Miranda Otto delivers a chilling performance as The Clearing is a decent thriller that will keep you guessing.
Here is our review of the 2023 Hulu series The Clearing Season 1, which does not contain spoilers.
The Clearing is a psychological thriller based on J.P. Pomare’s book In the Clearing, which was inspired by an Australian cult. The eight-episode series stars Teresa Palmer in the lead role as Freya, Miranda Otto playing the cult leader Matriah, and Guy Pearce playing Dr. Bryce Latham.
The Clearing Season 1 Review and Plot Summary
The Clearing follows a woman who is forced to face the nightmares of her past in order to stop a cult from gathering children to fulfill its big plan.
The show begins with a kidnapping that leads us to meet The Kindred. It’s a cult of well-mannered children with these blonde bob haircuts that introduce themselves to their new sister. The group is led by their “Mother,” Matriah, who has this hold over them that instills God-like fear in them. Even with a simple look, they are terrified.
The Clearing is told from the perspective of Freya, one of the little girls The Kindred kidnapped. Freya relives her past with The Kindred after a kidnapping in her home city causes her to suffer from PTSD.
As a result, we witness the trauma she endured as a kid and how it had a ripple effect on her to be so protective of her son Billy. Her battle with the past isn’t over, as she still has a relationship with Matriah.
The Clearing is inspired by real-life events of what went down in the 1960s with a cult called The Family that kidnapped children and raised them to believe they were Jesus’s Apostles.
That cult was run by Anne Hamilton-Byrne, who made those around her think she was a reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Our Anne Hamilton-Byrne was in the form of Matriah, who Miranda Otto played.
Otto has been acting for well over thirty years, so it shouldn’t come to much of a surprise that her conniving, haunting turn as Matriah is pitch-perfect. She gives the kind of performance that will certainly scare the viewers. If Matriah looked me in the eye and told me to do something, I would do it without hesitation. Otto is fantastic in this series.
I struggle with series that balance the past and the present without laying the groundwork for either. You are thrown into things without proper structure, and that causes things to be jumbled around a little bit. Another thing the series suffers from is each episode feels like a slog.
With each episode eclipsing that almost 50-minute mark, you find certain elements that could’ve been cut out, and that even speaks for the eight episodes when the story could’ve been told in 4-6.
Is The Clearing Season 1 Good or Bad?
The Clearing is a fascinating look into the worlds of cults in a way that shows how they operate to, eventually, how things can go south. The creators do a great job of bringing us into this world with not just stellar writing and performances but attention to detail. From the haircuts to how the God-like complex is built to the PTSD that one could suffer after going through being kidnapped.
Regardless of minor issues with storytelling structure and the runtime, The Clearing writers do a good job of keeping you guessing at every turn.
Is The Clearing Season 1 Worth Watching?
The knockout performance of Miranda Otto and Teresa Palmer, mixed with the thrilling psychological mystery, makes a series worth watching.
However, I will say that The Clearing might be better viewed as a binge instead of how it’s being released week-to-week. I am not sure there is enough juice to watch it weekly. Either way, enjoy it how you want, but be prepared to be on the edge of your seat for eight episodes.
What did you think of Hulu’s The Clearing Season 1? Comment below.