The Luminaries spoiler-free Season 1 review: Addictive escapism at its best

The Luminaries Season 1, Episode 1 - Courtesy of Starz
The Luminaries Season 1, Episode 1 - Courtesy of Starz /

Based on Eleanor Catton’s Man Brooker Prize-winning novel, The Luminaries Season 1 is a lush, provocative, dreamy six-part adventure that promises to be thrilling and addictive escapism perfect for our current times. While the miniseries has already debuted overseas in its native New Zealand and on BBC One, Americans will soon get to immerse themselves in the series on February 14 on Starz.

The Luminaries‘ opening hour wastes no time launching us directly into the center of a complex murder-mystery that sees our protagonist Anna Wetherell (Eve Hewson) — wearing a billowing pink dress — discovered unconscious at a murder scene. A local politician delivers her to the town jailer, where she is promptly deposited behind bars pending an investigation.

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But before we can start to see the investigation unfurl, we jump back nine months into the past, to 1865 on a brisk day at sea with blue skies above.

It’s the last day of Anna’s voyage to New Zealand, where she hopes to make a new life for herself by prospecting during the gold rush. On this fortuitous day, which happens to be her birthday, she meets Emery Staines (Hamish Patel), another soon-too-be prospector. It’s Emery’s birthday, too, and they share an immediate romantic connection with plans to meet again later that evening.

Unfortunately for Anna, her first day in New Zealand is marred by several adverse incidents, including a meeting with mystical fortune-teller Lydia Wells (Eva Green), who seems to have her own personal agenda involving Anna and Emery.

The Luminaries Season 1 will likely become your latest television addiction.

The first hour of The Luminaries should be enough to get you hooked. Even if you’re not immediately sold on the storyline, you’ll likely want to stick around to see the breathtaking production value. It seems like no expense was spared for this lavish creation.

I admit that I haven’t read Catton’s novel just yet, so I can’t accurately compare book-to-screen and whether this adaptation does her beloved novel justice. However, taking The Luminaries at face value, I was immediately captivated by this dreamy, ethereal story. I want to know more about Lydia Wells, the dress stuffed with gold dust, and the star-crossed lovers.

It’s hard to say whether the series has a  particular message or motive that it wasn’t to pass along to viewers. I’m not sure it needs it. The series is perfectly tailored to those who want to be whisked away by gorgeous actors and elaborate set design into an entrancing story that involves magic, murder, and mayhem set within the 19th century.

There’s so much to look at in this sprawling saga that you’ll feel effortlessly transported to the era alongside Anna and Emery, with a significant mystery unfolding in the background to ensure you’re ready to hit the next episode button as soon as the credits roll.

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The Luminaries Season 1 premieres on Feb. 14 at 9:30 p.m. ET on Starz.