The Principal is a new drama television series from Australia. The series centers on Matt Bashir (Alex Dimitriades), who takes on the role of principal at a boy’s school, which is overrun with gangs and violence. Quickly after the episode begins, we’re introduced to several of the main characters, including Kellie Norton (Mirrah Foulkes), who works as a liaison officer at the school. We also meet two brothers, Tarek (Rahel Romahn) and Karim Ahmad (Tyler De Nawi). It is obvious from the beginning that these boys are likely troublemakers.
A local storeowner, Frank Calabrisi (Salvatore Coco) is quickly thrown into the mess, after his window is broken by one of the children. Meanwhile, Matt Bashir is met with skepticism at the school. The students blow him off and the teachers look at him as another temporary placeholder. He pleads with them to give him two weeks to try and make a change. He also meets with two other staff members, Val (Deborah Kennedy) and Hafa Habeb (Andrea Demetriades). The pair is much more accepting of their new principal.
Matt quickly learns about Karim breaking the butcher’s window. He witnesses Kellie ruthlessly interrogating the boy. In private, Matt introduces himself, before telling Kellie she should lose her gun and cuffs, if she wishes to get through to the kids. She admits she spoke to Ursula Bright (Di Adams) and Ursula gave her the boy’s name as the primary suspect. She also makes some brash comments, before departing. Next, Tarek is shown in cooking class. Tarek insists he cannot taste test the food, since he is fasting for Ramadan.
The cooking teacher, George Karidis (George Harrison Xanthis) grows angry with Tarek and screams at him to put his phone away. Matt witnesses their argument, while touring the classes. Tarek accuses George of hitting him. Matt enters and diffuses the situation, before taking Tarek back to his office. In the office, Matt learns that George didn’t hit Tarek and he offers to help him find a cooking job.
Ursula Bright enters and immediately ridicules Tarek. After Tarek departs, Matt forces her to chill out. Next, Matt gets a nasty gift from the butcher. He pays him a visit and invites him to school meeting. The pair know one another from their younger days. That night, Matt has a terrible nightmare. In the cafeteria the next day, Karim grows angry, when the lunch lady refuses to give him a bag of chips. She eventually caves in and Tarek attempts to convince his brother to continue his fast. Without a care in the world, Karim breaks the tradition and chows down.
Next, George speaks to Matt in private and apologizes for his actions, before complaining about the paperwork. Ursula interrupts and reveals that a student has squealed on Karim for selling drugs at the school. Ursula insists they should break into his locker, but Matt remains calms and attempts to obtain Karim’s permission, which he does. They discover nothing inside, but matters only worsen, when a bomb threat is called in. Kellie notifies Matt that bomb threats are frequent occurrences at the school.
Matt quickly identifies Tarek as the hoaxer and his father, Mohammad (Michael Denkha), rushes to the school. Matt promises to keep the boy at school, by giving him in school suspension. He also attempts to convince Mohammad that his son isn’t a lost case, as he explains the boy is a great cook. At home, Mohammad attempts to converse with his sons, but they pretty much blow him off.
That night, Matt returns home and speaks to his mother, who attempts to pressure him to visit home. The next day, Hafa gives Matt background into each of the children. He learns about Sisi (Aliki Matangi) and his tumultuous history. Sisi’s brother was killed in a drive-by shooting by a drug gang. In the teacher’s lounge, Matt gives an uplifting speech to the others and ends the paperwork requirements. Ursula argues with him outside and insists his methods are going to end badly. Matt continues trying to get through to Tarek.
Afterwards, Matt speaks to Kellie and learns that she has given up her gun for the time being. She also speaks about her amateur boxing skills and agrees to teach a boxing class for some of the bad kids. Matt also organizes a meeting with the Boxdale Boys High parents and citizens. Kellie attempts to pressure one of the detectives to come to the school, but he refuses. Matt video chats with Dino Abbadelli (Robert Mammone).
They speak about the school’s trouble thus far. Dino also confirms that Ursula has made a complaint against him. Kellie gets the children together and teaches them how to jump rope. Once they’re finished, Tarek discovers that his mother’s necklace has been stolen and he believes Sisi has given it to his girlfriend. Karim leaves him at the school and meets with some bodybuilders. When he returns home, Tarek hounds him about the necklace.
Karim learns about Sisi potentially stealing the necklace and promises to take care of it. Meanwhile, one of the boys breaks into the school and sleeps inside. In the morning, Sisi’s vehicle is found burnt and vandalized. This sets off a fight between Sisi’s group and Tarek’s group. It also leads to Sisi calling his cousin for backup. Matt takes all of the kids into the school and attempts to talk some sense into them. He manages to calm everything down and talks Sisi into sending his cousin, Pig (JR Laveta), away.
Next, Matt speaks at the community meeting and wins over the parents and other locals. Kellie invites him out for a drink, but she winds up going with George instead. Matt returns home, looks through his old belongings and discovers his Excellence in Scripture award. In the morning, he welcomes Farid (Tim Abdallah) and the other boys to the school. He checks his voice mail and receives a threat. A boy shows up late and discovers Karim beaten and bloodied behind some trash bins.
The boy takes a picture of Karim’s body, before the episode ends.
The Principal Review
The premiere episode of The Principal was enthralling and captivating. Each of the characters are equally compelling, but Alex Dimitriades and Rahel Romahn definitely stole the show. The show perfectly mixes cultures and does a good job of making everyone human. The chaotic nature of the school makes it difficult to predict what could happen next. The combination definitely keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat, as things could explode, at any moment.
Thus far, The Principal is one of the best Australian dramas of the year. Will it be able to maintain that stature, with three more episodes? We can only hope! This episode deserves an 8 out of 10.