“Open Water” works hard to introduce its idyllic setting and a mystery with plenty to chew on in the first half of a double-bill premiere.
This recap of The Sounds season 1, episode 1, “Open Water”, contains spoilers.
On the face of things, The Sounds comes across like your average mystery-drama title. But these aren’t eerie bumps in the night or bloodcurdling screams or whatever — in fact, they aren’t sounds at all. The namesake of Acorn TV’s new series — two episodes premiere today, and then one every Monday — is a place, the idyllic Marlborough Sounds in South Island, New Zealand, where Canadian couple Tom (Matt Whelan) and Maggie (Rachelle Lefevre) have absconded in large part to escape Tom’s domineering, wealthy family. But the fact that the show’s premiere, “Open Water”, opens with an ominous underwater tussle suggests that their business venture won’t exactly be smooth sailing.
The Sounds is named after its setting since its setting is integral to its mystery. Tom has been in the Sounds a while; Maggie joins him at the start of the premiere, which is largely about introducing this very tight-knit community where everyone knows everyone, most people are related, motorists have to wait to let sheep cross the road, and nobody locks their doors. Tom is working with the Mayor of Pelorus, Stuart McGregor (Peter Elliott), on a sustainable salmon fishery that is a great point of consternation for some of the locals and, given by how Maggie witnesses the two scuffling over a folder, not as above-board as it seems on the surface.
This is basically confirmed with the big hook of The Sounds episode 1, and indeed the series as a whole — when Tom goes out kayaking, he disappears.
You won’t be surprised to learn that there is much about Tom and the brief life he lived in Pelorus without her that Maggie isn’t privy to. Quickly, the police, represented mainly by Stuart’s brother, Jack (Matt Nable), get involved and begin an investigation. Maggie finds a hidden crack pipe among Tom’s personal effects; another local, Ru (Tainui Tukiwaho), finds his overturned kayak, empty.
The tightness of the community is a recurring theme in “Open Water”, and it strikes as a bit odd sometimes. Jack is strangely pally with Maggie, giving her little hugs and inviting her to make a call to Tom’s family from his home. We see little of the Cabbotts in Vancouver but get a brief introduction to Tom’s brother, Nate (Josh McKenzie), and their disinterested father, Frank (John Bach). The latter tasks their eccentric financial investigator, Esther Ishikawa (Emily Piggford), with figuring out what’s up.
While the community quickly rallies for a volunteer search operation, Maggie becomes frustrated with the lack of progress and sets out in Tom’s boat — fittingly called Maggie — on her own. But she’s summoned back when Tom’s dry bag turns up, which was found in the Cook Strait — open sea. The weather’s getting so bad that Jack has to recall the search teams, and mentions to Maggie that part of his job is to look after her (is it?). He has to ask her some “personal” questions: Was everything alright when she first arrived? Was Tom worried or distracted? Maggie thinks back to the scuffle over the folder and to the interjection of Pania (Vanessa Rare), an aggrieved local who interrupted the deal-signing party. In a flashback, we learn that Stuart’s wife, Annette (Sara Wiseman), is apparently an alcoholic.
The Sounds episode 1 turns to flashbacks quite a bit, though they tend to be very brief. There’s another, later, of Tom telling Jack about his family, and another of him being proud of five years of sobriety. He seems to be a recovering addict, which doesn’t mesh well with his boozing with Jack or hidden crack pipe; Maggie later hides it while explaining that neither she nor Tom has anything to hide, but she keeps his phone, which was recovered in his dry bag.
There’s a flurry of developments late on in “Open Water” that promise lots of mystery to come. One of them is a family affair. Jack’s granddaughter, Bella, seems to be being raised by the entire community, but most especially his daughter — Bella’s aunt — Hannah (Morgana O’Reilly). Bella’s mother is apparently some kind of maverick absentee; we’ll learn more about her in the second part of this double-bill. And then there’s Tom. His rescue is downgraded to a recovery mission after a while, the assumption being that he couldn’t possibly have survived the elements for this long, but the last scene of the episode proves otherwise: We see him stage the collapse of his own kayak and swim to shore, where he has another waiting, along with a change of clothes. What’s he up to? Only time will tell.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.