The Gloaming Season 1 review: Riveting, slow-burn supernatural thriller

The Gloaming Season 1 - Courtesy of Starz/Bradley Patrick
The Gloaming Season 1 - Courtesy of Starz/Bradley Patrick /

The Gloaming is a riveting, suspenseful thriller that will hook you immediately, but it’s the characters that will leave you coming back for more. The Gloaming is an Australian television series that originally premiered on Stan in January 2020, so it’s not exactly new to everyone involved. Still, it is making its international debut stateside on Sunday, March 21.

If you’ve loved Starz’s other international import, The Luminaries, you’ll be happy to know that Ewen Leslie (Crosbie Wells) is back again as the leading man in The Gloaming. Here he plays a far more troubled character burdened by the horrific trauma of witnessing his childhood friend Jenny McGinty’s murder at a young age. His character, Alex O’Connell, teams up with ex-flame Molly McGee (Emma Booth) to investigate a sinister new murder that has a mysterious connection to the death of Alex’s friend more than 20 years ago.

Like Alex, Molly is also a complex character carrying a great deal of trauma and pain. She nurtures a quiet obsession with a local businessman and developer Gareth McAvaney (Martin Henderson) who she believes killed her best friend. And Alex and Molly have their own complicated history, as they were formerly in a relationship up until Jenny’s death –– after which Alex took off without a word, leaving Molly in the dust.

So, as you can see, The Gloaming has a lot going on, and that’s before we get into the show’s supernatural elements.

The first episode opens with Molly’s character breaking into Gareth’s house, poking around and messing with his stuff as if she wants him to know that someone’s been there. It immediately establishes Molly as a morally ambiguous woman with her fair share of issues to work out, even before you add murder investigations into the equation.

But the main conflict of the first hour is about the murder of Dorothy Moxley, an older woman whose body is found wrapped in barbed wire. Near her body, the investigators find Jenny McGinty’s old school ID card tucked away. It immediately becomes apparent that there is much more to Dorothy’s death than first meets the eye.

Here’s why you should check out The Gloaming on Starz this weekend

So, should you give The Gloaming a chance when it makes its debut on Starz this weekend? I’ve watched about half of the first season so far, and in my opinion, the answer is yes. Overall, The Gloaming is a compelling, tense character study. That said, if you’re someone who likes fast-paced thrillers that will answer your questions quickly, then The Gloaming might not be for you.

As someone who loves slow-burning, suspenseful horror films and shows, I did find myself getting frustrated with the show’s somewhat unconventional plotting. It feels like The Gloaming was meant to be binge-watched, but it’s not an easy show to binge watch because of the pacing, so there’s a bit of a missed connection there. When the series released in Australia, all eight episodes were made available at one time.

It’ll be interesting to see how audiences feel about the weekly schedule chosen by Starz. Most episodes end with dramatic cliffhangers, so you might find yourself frustrated that you can’t immediately hit the “next episode” button!

I mentioned that The Gloaming has a lot going on, which means that this isn’t the type of show you can watch while you’re scrolling through social media on your phone. You will miss something, and you will get confused. That’s both an advantage and disadvantage. I like shows that write with purpose, forcing audiences to pay keen attention to ensure they understand details. At times, though, the only explanation you get for something is a quick line of dialogue or a brief conversation. If you aren’t watching for even a moment, you could miss a crucial explanation that won’t be mentioned again, which can be frustrating.

The story provides you with enough of a hook to keep turning back in for more episode after episode, but what really anchors this show and makes it one worth watching is the fantastic performances from the leading actors Emma Booth and Ewen Leslie. They’re excellent together and in their personal story arcs. Both characters, Alex and Molly, have so much baggage to dissect that it’s fascinating to watch them work through each scene and try to dissect the layers upon layers of underlying meaning and implication.

As the title suggests, this is a show about “the gloaming,” and in many ways, that means it’s about people who are struggling through life due to traumatic events, unable to cope or move on. They’re stuck in this “in between,” liminal space, a purgatorial state of sorts that prevents them from living normal happy lives, often at the detriment of their personal relationships.

Each episode starts with a quote from Keaton Henson’s novel Gloaming. Here’s the synopsis:

"‘Gloaming’ is a graphic novel by the artist/musician Keaton Henson. The book’s concept is essentially a field guide to a spirit world beyond our reality. Its melancholic narrative shows spirits that are lost in the city, lonely and seeking escape."

Also yes, this is a supernatural series. I won’t spoil anything but The Gloaming is very much an exploration of the things we cannot see and that resonates in the character portrayals, too, as they come to grips with their skeletons.

There’s a reason I put “riveting” in the title of this review. I genuinely think that The Gloaming is dynamic, compelling television, even for its faults. It might not be for everyone, but those who get invested will find themselves completely immersed in this hypnotic, chilling landscape (filmed on location in Hobart, Tasmania) and the characters at its heart.

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The Gloaming premieres this Sunday on Starz at 9 p.m. ET.