Billed as an “environmental teen drama,” this flick has adventure, found family and a supernatural twist all set in gorgeous New Zealand. I watched it and now you need to.
Created by Amy Shindler and Beth Chalmers, Mystic debuted in 2020 and is based on the novel series, Pony Club Secrets, by Stacy Gregg.
“Mystic tells the story of Issie Brown and her new-found friendships with the town’s teen horse riders, and their efforts to save Kauri Point from an industrial development that threatens it.” – BBC
The series opens on a herd of wild horses peacefully grazing in an idyllic New Zealand forest. Tense music starts just as a loud diesel engine rumbles forward, leaving broken trees in it’s wake. When a construction crew starts drilling, the horses bolt.
That’s when we get our first look at a mystical white horse. He glows, y’all.
Next we meet Issie. She has holes in her jeans, a nose ring, punk rock inspired hair and incandescent teen rage. Pushing her bike back home after a failed attempt to run away to London — bus schedules are such a drag — she meets a chestnut mare and has her first look at Mystic, the bioluminescent horse.
After the horses gallop away and Issie is nearly hit by a truck on the road, she walks through the woods and finds a horse stable before being harangued by her mother to come home.
That night, Issie vividly dreams about the mare and Mystic. In the morning, she asks her mom if she can visit the stables. Eager for her sullen daughter to do anything besides sulk, Mom quickly agrees.
At the barn, Issie meets what I can only presume will be the #adventuresquad. There’s adorable Stella, super cute twins, Caleb and Caroline, the slightly overdressed Natasha and … DAN. He has big eyes, floppy hair, and he’s wearing a shirt over a shirt. Basically, a young adult fiction heartthrob.
Next, we meet the horses, including Lord William III or Treacle. He’s a buckskin, part Welsh, makes a habit of initiating new barn hands by sneezing on them and, also, I LOVE HIM.
When the chestnut mare reappears and then just as quickly disappears outside the stable, the stable owner, Tom, tells the teens he’s worried about ‘horse hustlers’ and is going to make some calls. Meanwhile, Issie rallies the troops to investigate a haunted chicken farm that is potentially the horse hustler’s secret hideout.
What will they find? You’ll just have to watch and see!
The first episode of this series did feel a bit slow and clichéd. A troubled girl from the city escapes to the countryside and meets an even more troubled horse. It’s a story we’ve watched hundreds — maybe thousands — of times. I also loathed the initial antagonism between Natasha and Issie, especially since it centered around being jealous about a boy. Luckily, that melodrama was resolved very quickly and, I thought, in a very healthy, realistic way.
Those initial misgivings not withstanding, a few episodes into the series, I was hooked. I liked the odd supernatural element to the story. It reminded me of early CW and Freeform shows, those PG adventure dramas that centered around found families and solving mysteries while also navigating fluctuating teenage hormones.
I also really enjoyed an equestrian TV series not based around the “problem pony of the week” premise, i.e., Heartland. There are a few very horse-centric episodes that feature gymkhana and cross country, but mostly the plot focuses on the over-arching mystery of locating and saving the mythical wild horse herd in danger due to industrial pollution and environmental degradation.
The characters and cast that represent them are also very diverse. Stella is deaf. Caleb is gay. Dan is a member of the Indigenous People of Aotearoa, the Māori.
Overall, I loved season one, and totally plan on watching seasons two and three. I give Mystic 3.5 out of 4 Golden Horseshoes.
Amanda Uechi Ronan is an author, equestrian and wannabe race car driver.