Last week’s episode ended where it began: with Iranian international student Mani (Mojean Aria) looking down at the murdered body of his former boss Tony. Only now, the police – led by detective Grace Gibbs (Rachel Griffiths) - were coming at him guns drawn. This episode kicks off with things getting worse: once in custody Mani uses his one phone call to check back in at his share house, where flatmates Eduardo (Aldo Mignone), Jess (Tessa De Josselin) and Mary (Sarah Thamin) are about to blow the backyard up with a dodgy barbecue. Mani needs to talk to his missing girlfriend Bo-Lin (Xana Tang); they wanted him to bring home onions. Looks like nobody’s getting what they wanted.
If the previous instalment was all about establishing the setting and the characters, then this week is all about the crime-solving. Not that Mani is making it difficult to solve this crime; his defence consists of the phrase “I don’t remember”, while it’s all Gibbs can do to stop herself from laughing when he says “I don’t want a lawyer”.
Mani’s confession makes it an open and shut case according to Gibbs’ boss (Rhys Muldoon). Was it really only an episode ago he was introduced as an ineffectual nice guy? Now he’s throwing innocent folk in jail and scheming to have Gibbs fired. But he’s not a one-dimensional bad guy: Gibbs clearly did screw up when her previous partner was killed, and once a suspect confesses spending more manpower on the case is a waste of time. Our sympathies automatically lie with Gibbs – she’s played by Rachel Griffiths – but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a good case to argue she’s gone off the rails.
And here’s more proof Gibbs is losing it: she asks her newbie partner Charlie Fung (Yoson An) if he can he play bad cop. Didn’t she see last episode’s multiple scenes where family and friends openly confessed to crimes in front of him because he’s the nicest cop in NSW? Then as they arrive at the house of Erica (Justine Clarke) we see a change come over Fung: say hi to the bad guy.
Erica has her bags packed, which is not a good look for someone whose husband was murdered a few hours earlier. She says it’s for a holiday; Bad Cop Fung points out lime green polo shirts aren’t quite her style.
Erica promptly confesses: her husband Tony dumped her, so she was throwing him out. “Imagine him,” she says “dumping me”; could you maybe work on that grieving widow act a little harder? Fung suggests maybe she pulled the trigger on the deceased, but she’s having none of that: “Married people argue, that’s what they do!” she says to Gibbs, clearly sensing she’s the bad marriage expert here. But Gibbs is more interested in slipping in a question about pets. “We don’t have a dog,” Erica says dismissively – but then how to explain the dog bed found at the scene?
Gibbs is right to be suspicious: we know from last episode the dog bed was how Erica’s dodgy cousin Ivan (Brad McMurray) handed over the gun he sold to Tony. But as they leave Fung is more worried about whether he did a good job as a bad cop. “Oh God,” says Gibbs,” you’re not one of these needy millennial types that needs constant pats on the back?” It’s a nice twist, as Fung really stood out in bad cop mode and it seemed like this was going to be the big moment where the two connected on a professional level. But Fung was just playing at being a bad cop: Gibbs is the real deal.
Across town the share house team are searching the streets for Bo-Lin, with zero luck. These scenes highlight just how hard it is to find someone who doesn’t have a support system: without family, friends and a job, it’s very easy to disappear off the face of the earth. Now all these guys can do is roam the streets hoping to stumble across her. Instead, Mary finds Emily, who Bo-Lin owed money to. “You must be worried,” she sneers, “who’s going to do your dirty work now?” Bo-Lin was doing Mary’s dirty work?
With no hard evidence against him Mani is about to walk, and Gibbs – who’s been raked over the coals by her ex-husband’s new partner and police pen-pusher Penny (Annie Maynard) for spending money on a dog bed search– is fine with that. Surprisingly though, Mani isn’t. In fact, he’s so desperate to stay in custody he’s hired the one lawyer who can’t get him off: his second year legal student flatmate Eduardo.
Even the cops are flummoxed by this, but they have bigger fish to fry in the form of Ivan, who they’ve figured out is exactly the kind of person who might have sold a gun to Tony. Sure, the front of his shop looks like your average crummy pet shop, but when they go around the back who do they find but…
Erica! She’s helping Ivan load a suspicious trunk into the back of his ute, though most of her help comes in the form of handy advice like “Use ya knees, you’ll put your back out”. Remember, always watch out for back strain, even when trying to dispose of illegal firearms.
Ivan claims he’s closing down because “there’s no money in pets” which is news to those stores selling $35 tins of pet food. After that clanger it rapidly becomes confession time: first they work out Ivan went back to the store to confront Tony about talking to the cops, then Erica admits Tony got the gun from Ivan. Fung goes to open the trunk; Ivan goes for his gun and gets a faceful of Gibbs’ capsicum spray for his troubles. As does Fung, who then gets a lecture about not sticking his (gun) butt in criminals faces. But it turns out both Ivan and Erica have rock-solid alibis for the time of the murder: Ivan was betting on the dogs, and Erica? “She was at the gym – Zumba”.
Erica can’t go to jail though, because, as she puts it, “I can’t go to jail”. Despite admitting she started underpaying her employees a few years ago she justifies it by saying “we’re good, decent people”. Not exactly swayed by this classic example of racist thinking, Gibbs sets her a challenge – she’s got 24 hours to pay back the unpaid wages to her staff or she’ll be charged with being involved in the sale of a murder weapon.
Back at the cop shop, Mani has his story straight: Tony fired him, he was angry, he took a taxi to the store to threaten him and in a struggle the gun went off. Problem is, the cops tested his hands for gunshot residue and the results were negative. But after his (clearly bogus) confession that’s not enough to save him from prison. Case closed, and even Gibbs is ready to move on. But Fung thinks Mani is covering for someone. And isn’t his girlfriend still missing? Now Gibbs is interested.
Over at the share house, the trio tell Gibbs and Fung that Bo-Lin is out studying – only Gibbs spots her laptop on the loungeroom table. A quick tinker around reveals Bo-Lin’s Opal card is trackable, which is a nicely up-to-the-moment way to move the story forward (and a handy reminder to get yourself a prepaid transit card if you’re going to use public transport for your crimes). She was in the right place at the right time to pull the trigger on Tony, but that’s not enough to keep Mani out of prison.
It’s family beach time for Gibbs and her daughter Edie, but this cop doesn’t stop and with a phone call she leaks Mani’s arrest to the press. Back home they find Penny dropping off a sports uniform, and Gibbs is most displeased at both Penny’s snooping and Edie’s fondness for her. Fung drives up and saves the day; they’re now dropping Gibbs’ daughter off at school on their way to work. “Edie’s a nice kid,” Fung says. “I don’t talk about my private life,” says Gibbs. Fung smirks. “I’ll remember that the next time we do school drop off”. Their double act is coming along nicely.
Now that Gibbs’s focus is on Bo-Lin, the pieces rapidly come together. Bo-Lin bought a balaclava exactly like the one worn by notorious armed robber Corby Baxter (Ian Meadows); she also knew the store’s security cameras had been removed, and a robbery was a fast way to get Mani the wages he’d missed. But the boss isn’t impressed: “So you’re telling me that the killer is now a female Chinese commerce student turned copycat armed robber?” Well, when you put it like that…
During a break, Fung’s bestie from the first episode, Anna (Anna Samson) runs into him in a corridor, and they’re flirting up a storm in zero seconds flat. When Fung gets the chance to relax he instantly becomes more confident and likable, whereas when Gibbs relaxes she always seems on the verge of falling apart; she’s definitely a bad influence on him. As we see when Fung sticks up for her – Gibbs was the cop that got Anna’s husband killed, remember – and suddenly the magic has gone… along with Anna herself. But at least Fung can console himself with the shoe prints from the store murder, as it turns out one set of prints was from Bo-Lin and the other came from a pair of workboots. Back to the sharehouse!
It’s a little surprising that after all the police visits this is the first time they’ve conducted a proper search of the place, and while there’s nothing exciting on the workboot front, there is this in Bo-Lin’s drawer:
From jail Mani says the money can’t have been hers – they were always broke. Finally he reveals what really happened: after a fight Bo-Lin was angry over his unpaid wages and wanted to prove her love for him by getting them back. Or so he thinks; he has no hard evidence as by the time he made it to the crime scene there was no-one there. He’s got one final plea: “Please find her”.
The police investigation reveals someone else also likes workboots: Corey Baxter. Baxter’s sister has given birth since Gibbs last saw her, and Fung’s choice of gift leaves a bit to be desired:
“Yeah, maybe keep it out of the crib for now” says Gibbs.
Still, the Bear in Blue gets the job done: Baxter’s sister reveals her brother had a mate named Smithy he might be hanging out with. And as a thank you, Gibbs offers some useful breastfeeding advice: “make sure you get the whole thing in his mouth, not just the nipple”. Fung’s not entirely sure he signed up for this particular detail, but Gibbs isn’t having that: “Nipple nipple nipple – c’mon Charlie, it’s not that confronting”. Guess that depends on whether those three nipples are on the one person.
Smithy turns out to be easy to find, as he’s ironing fish down the harbor - make that gutting fish on an ironing board down the harbor. He’s surprisingly helpful: Baxter turned up a week ago wanting to borrow his caravan, but Smithy didn’t want to get involved in any kinky stuff. Time for Gibbs to shine: “Kinky how?” she asks, “Clamps, whips, blood, piss, dogs, cats, horses, what?” It’s a nice mirror of the previous scene; Gibbs is clearly someone happy to embarrass others if she feels it’ll give her an advantage.
Turns out that Baxter is just a thug and a bully who “one time kept this woman locked up in a shed for three days”. Sexual violence is hardly new in crime thrillers, this news has real bite. Often thrillers will put the sex crimes first and fill in the victim’s backstory as part of the investigation, but here we’ve spent an episode with Bo-Lin, and another seeing her friends and partner worried about her; the idea that now she’s in real danger from a hardcore abuser is a serious raising of the stakes.
Fresh out of jail, Mani joins the search for Bo-Lin, but it’s Mary who finds a lead when she confronts Emily at a food court and discovers she was the one who filmed Bo-Lin and Mani kissing last episode. Emily is still big on the vague threats though, telling Mary “If this is anyone’s fault, it’s yours”.
Gibbs finally makes it home, just in time to find her ex (Matthew Nable) returning the keys Penny used in her earlier visit, and they catch up over a bit of backstory. Seems they broke up when Gibbs – messed up over the death of her partner and feeling like she was being judged – threw him out of his own house. Don’t feel too sorry for him though, as it only took him three days to hook up with Penny. Their mix of tenderness and anger is nicely handled; this is an actual adult break-up in progress. But before they can get any serious reconciling done, Gibbs’ phone rings: it’s Mani.
Gibbs meets him down the beach and swears she will never stop looking for Baxter, but Mani still can’t rest. He’s roaming the streets, but what’s that mystery car following him? In perhaps the biggest shock to date, it’s Erica with his back pay. Not that she just hands it over with an apology or anything: “How can someone like you have any idea what I’m going through?” she says, totally overlooking the fact that Mani has a very good reason to think his partner is just as dead as hers.
And that reason? It appears Baxter has a secret.
Baxter’s checking in on a woman he’s got locked in a van hidden in a shed behind a house. “What’d I tell you about being a sook,” he says. But we can’t see her face. If it is Bo-Lin, did he grab her during her botched robbery for his own sick amusement? And if it’s not her, does the money she was hiding and Emily’s threats mean she’s in even greater danger?
Episode 2 of Dead Lucky is streaming now at SBS On Demand. The series airs Wednesday nights at 9:30pm on SBS.