Plot, setting, character. Most mystery shows excel at one of the three but to be a triple threat makes Jack Irish a rare breed, and Jack’s in the horse racing business. He knows a thing or two about breeds.
When the cast is this good though (and after three movies and two series, that the show has such an extensive pool of recurring characters reflects its quality, and the willingness of its cast to return), it says something that the plot still comes out #1. Without downplaying how rare it is to see characters of such depth and richness on TV, an absorbing plot is an even bigger white whale and, hand in hand with setting, Jack Irish tells stories that aren’t being told anywhere else – stories that are internationally minded (in series two, the show visits India as well as the usual Melbourne spots) and involve parts of the world you don’t regularly see.
Based on the books by Peter Temple, Jack (Guy Pearce) isn’t detached from his cases, either. The reason he gets involved with the one that keeps him busy this season is personal. He wasn’t hired, which means he isn’t getting paid (though phone calls from the occasional client let us know he’s getting paid elsewhere) but self-interest has nothing to do with his work, and in fact he’s been told multiple times that it would be in his best interests to walk away. Characters aren’t just being threatened with their lives. They’re turning up dead, and one of those people, Eddie Chin (George Zhao), was Jack’s mail courier, carrying a package that, had he not been killed before delivering it, would’ve changed Jack’s life forever.
Three years later, though, a good Samaritan has returned the package and Jack’s found Eddie Chin’s body in a mine shaft. Able to link his death to a young Indian girl, Lakshmi (Rubi Balasingam), who was hit by a bus, Jack’s inquiries bring him to a college for foreign exchange students and a pharmaceutical company looking to cover its track.
While the case itself doesn’t require any previous knowledge (and there’s an excellent recap that goes over things as well), all of Jack’s relationships have history and you’ll be missing out if you don’t start from the beginning. Especially true in the case of Linda Hellier (Marta Dusseldorp), Jack’s ex and an investigative journalist, the show is realistic about her presence on the series (which is why they don’t make out like the three years they’ve been apart are insignificant), but she does get involved, if in a smaller capacity.
I wish the show was less reluctant to keep Jack single (last season it worked out but this season they could’ve passed) but Jack’s eclectic interests continue to make life more interesting, as his old friend, Harry Spring (Roy Billing), returns to the track, after a brief retirement from racing, and his carpentry teacher, Charlie Taub (David Ritchie), passes away, introducing Jack to Charlie’s granddaughter, Gus (Tiarnie Coupland).
With all of the new elements, it’s just nice to return to the Prince of Prussia Pub and have a drink with the Fitzroy Youth Club again. Refreshingly moral (doing the right thing because it’s right, and regardless of the danger) and always exciting, Jack Irish series two is more of the same: same quality, same humor, same well-written drama you’ve grown to expect.
Jack Irish Series 2 is available on Blu-Ray and DVD and streaming on Acorn TV.