The Luminaries

TV review by
Marina Gordon, Common Sense Media
The Luminaries TV Poster Image
Supernatural drama has murder, sex work, opium, alcohol.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Anna is depicted as the rare young woman who goes to New Zealand to dig for gold and does what she must to survive in a harsh environment. Similarly, Emery appears to be a young man who seeks out the world's gifts, telling a cynical friend, "I'd stake my life on a blessing, not a curse."

Positive Role Models

Motivations are difficult to discern, but there don't appear to be role models here. 


Gold rush towns are rarely peaceful. A man is shot in an early scene in the first episode, and people are armed and on alert.


No sex is shown, but Lydia runs a brothel in the gold-rush town and Anna becomes a prostitute.


The strongest language is around identity and is offensive -- Anna is referred to as a "whore" many times, Chinese people are called "Chinaman," and a Maori character is referred to as a "savage."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

We see opium smoked, and people are opium addicts. Many scenes take place in bars, and patrons get very drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Luminaries is a miniseries that explores the New Zealand gold rush of the 1860s through the experiences of "astral twins" Anna (Eve Hewson) and Emery (Himesh Patel) who arrive from England on the same ship and appear destined for a great love story. Nine months later, we learn in the opening scene, a murdered man is found in a remote cabin -- the story then jumps back and forth between the two times. The New Zealand scenery is beautiful but, as we know from Deadwood, gold rush towns are not. The buildings are hastily constructed, the slop on ground is often human and animal waste, and the men who come to strike it rich spend many of their nuggets on alcohol and prostitutes. We don't see sex or nudity, but there are many references to Anna as a "whore," and men often treat her menacingly. The native Maori are treated as second-class citizens and called "savage," and the Chinese characters are treated similarly and called "Chinamen." People drink to the point of drunkenness, and opium is smoked and depicted as addictive.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBeagphaidi January 19, 2022

It should be rated higher not suitable for children

Mention of whores, prostitutes, murder, violence and sex scenes. Sex scene on beach. Mention of drug use

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

Based on the Booker Prize-winning book of the same name, author Eleanor Catton adapts her work for this six-episode miniseries that kicks off with a perplexing nighttime scene -- a Maori man is shot, a body is discovered in a remote cabin, and gold spills from a woman's wound. After the credits roll, Anna Wetherell (Eve Hewson) and Emery Staines (Himesh Patel) meet as their ship from England arrives in 1860s New Zealand, where they both intend to dig for gold. Immediately they're drawn to each other and agree to meet up that night, but Anna suddenly becomes ensnared in the world of a local madam-astrologer-proprietor of the mysterious House of Many Wishes. It's no accident that Anna is there, we come to suspect, and that few things in this world are as they seem.

Is it any good?

In contrast to the stunning New Zealand scenery, this is a dark -- literally and figuratively -- series that muddles the real and the supernatural in a confusing but intriguing stew. The Luminaries is at its best when focused on the two women leads -- Anna (Eve Hewson, from The Knick) and Lydia (Penny Dreadful's Eva Green) are both captivating and mysterious. The show loses its focus with an overwhelming number of plot threads and characters, plus it veers back and forth from Anna's arrival in New Zealand to nine months later.

The first episode leaves viewers feeling not "I must know more!" but "There's too much to know!" Just a few of the questions: Are "astral twins" switching places with each other? How did Anna end up wearing a dress with gold sewn into its seams? How did Lydia seem to know exactly how to ensnare Anna? Who was the dead man in the cabin, and why was he killed? Though light may be shed on those questions, The Luminaries is poorly illuminated. The cinematographer presumably aimed for naturalistic lighting, but struggling to simply see who was present takes you out of a story that was already hard to focus on.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the enduring appeal of gold rush stories. Why are audiences drawn to outlaw tales like Luminaries and Deadwood, and what do you think about the way women and minorities are depicted?

  • Many shows go back and forth between two or more time periods to tell their stories. How is it different from a linear narrative? Do you find it effective?

TV details

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For kids who love mysteries

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