High Country Review: Atmospheric Adventure in Australia’s Backcountry

Leah Purcell's Solid Turn Anchors a Moody Mystery

The lush and secretive High Country region of Victoria provides the backdrop for the compelling new crime drama High Country. Created by Marcia Gardner and John Ridley, the creative minds behind the hit series Wentworth, High Country brings their signature blend of suspenseful storytelling and complex characters.

Stepping into the lead role is Australian acting powerhouse Leah Purcell. She portrays Detective Andie Whitford, a seasoned city cop who relocates with her family to the town of Broken Ridge. Andie hopes for a more peaceful life, but the local countryside seems to harbor many mysteries and dangers. No sooner has she arrived than a man vanishes from his stranded vehicle.

As Andie works with the local police to investigate this and other disappearances in the rugged mountains and valleys, secrets both old and new emerge from the dense bushland. She will have to earn the trust of the close-knit community while also facing tensions within her own family as they adjust to their new home.

Accompanied by breathtaking drone shots that showcase the region’s natural beauty, High Country treats viewers to a captivating blend of detective intrigue and exploration of outback Australian life. Over the course of this review, we’ll examine how the show brings its rural mysteries to life through compelling storytelling, visuals that immerse us in the High Country’s terrain, and thought-provoking themes of belonging, justice, and confronting the secrets of the past.

A Sense of Place

The ruggedly scenic high country of Victoria provides a picture-perfect backdrop for the unfolding drama in High Country. Towering mountain ash and windswept valleys painted with autumnal hues form a stark yet stunning canvas upon which the mysteries gradually emerge.

From her very first encounter on those twisting mountain roads, Detective Andie Whitford is drawn into an exploration of this imposing terrain and those who inhabit its rugged expanses, as much as she delves into the cases before her. Sweeping vistas invite contemplation yet also hint at obscuring hidden dangers, mirroring the delicate balance within Broken Ridge’s close-knit community.

Through keen direction and skilled cinematography, each new backdrop breathed further life and layers of meaning into the unfolding events. Lonely drives along snaking tracks saw revelations slowly take shape, mirroring the gradual unpeeling of nuanced truths. Meanwhile, the wild beauty of untouched countryside came to represent an intrinsic tie to land and an identity increasingly relevant to characters both new and native to the region.

Intimacy and scale are married effortlessly, pulling the viewer deep into earthy settings with sweeping establishment shots before closing in on telling gestures or expressions, reflecting the balance of isolation and connection central to existence in such a locale. This interplay of sweeping scope and intimate detail lends authenticity to evolving relationships and mysteries unfolding against the backdrops, both natural and built.

Ultimately, it is through the High Country’s breathtaking vistas and moody atmospheres that we gain fullest access to the hearts and realities of those striving to understand it. Both characters and audiences alike are reminded that, for all its perils, this rugged place likewise holds beauty that runs far deeper than surface majesty alone.

High Country Characters Coming to Life

Detective Andrea Whitford arrives in the rural town of Broken Ridge, seeking a fresh start with her partner Helen and daughter Kirra. Past trauma drives the family to swap city life for a quiet country existence. Yet Whitford’s hopeful plans are disrupted when a local doctor vanishes, the first in a string of unexplained disappearances. As Broken Ridge’s new top cop, it falls to Andie to unravel the deepening mystery.

High Country Review

Leah Purcell owned the role of Andie. Weathered but unbreakable, she radiated strength and sincerity. Andie navigates prejudices against her Indigenous heritage and status as an outsider with integrity and empathy. As secrets from her past slowly emerge, Purcell imbues the character with vulnerability as she comes to understand herself through connecting with elders like Trisha Morton-Thomas. We share in Andie’s personal growth as her identity and place in the world become clearer.

Ian McElhinney is equally strong as the town’s trusted but restless former officer, Sam. His obsession with the decades-old case of a missing boy hints at private wounds. As Andie’s ally, yet hindered by biases, their dynamic explores reconciling tradition with progress. Damien, a shunned psychic played hauntingly by Henry Nixon, challenges perceptions of guilt and innocence. His ethereal gifts stay tantalizingly ambiguous.

As a local elder, Aaron Pedersen brings the same the same stalwart reliability as Owen. Yet whispers of unease in his community hint at the challenges ahead. Newcomers like the artists’ sanctuary owner Linda Cropper bring welcome complexity. High Country crafts a vivid small-town tapestry where no character is purely good or bad; together, they shape a layered, rewarding story.

Venturing into the High Country

The lush landscapes of Victoria’s High Country provide the backdrop for the mysteries unfolding in the new series, High Country. Detective Andie Whitford finds herself relocating from the city to take charge of the Broken Ridge police station. But this picturesque town holds more than what first meets the eye.

Settling into her new home, Andie is quickly thrust into a missing person case after coming across an abandoned car on a winding mountain road. From there, clues will emerge that link this disappearance to others that have plagued the remote community. As the detective works to peel back the layers of each case, common threads seem to connect the fates of those who have vanished within these wild surroundings.

Each episode advances the investigation while introducing new elements to consider. Andie and her team examine old evidence with fresh eyes and chase down fresh leads. All the while, the landscape serves almost as another character, with its rugged terrain hiding secrets and dangers at every turn. Cliffhangers keep viewers hooked, with anticipation building to see how further pieces of the puzzle will fall into place.

An effective balance is struck between the procedural requirements of policing and wider character developments. The town’s residents are intricately drawn, with their own ties to past and present mysteries. Personal lives also intersect with the investigation in surprising ways, raising the stakes in both the professional and private realms.

All signs point to more revelations yet to come as the series progresses in its exploration of this intriguing vanishing act. As Andie digs for answers in both the cases and her own background, High Country leaves one with the sense that the greatest mysteries may yet lie amid nature’s untamed beauty deep in the High Country heart.

A Sense of Identity

Who we are and where we belong—these universal questions lie at the heart of High Country. Detective Andie Whitford arrives in Broken Ridge, hoping for a fresh start, but soon learns she must embrace her past to move forward.

Andie grew up disconnected from her Aboriginal heritage. When an elder tells her, “If you don’t know who your mob is, you don’t know who you are,” it sets Andie on a journey of self-discovery. Unraveling the town’s mysteries becomes an act of reclaiming her identity.

Ranger Owen Cooper already has a strong sense of belonging. As one of the few Indigenous residents, he feels a duty to protect the local land, which holds deep cultural significance. When strange events threaten to unravel the community, Owen makes it his mission to preserve both the territory and its traditions.

Through these characters, the show explores how understanding one’s history and ancestry are vital for well-being. Andie desperately wants acceptance but struggles without knowledge of her roots. Owen remains grounded thanks to intergenerational wisdom passed down through his family.

Symbolism also speaks to this theme of finding oneself. Andie frequently gazes over Broken Ridge’s awe-inspiring landscapes, drawn to the natural beauty that could help her reconnect to country and culture. As she gets to know the town, its secrets become her own—each clue helps piece together her fragmented past.

By unraveling a string of disappearances, Andie Whitford ultimately uncovers her true self. High Country shows that only by acknowledging where we come from can we discover where we belong. Its characters prove that identity and belonging are inextricably linked to understanding our mob.

Cinematic Country Mysteries

The Australian outback has long provided rich material for crime stories. High Country taps into this tradition while carving out its own identity. Like other rural mysteries, it centers on mysterious disappearances in a remote town. But where some use isolated settings as backdrops, High Country brings the surroundings to the fore.

Through the outsider perspective of Leah Purcell’s police detective, we discover Broken Ridge and the surrounding countryside as active characters. Towering eucalyptus forests cloak secrets as keenly as townsfolk do. Murky creeks flow dark truths just beneath the surface. Again and again, the drama pauses to take in striking vistas that dwarf human scales. This landscape looms as large over the story as it does over the land.

Comparisons naturally arise to shows like Mystery Road and SBS’s The Hunting. High Country shares their intrigue over crimes entangling Indigenous communities. But where those lean suspenseful, High Country absorbs us deeper into day-to-day rural realities. Subplots delve into artistic lives, town politics, and family challenges with compassion. If slower-paced, it offers fuller portraits of its intriguing settings and people.

While borrowing conventionally from the whodunit genre, High Country makes the most of its lesser-trodden territorial backdrop. Its mysteries evolve less from stylized plot twists than from our growing involvement in the fate of this compelling place and those within it.

High Country’s Scenic Charm

The High Country’s breathtaking landscapes shine through as one of the High Country’s greatest strengths. From sweeping mountain vistas to dense forests and ravines, the Victorian highlands make for a dramatic setting. Though the characters have their downs, you can’t help but feel uplifted when the camera pulls back to reveal yet another stunning panorama. It’s easy to understand why Detective Whitford finds solace in such beauty.

While High Country assembles a talented cast and keeps the procedural intrigue flowing evenly, the series could be tighter. With a large ensemble and the tendency to follow every lead, the tangled web of plotlines occasionally overwhelms. A few characters also seem poised for revelations that never quite materialize. Still, later episodes steer sharper as the core mystery takes center stage.

Ultimately, High Country delivers a solid and atmospheric whodunit with plenty of picturesque scenery between clues. Leah Purcell anchors the show as a wise and principled lead, guiding viewers from week to week. Fans of gritty mysteries and Australian dramas will find much to admire in its remote rural setting and locally sourced stories.

With some refinement to its storytelling, a second season could really let the intriguing locations, characters, and Indigenous perspectives shine through fully. Whether renewed or not, High Country demonstrates the potential for Australia’s highlands to captivate global audiences when given such a compelling canvas.

The Review

High Country

7.5 Score

The High Country provides a striking backdrop to this procedural mystery, though some side plots could be trimmed to tighten the overarching narrative. Purcell anchors the show with strength and nuance, and there is intrigue to be found amidst the rugged scenery. Overall, High Country presents an atmospheric place and premise that warrant further exploration.


  • Stunning landscape cinematography
  • Strong central performance from Leah Purcell
  • Intriguing premise with potential for future seasons
  • Attention is brought to Indigenous perspectives.


  • Storytelling feels overly scattered at times.
  • Underdeveloped storylines and characters
  • Predictability of some plot points
  • Lack of a fully satisfying resolution

Review Breakdown

  • Overall 7.5
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