Plot: Janet King (Martha Dusseldorp) has just returned to work as a senior crown prosecutor, but she finds herself thrown right back into the fire. If she expected some softball cases as she readjusted after her maternity leave, she will have no such luck, as this case is a controversial one. Whenever a police official is involved as a suspect, things can be volatile, especially if the official is high on the food chain. This is what King faces in this instance, so she must navigate carefully, especially since her opposition is driven to win the judgment. As she pieces together her investigation, she is visited by the Chief Superintendent, who feels she should look where he tells her and of course, that causes some serious conflict. But when things start to point toward a potential high level scandal, King must face some difficult choices. Do she press on and do what justice requires, even if it means endangering her own family?
Entertainment Value: This first series of Janet King runs eight episodes and if you didn’t know, this show is a spin-off from Crownies. That show was short lived, but had some of these same characters involved. While you will be a little more informed if you watched Crownies, Janet King is a capable standalone show as well. So don’t pass on this series just because you haven’t seen Crownies. I found this first series of episodes to be a good watch, but I do think it glosses over a lot of legal issues. In other words, it works well as a drama and it keeps you reeled in, but it doesn’t pay close attention to the legal side of the narrative. This leaves some plot concerns open, but no show seals up all the cracks, so it isn’t a deal breaker, in my opinion. But the drama aspect of the show works well, with plenty of tension and suspense, as well as some dips into melodrama that add some soap opera flavor. I know some have criticized the soap opera-esque elements, but I didn’t mind them, as this is a drama and sometimes you need that extra boost to put a scene over the top. I think fans of courtroom dramas will find a lot to like here, despite some narrative and tone issues at times.
One reason I think Janet King is such an interesting show is King herself, as she is by no means the typical courtroom drama lead. A new mother, she has a wealth of issues to deal with as it is, let alone when she is drawn into a web of legal hazards, so she more than has her hands full. The premise of balancing work life and personal life isn’t a new one, but King has to do this under such a double dose of stress, it feels like new ground and never like a retread. The perils of being a new parent and wanting to protect your family, pressed against a drive to see justice done, this is a rough situation and the show puts her right into it. Her struggles early in the series are also a new angle we don’t often see in legal dramas, so she conveys more a human side, not just some infallible legal genius. The cast here is quite good, with Marta Dusseldorp in fine form in the lead and she carries the show like a champ. The supporting roles are well played also, so we have solid performances across the board here. I think courtroom drama fans should check out Janet King, as it offers solid entertainment, some controversial topics, and a fresh dynamic for the genre.