Halifax: Retribution. The New Old Story

Christina Knight | June 24, 2021

Slipping quietly into the drama lineup before its broadcast premiere on THIRTEEN in mid-July is Halifax: Retribution, streaming on-demand through the member benefit THIRTEEN Passport.

The crime thriller is new to PBS, but the clue that something came before it lies after the colon in the name. This background will bring you up to speed.

Let’s first clear up that Halifax: Retribution is not some strange twist for the British comedy/drama Last Tango in Halifax. This is a whodunnit set in contemporary Melbourne, Australia.

The series is named for the main character Jane Halifax, a forensic psychiatrist, or f.p., as they say in Australia. The starring actress is New Zealander Rebecca Gibney, who first played Halifax nearly 30 years ago, when the acclaimed Halifax f.p. ran from 1994 though 2002. You may recognize Gibney as the co-star of the Australian family drama Packed to the Rafters (2008-2013), airing now on PBS station WLIW21 on Fridays.

When this latest installment opens, 20 years have passed since Jane worked in the field with the police department. She’s now a well-regarded professor of Forensic Psychiatry at Melbourne University. She lives with her partner Ben Sailor (Craig Hall), a talented musician and guitar-maker, and his 23-year-old daughter, Zoe (Mavournee Hazel), who Jane has helped raise since Zoe was eight.

Jane is happy with her grounded academic life, but true crime comes calling, horrifically and literally close to home. Police inspector Tom Saracen (Anthony LaPaglia, Without a Trace), who has criticized Jane’s profession to her face in the past, finds himself relying on Jane as she returns to sleuthing for very personal reasons, and on behalf of the police department. Guardian television critic Luke Buckmaster calls Gibney’s acting “a force of nature” with a “seismic intensity.” (read his review, but be warned, there are spoilers). As the eight-episode Halifax: Retribution unfolds, some clues will bump up against Jane’s past cases.

Throughout its years, Halifax has featured now famous guest stars in small roles, including Emily Browning (American Gods), Essie Davis (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, which aires on WLIW21) Hugh Jackman (X-Men), and Guy Pearce (Mare of Easttown).

Halifax: Retribution was nominated in 2020 for the Best Drama Series category for the prestigious 2020 AACTA Awards, and Rebecca Gibney was nominated for Best Actress in a Drama Series.

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