There was no small degree of uncertainty with regards to the direction The Red Road could take after a successful first season. Jason Momoa’s Phillip Kopus, the heart and soul of the show, seemed headed for prison; Martin Henderson’s Harold Jensen somehow came out in front of both Kopus and the ongoing familial strife that had plagued his wife Jean and their household for the past few months. But with a few major storylines seemingly reaching their conclusions — particularly one about the years-ago death of Jean’s twin brother and one about Kopus’s manipulation of Harold —where would season two go? “Gifts” starts by picking up right where the first season finale “Snaring of the Sun” left off, with Kopus being his usual menacing self and Harold showing he’s learned how to lie pretty damn effectively.
But that first scene is more of a coda to season one than it is a prelude to season two, as we’re soon treated to the ONE YEAR LATER tag that introduces the world of season two. And calling it a “world” is intentional, because although many of the same players are here the second season of The Red Road is already very different than the first (there are some new faces too [Wes Studi!]). We spoke a little about the setting of Road and the way in which it relates to the characters in our review of “Snaring”, so it was nice to see “Gifts” really run with that idea.
Continue reading The Red Road 2.1 – “Gifts”
The opening scene of the first season Red Road episode “The Great Snake Battle” reminded me of a scene from James Gray’s directorial feature Little Odessa. Both use a skinny hallway of a rundown New York City tenement as their setting, both depict a passionate confrontation between father and son, and both show how quickly a power dynamic can change from one man to the next. The comparison is strengthened somewhat by the fact that Gray directed Road‘s pilot episode “Arise My Love, Shake Off This Dream“; this fifth episode, focusing almost exclusively on main characters Phillip Kopus and Harold Jensen, is also the best since Gray’s opening hour.
We’ve seen how smart and manipulative Jason Momoa’s Kopus can be in pretty much every episode so far. He always seems to have the upper hand, even when he’s pissed off or cornered or spoken to like a child by his manic father Jack. It’s Jack and Phillip who come head-to-head in that dim hallway, the former ripping the door open with a gun in his hand and demanding his payment, the latter hardly saying a word at all. It’s not the fact that Phillip is quiet that makes this scene different — we’ve talked at length about the silent observations of Kopus, watching from afar and gathering ammunition to use against anyone and everyone. But he’s more than just quiet in this hallway scene. As his father rips into him, Kopus seems truly sad. Sad Kopus is without a doubt a new Kopus.
Continue reading The Red Road 1.5 – “The Great Snake Battle”
Part of what makes The Red Road so good is the sense that the story being told is both an all-out pedal-to-the-metal crime drama and a meditative slow burn. “The Wolf and the Dog” epitomizes that juxtaposition as well as any other episode of the first season, containing breakneck bursts of action in one scene and calm intensity in the next, toggling effortlessly back and forth throughout the hour. The second episode picks up right after “Arise My Love, Shake Off This Dream“, following Harold as he stalks through a junkyard in the early morning hours looking for a bumper to replace the dented one on his truck. Any doubt he had regarding the guilt of his wife Jean in the Ramapo Mountain hit and run is dispelled when he finds a shred of shirt in the old bumper.
Julianne Nicholson’s Jean and Martin Henderson’s Harold get fleshed out a little more in “The Wolf and the Dog”, and their relationship provides more of that simmering calm and apparent collectedness that just begs to boil over. Nicholson makes Jean’s shaky insanity phenomenally convincing, moving frailly from scene to scene like a marionette. What’s interesting is that the hit and run was never really in question for her. She may have been in denial, stating that she hit a deer or a dog instead of a young boy, but she never denied hitting something. Now that Harold has replaced the bumper and done what he can to dispel the rumor of Jean’s guilt, he’s essentially forced her to doubt the one thing that she actually had a firm grip on.
Continue reading The Red Road 1.2 – “The Wolf and the Dog”
Though True Detective devoured nearly all of last year’s television glory, the SundanceTV series The Red Road deserves mention in the same breath. Massively overlooked but strong enough to be renewed for a second season (which premieres April 2015), the show centers on a small New Jersey town in the foothills of the Ramapo Mountains. Decades of rough history between the town locals and the Lenape Native American tribe begins to flare up again, and two men — Officer Harold Jensen (Martin Henderson) and ex-convict Phillip Kopus (Jason Momoa) — become wrapped up in the middle.
Created by Aaron Guzikowski (writer of Prisoners), The Red Road brings that rough history into the present in a way that few series dare. At times it’s made explicit, especially in scenes recounting the death of Harold’s brother-in-law as members of the Lenape tribe (maybe even Kopus himself) stood by. Those scenes are compelling, but it’s the mysterious, unseen aura of Us vs. Them that really gives The Red Road serious clout, vibing uneasily in every sequence. Is it racism? Or is it simpler, illogical and obdurate hatred, free of any and all motivation, free as a virus in the mountainside community?
Continue reading The Red Road 1.1 – “Arise My Love, Shake Off This Dream”