The Hunting, Channel 5

Parents, teachers, teenagers, sexual expression, toxic masculinity, liberalism and conservatism, privacy, consent and smartphones – even a handful of these make for a combustible mix in this era of #MeToo and #TimesUp. Throw them all into the pot and things become messy, fast.

In this complex, nuanced and unflinching Australian drama, it’s a single action which ignites those elements: the posting online of two explicit images by Adelaide private school pupil Andy (Alex Cusack). The first was of Amandip (Kavitha Anandasivam), a shy and studious pupil at the local state school whom he didn’t know but who was beginning a relationship with her school mate (and his friend) Nassim (Yazeed Daher). Goaded to prove he and Amandip were a couple, Nassim sent Andy the nude picture she had sent him the previous night.

The second picture, leaked online out of a mixture of anger, spite and frustration, was of Andy’s sort-of girlfriend, Zoe (Luca Asta Sardelis). In contrast to Amandip’s strict and conservative parents, Zoe lived with her mother Amanda (Elena Carapetis) and her mother’s pregnant girlfriend, Jada (Anna Lindner). Her home life was as liberal as Amandip’s was conservative. When Jada discussed her love of girl-on-girl porn, Zoe just rolled her eyes and went on with her homework, while at school she took to the corridors to protest about a school uniform policy she viewed as sexist; Amandip, on the other hand, had to negotiate with her parents before she and Nassim were allowed to even do their homework together.

Picking his way through the consequences of Andy’s actions was Nassim and Amandip’s well-meaning teacher, Ray (Sam Reid). He had already intervened in a case of phone-to-phone sexting which had seen two pupils expelled. An over-reaction, he thought. Far better to talk to the kids than to punish them and involve the authorities. But as the ripples from Andy’s actions spread throughout the school, the wider community and the internet, the police became involved. Then the press. Then the courts.

Actions have consequences, even when those actions are well intended, and the consequences here meant that even with the law involved there weren’t really any winners. The adults, if they weren’t shown to be compromised, were shown to be complacent. The children were collateral damage, caught up in the tempest.

The Hunting written and created by Sophie Hyde and Matthew Cormack, the team behind Sundance hit 52 Tuesdays, a coming-of-age story about a 16-year-old girl whose lesbian mother is undergoing gender reassignment and who also becomes involved in a sexting case. Here, as there, Hyde and Cormack deal brilliantly with the material: the four-parter displayed both poise and power and was given even more punch by Channel 5’s decision to screen it across consecutive nights.