Joel Tobeck, Secret City, The Doctor Blake Mysteries).

Instead of going straight to the office from the airport, Stephen and Ariki go searching for the ill father of Stephen’s close friend, Andrew “Grub” Ryder (Dean O’Gorman, The Almighty Johnsons), who’s gone walkabout in the massive, majestic, magnificent mountains of the Southern Alps that surround the Ryder family farm and the greater Queenstown area. Later the two detectives do a mini tiki tour of Queenstown and have dinner with Stephen’s wheelchair-bound wife, Lois (Alison Bruce, The Gulf), at the Tremaines’ home, where Ariki is staying. Meanwhile, Grub is lying dead on the rocky shore below One Lane Bridge.

Ariki is at the police station when a call about the body comes in the next day. It is while securing and looking over the crime scene that he begins to sense things, to hear and to see things that aren’t necessarily there. What he doesn’t realize is that his matakite — a supernatural ability akin to second sight — has been reawakened after apparently lying dormant for many years.

Elsewhere in Queenstown, Grub’s brother Rob (Jared Turner, The Almighty Johnsons), sister Jackie (Sara Wiseman, A Place to Call Home), wife Kate (Aidee Walker, Outrageous Fortune), and daughter Emma (Nathalie Morris, Almost Paradise) are planning a party to celebrate the farm’s centenary — until Stephen breaks the terrible news about Grub to them.

What initially looks like a case of suicide becomes one of homicide, after Ariki discovers that more than one person had a motive for killing Grub. As he and Stephen investigate, the discord within the Ryder family grows — exacerbated by one member’s alcoholism, the reality of the farm being a physical and financial drain that “sucks you dry,” and the truth about some of Grub’s relationships.

Ariki’s matakite also grows stronger and the visual and auditory manifestations appear with more frequency, oftentimes leaving him shaking and gasping for breath as well as having nightmares. But he doesn’t acknowledge his gift or things in the realm of the supernatural — to him One Lane Bridge is just a bridge and the dead are dead — until he does.

What his matakite doesn’t do is prevent Ariki from messing up on the job (contributes to it, more like), and his career is now in serious jeopardy.

With another person’s life in grave danger, a guilty party confesses. Except Ariki’s matakite points him to someone else…

Although I started watching the screeners for One Lane Bridge a bit late in the evening last night, I was so engrossed in the story that I stayed up until stupid o’clock to finish the series.

Yes, I wanted to know who Grub’s killer was, but there was more to my curiosity-filled binge than that. Who were the other victims, the ones on and below the bridge in the opening scene? Would Ariki ever embrace his matakite and accept the guidance offered by the animal totems that appear on his path? And would there be more prejudice-based aggression — of the micro and straight-up violent kinds — directed against Ariki and others in this town where “everyone picks a side”? At the end I was left with a nagging question, one that could be answered if One Lane Bridge gets the nod for a second season.

Created by Pip Hall (800 Words) and Philip Smith (The Pretender), the series features Phil Brown (800 Words), Michelle Langstone (800 Words), Peter McCauley (The Lost World), Phoebe McKellar (Shortland Street), Ryan O’Kane (City Homicide), and Alex Walker (When We Go to War).

One Lane Bridge continues with new episodes every Thursday exclusively on Sundance Now and its digital channels, including Sundance Now on Amazon Channels.

(Acorn TV will premiere the series in the UK and Latin American later this fall.)


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One Lane Bridge: Supernatural Mystery Series Premieres in North America
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