Series Review: Appetite delivers insight into the dark side of the gig economy

Short-form series Appetite, the only Australian production to be selected for in-competition screening at Canneseries, starts an important conversation on the effects of the gig economy through its bite-sized episodes.

The mystery-comedy follows a group of housemates turned food-delivery riders who find themselves at the centre of a conspiracy as they unravel the truth behind a fatal rider accident.

Tessa (Shirong Wu) is an international student who’s copping the brunt of life’s mounting pressures. She’s barely passing uni, behind on rent, and under constant pressure from her mum to succeed. When she gets replaced by a younger and cheaper employee at her casual bubble tea job, Tessa starts riding for food delivery giant Appetite, just like her housemate Raj (Kabir Singh).

Raj is hesitant about Tessa riding – he knows firsthand how dangerous it can be. But he understands the pressure to make ends meet. Raj faces a similar predicament with his family overseas relying on his permanent residency application being accepted.

With 6 episodes sitting around the 10-minute mark, the series wastes no time in kicking the action into gear. An Appetite delivery rider is killed on the job the same night Raj mysteriously vanishes. Now, Tessa and her housemates must try to find their friend and expose the secrets of the delivery behemoth.

It’s a fresh angle from creator Mohini Herse, one which was born out of the SBS Digital Originals initiative. Challenging the audience to consider the true cost of convenience, the series exposes how riders are often forced to work under extreme conditions for little pay.

It’s all too real watching the gang be egged on by the omnipotent Appetite, voiced by the wonderful Marta Dusseldorp, to ride dangerously or risk losing their job. Amidst the housing crisis, job shortages and ever-rising living costs, a series like this is timelier than ever.

Appetite also paints an excruciatingly accurate portrait of life in your first sharehouse. I grimaced in understanding watching Tessa curl up on her mattress on the floor. Similarly, there’s a pained sense of knowing when Raj laments that he lives in a garage. “At least it’s a nice garage” Tessa quickly points out. Anyone who’s ever lived in an overpriced shoebox room will feel this in their soul.

It’s this relatable humour and punchy dialogue that really brings the characters to life. Despite this, Appetite doesn’t shy away from heavier themes, including the sombre implications of a rider killed on the job. This darker tone is also felt through ominous visual gags and the overarching notion that Appetite is always watching you.

There’s plenty packed into the one-hour run time, and at times the series can feel slightly rushed. It’d be great to tackle certain subplots, such as Tessa coping with homesickness, in further depth. Regardless, Appetite certainly gets the ball rolling on deep-rooted issues that exist within the gig economy.


Appetite is currently screening on SBS On Demand in Australia