The first season of The Red Road ends with a whole lot of action, but the finale also manages to depict some important moments of character development as well. Junior takes a decisive step toward the dark side, Jean comes to terms (sort of) with the long-ago death of her twin brother, and Harold and Kopus find themselves in new positions as well. “Snaring of the Sun” isn’t as well-written as the penultimate episode “The Great Snake Battle“, but it makes up for that with some fantastic direction by Terry McDonough. McDonough has a solid body of work in television that includes three episodes of Breaking Bad and the Better Call Saul episode “Nacho“, so here’s to hoping he returns to The Red Road in future seasons.
It’s very possible that two of my story-based qualms with Road will have evaporated following “Snaring of the Sun”. First is the unevenness of Jean’s character — she’s necessarily all over the place, emotionally dragged around by Harold and, indirectly, by Kopus. But her smooch with the latter midway through “Sun” is cringeworthy, not just because of the usual kisses-are-cringeworthy reason but because this is the guy she’s pinned her brother’s death on for decades. Sure, she’s just discovered he had nothing to do with it. So she’s suddenly attracted to him? Anyway, the second qualm is the convenience of the taped recordings of Jean’s brother Brian (I called him “Scotty” in a previous review — refuse to change it) and “Sun” actually wrapped up that storyline well. I’d be surprised if those tapes pop up again.
Visually, “Sun” is superbly constructed. McDonough employs a few pairings of wide-angle shots that are awesomely effective. First is when Jean and Kopus come together for their stupid little smooch, paired with another a minute later of the two storming off in opposite directions:
I love the city visible in the background in the first shot, and how the second pulls out even farther and higher and still keeps the city skyline somewhat visible beyond the trees (there are similar shots in last year’s A Most Violent Year, too). There’s a strong sense in the first shot that Jean and Kopus are two tiny pieces in a larger puzzle, just blips in a vast and rich landscape, and when they part they’re even smaller.
McDonough does this a few times throughout “Sun”, again giving us one wide-angle before pulling farther out and higher up a minute later as Jean approaches the lake where her brother committed suicide all those years ago:
The first season of The Red Road narrows in focus with each passing episode, but it’s still hard to say what the second season might have in store. We predict an expanded and more involved role for Junior, who exits season one in handcuffs. We predict new arrivals to the Ramapo region to cause problems for Kopus and/or Harold, and most of all we predict that relationship to be tested in new ways. Kopus is one of the best characters on TV today, and every character like that needs a worthy foil. So, we predict Harold will have an expanded role in the upcoming season as well, challenged by Kopus and challenged back, and their dance along the right path (which is, after all, what “the red road” refers to) will continue. Maybe, though, based on their mutual gains in “Snaring of the Sun”, they’ll find a way to work together.