While portions of “A Cure” provided promising angles on The Red Road‘s second season, the feeling persists that the direction and drive of the first season have largely evaporated. The set-up for this season was Mac’s death, with Kopus somewhat framed and thus determined to find the real killer. While threads of that are still hanging loose, “A Cure” tied off enough that Mac’s death no longer feels like the unifying catalyst for this six-episode arc.
On the plus side, Kopus and Harold find their worlds converging yet again after following disparate threads for the first three episodes of the season. The cat-and-mouse tensions of their collective past have given way to a strange kind of mutual respect that neither are comfortable with. In the season opener “Gifts“, Kopus remarks on their lying, cheating and stealing eventually resulting in a promotion for Harold and prison for Kopus. “A Cure” follows up on last week’s “Intruders” with an even more explicit version of this societal unbalance: Harold kills a suspect and gets made Captain of the force, while Kopus has as much of a hand in solving that same case and ends up with a bullet in his shoulder this week.
Of the three likable things in “A Cure” (yep, we’re boiling this one down to three), that’s one of them: that Kopus and Harold still find their lives entwined. Kopus himself is always a plus for The Red Road, even in the dullest of episodes, partially just because Jason Momoa is such an endearingly threatening presence. But he’s best with Harold as a foil, and Harold seems to straight-up need Kopus in order to be interesting. Their meeting on Harold’s porch isn’t anything particularly striking — Kopus throws those sarcastic grins of his at Jean (“police business”) and he tips Harold off about Chief Levi’s involvement in the demise of Mac. They exchange some manly one-liners and Kopus is off again. Despite that being a relatively uneventful scene, it still served as a nice reminder that The Red Road is better when Kopus and Harold are either forced to work together or work against each other.
Good point #2: the blue sludge stuff. I would’ve much preferred the mysterious blue goo seeping from the mountainside remain a mystery for a little longer, but “A Cure” explicitly stated what the stuff is and provided some brilliant imagery along the way. According to Jack Kopus the mountain is filled — literally stuffed with sixty thousand tons of paint —because a local factory needed a cheap and easy place to put their waste. They unsealed mine shafts and pumped until they couldn’t fit another drop. Now, of course, members of the Lenape tribe find themselves stricken with cancer and point to the sludge as the cause. Harold’s discovery in “A Cure” is that the residents of the low-lying Walpole are likely in danger, too. “It’s probably in the water,” says Jack Kopus, “it’s probably in everything.” While the mystery of the blue goo was intriguing and the metaphorical significance of it (which we discussed in our review of “Intruders”) will probably still be more interesting than the real-world consequences, the image of a mountain about to explode like a volcano with blue sludge is a highly original one.
And the final good point (okay, yeah, there are more than three) is the emotional moment with Kopus as he buries and old picture in the graveyard. Again, the blue goo connection and The Red Road‘s concepts of graves and ghosts are in play here. Mike Parker — Kopus’s best friend since childhood — was killed by Kopus in last season’s “The Bad Weapons” and buried in a pool of sludge. He’s rarely shown any emotion about it, despite Mike being such a huge part of his life, though for that matter Kopus isn’t one to show emotion about much of anything. Kopus doesn’t rattle. But at the end of “A Cure” he sits alone in the graveyard at night and buries a picture of he and Mike standing at the bus stop as kids. It’s not necessarily in line with the brilliant, calculating Kopus we’ve seen so far, but it says a lot about a side of the character we don’t often get to see.
There are good things to dig out of “A Cure” — but what’s up with Rachel? She shows signs of the schizophrenia that her mother Jean has, hearing voices when there are none, which certainly makes sense due to schizophrenia’s highly hereditary components. But why does this make sense for The Red Road? The voice Jean hears is her deceased brother Brian’s, bringing that storyline into the present because Harold and Kopus both knew Brian. But what voice would Rachel hear? Just a random one? Will Road tie this new development into the story properly, or is this just an attempt to make Rachel more “complex”? And why is she such a bitch to her parents all of a sudden?
There are two episodes left in season two, and it may occur to one so familiar with the first season that very little was done to set up new arcs for season two. Unfortunately, that’s partly why season one works so well: it’s not concerned with anything except the story at hand. With luck, these final two episodes will either set up season three in a stronger way or show us that there’s more to the season two arcs than meets the eye.