Reprisal is the addictive new revenge thriller that will have you hooked from the very first scene.

Revenge is a dish best served with lashings of violence, horror and sometimes even humour.

At least, this is the ethos behind the new series Reprisal, which stars Abigail Spencer (best known for her work in Timeless and Suits) as Katherine Harlow, a woman who is left for dead by her brother Burt (Rory Cochrane).

She then masterfully goes into hiding and reinvents her life, setting up the plot that sees her enact a series of brutal and vengeful acts.

Reprisal, a series set in an ambiguous era but with a rockabilly edge, pays homage to everything from Kill Bill to Grease to Sons of Anarchy and is not afraid to draw blood in its opening scene, which is exactly the kind of thinking that drew actress Abigail Spencer to the role.

“At the very beginning of the series we actually start in the past,” Spencer told Mamamia. “You meet a young woman named Katherine driving a 1950s car, with tear stains down her face and she has a gun with her.

“She pulls up to this racetrack and discovers that a slaughter has happened and the people who have been slaughtered are her closest friends, the people she considered to be her family.

“It turns out that her brother, her best friend and her husband are trying to start a war and because Katherine stands up to them they then chain her to a truck, drag her through a field and leave her for dead. What they don’t know is that she doesn’t actually die.”

Instead of meeting an untimely death at the hands of her brother, Katherine Harlow goes into hiding as Doris Quinn, a respectable woman who is now running a catering and restaurant empire for her new husband Thomas (Ray McKinnon).

But even her new life and identity are far from lawful and she begins to plot revenge against the people who wronged her in the past.

Abigail Spencer as Doris Quinn in Reprisal. Source: SBS.

"She’s a very Tarantino character, she’s always one step ahead and uses her femininity to her advantage," Abigail said. "But she uses her mind, not her sexuality.

"What's really interesting is that only 10 years ago, this role would have been played by a man. She is the Tony Soprano of the show, and I think that shows how we have shifted over time but also how far we have to go. There are not many women on the screen like Doris who are leading their shows."


While watching Reprisal, it's easy to draw similarities to the TV world we've come to know and be shocked by in The Handmaid's Tale, and not just because the two shows share the same executive producer in famed TV powerhouse Warren Littlefield.

Both Reprisal and The Handmaid's Tale center their stories on female characters who are shaped through extreme acts of violence and violation, and forced to fight back in a male-dominated world, where their actions must become just as ruthless as the men who are hunting them in order to survive.

While Reprisal is much lighter fare than The Handmaid's Tale, thanks to its more humorous edge, it still includes some extreme scenes of violence mixed up with slow-burn dramatic turns, set against a background of vibrant sets and costumes.

In the first episode of Reprisal, we see Doris face off against local mob boss Big Graham (Ron Perlman) who is intertwined in the restaurant business her husband runs and does not take kindly to Doris being involved, going so far as to slam and punch her to ground when she refuses to play his game.

Ensuring that these particular scenes did not come across as gratuitous or voyeuristic was top of mind for Abigail when filming, even though she was the one pushing for them to be even more extreme.

"This idea of how we depict violence towards women was top of mind for the cast and studio while we were filming," she said. " Nobody was interested in being gratuitous.

"I would say that out of everyone on set, I wanted to push this the most. Not because I wanted to be gratuitous, but because I feel that Doris is on a very Ben Hur-type journey.

"I was very mindful of the fact that if this was a male character you would see them beaten, bloody and bruised at the beginning of their journey, so that you would be on their side from the beginning.

"The truth is that after what happens to her, Doris goes on to do a lot of bad things. So you had to start out low, so you could go on that journey with her and see her be victorious, without victimising her.

"In the rehearsal for that particular scene with Ron Pearlman, I could see he’s a huge man, he could easily kill me, so we have to show that on-screen, you can’t have it that he hits me hard and nothing happens.

"But when we shot that scene, it was hard and some people just cannot watch it. It’s so awful for them to see Doris, as a woman, be treated this way, but it’s happening in the real world every single day and then when she gets her revenge, you are so happy.

"I hope this show is really an escape for people," Abigail concluded. "And that people are excited to see a woman who rolls like this, so we can make more shows like this one. A vote for Doris is a vote for all women on television."

Reprisal premieres at 8:30pm Wednesday 22 April on SBS and SBS On Demand. 

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