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The Twelve review: Australian procedural drama is a tedious watch even with the charming Sam Neill in it

The 10-episode show is based on a 2019 Danish series called De Twaalf, and focuses on a murder trial with no body.

The Twelve review: Australian procedural drama is a tedious watch even with the charming Sam Neill in it
Kate Mulvaney and Sam Neill on the show
  • Prathibha Joy

Last Updated: 03.01 PM, Nov 23, 2022


Story: Kate Lawson (Kate Mulvany) on trial for the alleged murder of her niece, Claire Spears (Coco Jack Gillies). It is up to twelve jurors to decide her fate, given that the allegation is based on Kate’s photographs of Claire as her muse, for her latest series, which included images of simulations of auto-erotic asphyxiation and no body was ever found to establish murder.

Review: When you are a sucker for investigative thrillers and courtroom dramas, a series about a murder trial may feel like a compelling watch. If you throw Jurassic Park’s Dr Grant (Sam Neill) into the mix as the defence lawyer, Brett Colby, the hope is that the nearly 10-hours to be invested on this show are justified. Those hopes are dashed soon enough, when it becomes apparent that the focus of the show is more about the 12 people who will decide the fate of the accused than on the actual case. Well, it is a show called The Twelve, and as Colby says, “The jury is everything”.

The Twelve is weighed down by this approach. For starters, 14 jurors, including two extras, are chosen, and most of them get their own story tracks. So, there’s the compulsive gambler, a banker, a mother putting up with a verbally abusive husband, a logistic company heiress whose family was victim of a violent crime, a builder employing undocumented workers, a queer person dealing with the possibility of having a debilitating mood disorder, an immigrant lawyer-turned-cabbie, a promising student from a racial minority, whose scholarship is at risk after a racially-charged encounter with cops, among others.

As the narrative oscillates between the trial and the personal lives of the jurors and how the details of the case affects each of them, watching The Twelve starts to become tedious. The courtroom sequences are interesting with all the two and fro between the defence, led by Sam Neill’s barrister Brett Colby and the prosecution for the Crown, barrister Lucy Bloom (Marta Dusseldorp). There are also references to an allegation that Kate was involved in a similar case, which ended in the rape and murder of her friend Belinda. Those details from her childhood are not admissible in the current trial, but gives audiences a better understanding of Kate, who suffers from borderline personality disorder and her obsession with art that may come across as macabre.

Pallavi Sharda in The Twelve
Pallavi Sharda in The Twelve

The case against Kate is that she allegedly murdered her muse – her niece – and then got rid of the body. Kate and her sister, Claire’s mother Diane’s claim that the teen has run away and needs to be found. She’s done it before, after all. Everyone else, though, is convinced that Kate’s guilty, but then again, there’s no body and no way to prove she’s done it, besides what looks like a series of incriminating photographs (her art).

There is also sub-plot of an outside party invested in seeing Kate acquitted and trying to influence the jury. Will Kate walk free or does the jury find her guilty after all. That’s what The Twelve is all about. Thankfully, the makers do not leave anything open-ended and address what really happened on the night Claire Spears went missing. By the end, though, you cannot shake the feeling that the show would have benefitted a great deal if it were, say, four episodes shorter and just stuck to the facts of the case and the jury deliberation.

Verdict: The case at the centre of The Twelve is intriguing, no doubt, but it’s the narrative that is lagging; never making it the gripping watch the show should have been. It’s not all that bad, though. The Twelve may not be binge-worthy, but you can always park it for a lazy long-holiday viewing.