At the end of last week’s episode of The Red Road, titled “Graves“, a supporting character from the first season shuffled off his mortal coil in a somewhat predictable fashion. He speaks in absolutes and says the things a fictional character in a fictional story says before electing to leave the world. There’s a cool shot of Jean getting into her car and backing out of the driveway that’s soon wasted by an inserted shot of the guy raising a gun to his head, and had the gunshot gone off in the background of that car shot it might have been a bit easier to swallow. But as “Graves” ended the whole episode felt a bit tired, and that sequence in particular felt a bit like a writer’s room getting rid of a character they had no idea what to do with.
In “Intruders” that death takes on a bit more meaning, as does the concept of a grave. But the episode offered little in the way of real intensity or development, continuing what’s becoming a disappointing trend in Red Road‘s second season. Kopus is still on lockdown, Junior is still roaming the wilderness and shooting squirrels, and Harold is still just strutting around being boring. Here’s to hoping that there’s something lurking behind this veneer of relative tedium that we just can’t see yet, because otherwise “Intruders” is a letdown at the halfway point of season two.
The death of former Walpole P.D. Captain Bill Warren (just wanted to withhold that name for a few paragraphs for spoilers’ sake) might possibly find thematic parallel in the long-ago death of Jean’s twin brother Brian, which was also a suicide. The mystery surrounding this death was a fairly major plot point in the first season, reaching an ostensible (and mostly satisfying) conclusion in “Snaring of the Sun“. Jean was with Bill just before he killed himself, and so these events have had a particular impact on her. “He said ‘I killed my wife,'” she recalls of their final meeting, “and I believed him even though I know full well his wife died of lung cancer.” In the most simplistic way, we might put together that Bill Warren had some knowledge about the blue, cancer-causing sludge that seeps through the ground in the foothills of the Ramapos.
On a more complicated level, that blue sludge is representative of the ways in which the dead seep back into the living. In the season one episode “The Bad Weapons” Kopus kills his best friend Mike and tosses his body into a pool of the blue gunk, and in the season two opener “Gifts” Mike’s girlfriend and infant son crop up. Kopus just so happens to step in some of the blue stuff immediately following that. Jean’s current condition seems somehow borne of her brother Brian’s death, and in that sense the memory of the dead can be a plague on the living in the same way that the blue sludge can (somehow) cause cancer in the residents of Walpole. Bill Warren, though he’s been a part of The Red Road since the first episode, arguably has more of an impact in his death on “Intruders” than on any other episode.
There’s a shot in the early minutes of the episode of Kopus sitting on his couch amongst an array of garbage (“It’s the maid’s day off, so”) and scratching his leg just above the ankle monitor he’s forced to wear during his parole. It’s a reminder that Kopus is tethered, which is both a thing that Kopus definitely does not like to be and a thing that we don’t particularly want. When Kopus is free to roam the Ramapos it seems there’s no one that can’t be bent to his will. We do get a pretty awesome scene where Kopus breaks off a car door to as a body shield, but I’m hoping there’s more to his loafing around as of late. I’m hoping he’s found a way to use his house arrest as an advantage, fooling everyone into thinking he’s sitting still while he’s really making moves, because that’s exactly what I’d expect from Kopus.
Where’s the spark? Where’s the drive for the second season? There seem to be multiple plotlines happening — Mac’s death and the ensuing home invasion, the Lenape recognition bid woes, Junior’s Into the Wild phase, Harold’s walking-around-worrying-about-making-Captain — but none of them are anywhere near as exciting as the Kopus/Harold relationship of season one. Sure, symbols like the blue goo serve to permeate each of these plotlines, but it’s no replacement for plain watchability. At one point in “Intruders” Harold stalks defiantly toward his car with a deputy in tow, saying “We’re gonna do something for a change.” Would that it were true, Harold.