The movie-going world first met Anna Paquin when she co-starred in Jane Campion’s The Piano, which earned her the Academy Award for her supporting role at age 11–the second youngest Oscar winner in history. As the New Zealand actress gained experience in her craft she went on to star in True Blood, which earned her a Golden Globe Award. These days she’s best known as Rogue in the X-Men series, appearing in four X-Men movies so far. This past fall she starred as a murder victim in Netflix’s 19th century historical drama series Alias Grace, and this month U.S. audiences were introduced to her performance as a cop in one of the better episodes of season one of Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. This week she returns to television in a starring role again as a cop in the new series Bellevue on WGN America.
Paquin continues to show her Oscar and Golden Globe wins were deserved. The actor has a command of the stage, and consistently her presence in a scene brings authority to her characters. In Bellevue we meet a down-to-Earth side of Paquin as she plays Detective Annie Ryder, a local institution in her small town, whose brash personality and working class roots put her at odds with other officers in her department and every other faction in the town of Bellevue. Her new case is locating a missing young man, a local hockey player and celebrity of sorts who we learn had a transgendered lifestyle and possibly was being counseled by a priest at a local church. Paquin’s Ryder has her own odd sense of humor as she makes the best of handling a daughter, a sad sack ex-husband, and the residents of a mining town with a newly closed mine and a newly opened brewery. The first episode really kicks in as we watch Ryder find a connection between the recent crime and strange messages left to her after her father’s suicide when she was a child.
You can see bits and pieces of a myriad of dark-murder-mystery genre TV and film in Bellevue, everything from the dark creepy vibe of Haven, Grimm, Twin Peaks, The Returned, The X-Files, and Wayward Pines–minus the supernatural elements–along with the serious crime material of Broadchurch, Fargo, and Thirteen. As for its pacing, this Canada production for WGN America is presented like many British mystery series–there seems to be more time spent in study of each scene, as found in better mysteries like Shetland or Hinterlands. One episode in and it already is more compelling than The Killing. For current audiences Bellevue may feel more like Riverdale–the series pilot even has Ryder’s daughter recounting a past murder in the small town as Jughead often narrates in Riverdale.
The series first aired a year ago in Canada and was canceled after eight episodes. As with BBC America’s showing of the short-lived series Class last year, it will take a big push by viewers in the U.S. to earn a follow-up season.
A high point of Bellevue to watch for will be Ryder’s boss, police chief Peter Welland, played as a likeable mentor to Ryder by actor Shawn Doyle (Frequency, The Majestic, Lost, 24, Lost Girl, Fargo, The Expanse) and A Nero Wolfe Mystery, Being Human, and Monk regular Janine Theriault as Mayor “Mother” Mansfield. The eerie atmosphere of a town seemingly surrounded by bleak mountains and the presence of star Paquin will ensure we’re back again for episode two.
Bellevue will be re-broadcast tonight at 9 p.m. on WGN America.