Still, the supernatural element of the series holds promise – Tatau is quick to plunge its leads into trippy visions of island gods, slithering centipede tattoos and the indelibly haunting image of a drowning girl fettered to the ocean floor. With only eight episodes in its first season, it will have to move fast to make sense of Kyle’s visions and the meaning of his new body ink, but the prospect of a show that’s willing to get weird and mythological with its conspiracy thriller setup this early on is undeniably refreshing.
Also enjoyable is the series’ sun-soaked setting, which is wonderfully captured by director Wayne Yip and cinematographer Dale McCready. Tatau is a very good-looking show, and its aesthetic is perhaps the aspect of it that most strongly recalls the BBC’s past supernatural dramas. Though it’s set a world away, Tatau is very visually at home in the same universe as Being Human and In the Flesh. The beaches, jungles and island huts have a mythical, timeless beauty to them that complements the show’s somewhat primordial undertones.
All in all, Tatau is an interesting experiment for the BBC with some ‘safe’ elements (including the often-shirtless leads and some of the silly and risque humor that would be expected of a couple blokes going on a jolly in an island paradise) that weigh it down more than anything else. It’s commendable that a British series would venture so willingly into the complex world of Maori culture and symbols, particularly given that writer-showrunner Richard Zajdlic readily admits to never having visited the Cook Islands before scripting it, but the verdict’s still out on whether its excursion will ultimately be one worth taking. At least in its current state, this Tatau is not one you will likely want to keep permanently.
The supernatural element holds promise, and the show's innate weirdness is admirable, but Tatau is knee-capped by two unlikable leads and a sometimes sluggish pace.