Friday, September 9, 2016

REVIEW: 'Quarry' - Mac Returns from War and Receives a Unique Business Opportunity in 'You Don't Miss Your Water'

Cinemax's Quarry - Episode 1.01 "You Don't Miss Your Water"

Sullied Vietnam vet Mac Conway is tempted by criminal elements after returning home to Memphis in 1972.

Cinemax's new drama Quarry opens with Vietnam war vets and best friends Mac and Arthur returning home from their tours. It's a happy occasion. Mac is coming home a day early to surprise his wife, Joni. All of it feels very simple and pure. The guys are just shopping at the airport gift shop trying to figure out what their wives would like. Of course, things aren't this simple. Mac and Arthur are returning to a changed world. A new world that actually hates both of them specifically. They were involved in a very controversial and scandalous mission in Vietnam that has caused public outrage. It makes life difficult upon their re-entry into the country. It's the basis for all of the dramatic storytelling that happens throughout this extended premiere. At times, the story does feel bloated and not necessarily all that interesting. But there is enough being done to suggest a great, pulpy action thriller to come in the remainder of the season. That development would be exciting to watch.

The happiness of Mac and Arthur's return is able to be celebrated for a little bit. Yes, the scandal defines their entire worlds now. But they do get to spend some quality time with their respective families. With Mac, that meets some hot sex with Joni. With Arthur, that means hanging out with his kids. These two families are close. They are willing to support each other through all of this. Joni and Arthur's wife, Ruth, are comforting to them. The same cannot be said for the rest of the world. The public wants to see them as monsters. To an extent, they feel like monsters too. The details of this central event in their past isn't completely clear. It allegedly includes killing babies in a Vietnam village. But all of that is hearsay. It's the story that has been fed to the public. The audience doesn't know if there is any truth to those claims. It's clearly an event that weighs on Mac and Arthur throughout this premiere. Even when a fellow soldier comes up to Mac claiming to understand why they did it, Mac takes no comfort in that. In fact, he almost kills the guy. His emotions are raw because the world has changed. Right now, killing may be the only thing he's good at. He just doesn't want to prove everyone right and become the monster.

Not everyone in this world looks at Mac and Arthur with fear and judgment though. In fact, the moment they land a group of individuals is surveilling them hoping to bring them into their organization. A man called The Broker approaches Mac while he's alone in his house enjoying a swim in the pool. He presents an opportunity to earn $30,000 simply by becoming an assassin-for-hire. The Broker would set up all the deals and hand off the information. All Mac would need to do is strike when the target is most vulnerable. The Broker sees a man capable of killing in Mac. It's a monstrous action but one Mac is more than capable of doing because of this traumatic past. Mac doesn't want to be that person though. He declines the offer because he still believes he can do something else in his life. Arthur accepts because he knows there is nothing else for him. He is a disgraced black man. He's in a society that looks at him with animosity and fear. There is nothing for him and he needs to find a way to provide for his family. The Broker wants his skills. This is something he is actually good at. He has no moral quandaries with it either. He's more than comfortable doing this in order to reap the rewards. He sees it as his opportunity to make something of his life for his family.

It's not until the incident at Mac's new job at a car shop that he realizes this opportunity may be the best thing for him as well. He still has a lot of psychological issues because of his time at war. He tried not to care when he was over there but that was an impossible task. He's happy to be back home with Joni. But there's a distance with everything he does as well. He doesn't feel like a normal part of society. He feels isolated. Part of that is self-inflicted. Mac chooses not to go out into the world a whole lot. He feels like he's drowning. He's slipping away from the people he loves the most. He takes this job but not because he wants to do it. He just wants to be there as Arthur's backup. Arthur doesn't want to do it if Mac isn't there looking out for him. And yet, the killing doesn't go according to plan. Instead, Arthur is the guy who takes a couple of bullets. It's a shocking moment. Arthur was basically a co-lead of the show in this premiere. And now, he's suddenly ripped away from Mac to motivate him into action. He gets some vengeance by killing the man who pulled the trigger by gagging him with a piece of cloth. But the target is able to get away completely unharmed. The job wasn't even completed. But now, Arthur is dead and unable to provide for his family.

It's a grieve that hits Mac hard. He's overwhelmed with emotion at Arthur's funeral. He's in a room full of people but he still feels all alone. The music helps him cope some. That's the biggest comfort he gets from this new world. He holds onto it tightly. But the music isn't able to help him through this difficult time. Now, he knows he needs to be more careful with the Broker. He needs to blame him for what happened to Arthur. Of course, that's not true. Mac wasn't even suppose to be there. He tagged along as backup and wasn't able to do an effective job with that. His best friend is dead and he did nothing to stop it. All of it feels like a way for Mac to become indebted to the Broker. He is now stuck with paying off the money that Arthur took. So that means he needs to pull jobs for the Broker no matter what his personal feelings are. Those emotions are important motivational tools too. The Broker understands how to manipulate those emotions to his benefit. Mac wants nothing to do with him. And yet, the Broker knows exactly how to get to Max in order to get him on his side in this business.

So, Mac is given a new target. It's a new job to start the process of paying off Arthur's debt. The new target, Cliff Williams, has a deeply personal connection to Mac's life. He is actually sleeping with Joni. It's a shocking detail that Mac had no idea about. And yet, the Broker's organization did. They've done their research and know absolutely everything about Mac's life. It's a devastating reveal to Mac. He's deeply betrayed by seeing his wife fucking another man. It's the reveal that finally forces him into being a monster. He doesn't act while Cliff is in his house though. He waits until he's all alone later at night. He follows him to his own car shop where Cliff is working on his car. It's the perfect opportunity for Mac to sneak up on him. But more importantly, Mac doesn't use the gun that has been provided to him. Instead, he opts to kill Cliff by dropping the car on him. It's a brutal way to go. It's an action filled with an incredible amount of passion. He's angry at this man. His only crime was sleeping with Joni. But that's enough for him to die. It's enough for Mac to become the monster. That's the action that officially pulls him into the Broker's world. All he has to cope with that is a late night swim in the pool and listening to his favorite record. Things are only going to get worse this season. And now, Mac is more alone than he has ever been before. He's working for an organization that knows him even better than he does. That's a chilling reveal that could really twist him on the inside moving forward.

Some more thoughts:
  • "You Don't Miss Your Water" was written by Graham Gordy & Michael D. Fuller and directed by Greg Yaitanes.
  • Okay, Buddy is immediately a great character. He's just so fun and charismatic to watch. Him dancing around and singing in his underwear in his hotel room is great. But so are all the odd and peculiar reveals of weapons he always keeps close.
  • Mac will want to look after Arthur's family following his death. And yet, he knows what actually happened to him. So, that could put some awkward tension between him and Ruth, who desperately wants to know the truth.
  • How important will the investigations be into all of these deaths? Arthur and another man were found dead laying next to a prosthetic leg that wasn't theirs. That's a peculiar crime scene. What must law enforcement think? But more importantly, just how big a role will a potential investigation be?
  • Mac's father is proud of him for his service to his country. He wanted to make those feelings known because his father didn't share them when he first returned home from war. And yet, he's reluctant to say that because of the awkwardness over this very public scandal.
  • The Broker decides to start calling Mac "Quarry." It's a nickname he comes up with because Mac is "hard like a rock, but hollow inside" just like a quarry. Well, I guess that explains the show's title.
  • Arthur's death really isn't that surprising. I'll admit to being curious how Jamie Hector was able to do both this show and Amazon's Bosch. But now, it's clear this was a pilot role to inform the character arc of the central figure for the first season.
  • The frequent live musical moments help highlight the vibrancy of the culture in 1972 Memphis.