FOR fans of conspiracy thrillers with their roots in religion and history, the 10-part series DIG on SBS is worth devouring.
It comes with big credentials, brought to us by Tim Kring (Heroes) and Gideon Raff (Homeland).
And Dig is fun enough, a Da Vinci Code romp about desert cults, the Essenes, stolen breastplates and mysterious stones, ancient tunnels beneath Jerusalem and Biblical prophecies.
It also stars the ever-watchable Jason Isaccs (Harry Potter and Awake) as FBI agent Peter Connelly who finds himself trying to avert the apocalypse after he meets a young archeology student.
Peter has transferred to Jerusalem after his red-haired daughter kills herself.
Seven months later, he hasn’t unpacked and has occasional sex with his boss, Lynn Monahan (Anne Heche).
He’s on the trail of international fugitive, Yussef Khalid (Omar Metwally), but when he and Israeli police detective (Ori Pfeffer) corner Khalid they’re so busy arguing about who gets to arrest him, their target escapes.
Peter pursues through markets and Jerusalem streets until the sight of a young woman with bright red-hair like his daughter stops him in his tracks.
He finds her again that night and learns she is Emma Wilson (Alison Sudol) an archeology student working on a dig in tunnels beneath the city for an arrogant professor (Richard E. Grant).
Emma takes him into the tunnels, talks about Arc of the Covenant and they strip off for a dip in a ritual bathing hole (ah, she reminds him of his daughter?).
Then Emma hears someone. It’s 4am. No one is supposed to be there.
But in the forbidden tunnel seven trespassers wearing religious robes perform a ritual sacrifice.
Within hours Emma is found murdered.
Meanwhile, a cult lead by Ted Billingham (David Costabile) in the New Mexico desert is preparing a 13-year-old boy Josh (Zen McGrath) for an unrevealed purpose.
We know it can’t be good; especially given the weird schananigins surrounding the birth of a red calf on a remote Norway farm and its careful tending under the direction of religious leaders who mutter about the “start of the prophecy”.
Dig has lots of curious threads, all pointing to something nasty.
The writers jump from murky place to murky place and expect us to keep up, which we’re all smart enough to do.
The setting of Jerusalem is a wonderful, fascinating backdrop to an intriguing story that takes us through ancient streets, across stone rooftops, with views of the old city, and, creepily, beneath into gloomy tunnels.
At times, though, Dig slows to dull, which is surprising for an adventure that combines murder with a 2000-year-old mystery.
Nevertheless, this action-thriller has us along for the ride, presumably a wild and complicated ride.
Will that ride take us to the brink of the apocalypse? The REM quote, “it’s the end of the world as we know it”, at the start of the series points that way.