Thursday, February 27, 2014

REVIEW: 'The Red Road' - Harold Reacts to His Chaotic Wife & Daughter in 'Arise My Love, Shake Off This Dream'

SundanceTV's The Red Road - Episode 1.01 Arise My Love, Shake Off This Dream

Police officer Harold Jenson tries to balance his increasingly stressful work duties while his home life slips into disarray and a shocking tragedy upends the lives of all involved.

The best word I could use to describe the first episode of The Red Road is wandering. It feels like this hour is just wandering around this community. It presents several key things about this universe. And yet, it doesn't feel totally committed to anything. I really have no idea what this show is about. Is it about the tension between the white community and the Native American tribe? Is it about the missing teen who's at the bottom of the lake? Is it about Jean hitting a kid with her car? I don't really know.

This narrative is so slow and non-committal. That kind of pace can be done well - just look at SundanceTV's other drama series Rectify. This show presents things it's interested in and talks about with importance. I just don't feel like anything is important. I don't know how I should be feeling about Julianne Nicholson's character Jean Jensen. That is such a weird character that requires a weird performance. I've been a huge proponent for Nicholson to lead a show. This is just not a great match for her abilities.

The highlight clearly is Jason Momoa. I get a sense of purpose with his character, Phillip Kopus, and Momoa has the required charisma to pull it off well. He's interesting in a world filled with blandness. The show is allegedly about cultural differences between these two communities living next to each other. From this hour, I got no sense of place or of community. It's set in New Jersey and yet it is shot in Georgia. The environment feels interchangeable. It doesn't present enough to distinguish itself. I got a story about two families who hate each other for no discernible reason. The real reason is because Jean hates Phillip for just letting her brother drown but there just isn't enough raw material for that reveal to have a grand meaning in the long run. Overall, the show tells us it's important and we are just suppose to just go along with it.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Arise My Love, Shake Off This Dream" was written by Aaron Guzikowski and directed by James Gray.
  • By episode's end, I knew Nicholson's character was named Jean and one of the kids was Rachel. Other than that I had to look everyone else's up on the Internet.
  • Martin Henderson is supposedly the true lead of the show. And yet, this episode didn't really do a lot with that character or what his journey is this season. He's just called on to react to things. React to what his crazy wife is doing. React to his wild daughter. React to whatever Momoa is telling him to do.
  • I didn't initially believe Tamara Tunie as Momoa's mother. But when I looked at their actual ages -- 20 years separate them -- I believed it just a little bit more.