Friday, September 16, 2016

REVIEW: 'Quarry' - Mac Drinks to Try and Find Order Amongst the Chaos in 'Figure Four'

Cinemax's Quarry - Episode 1.02 "Figure Four"

Mac looks to pay down a debt. Joni is questioned by detectives following the death of a co-worker.

Things have not been going well for Mac at all following his return home from Vietnam. He felt that he was coming back to Joni and everything would be right in the world again. That couldn't be any further from the truth. What happened over there isn't just something that he's struggling with internally. It's causing a public outrage against him that is so alienating and isolating to him. Meanwhile, Joni's love isn't something he can completely count on. He learned that she was having an affair with a co-worker while he was overseas. It was a devastating reveal. One that makes him feel all alone. He no longer has his wife or his best friend. Arthur was killed right in front of him. And Mac can't seem to find any leads on the man responsible for his death. He's just getting the hang of the Broker's operation. But it too feels like it is coming apart at the seams at every possible moment. There's no stability in his life which is causing him to lash out in violent and unexpected ways.

The first half of "Figure Four" is a pretty impressive display on Logan Marshall-Green's part with Mac consuming as much alcohol as he can find. Throughout the whole process, he remains a part of the world. His drinking doesn't distract him from the things that he needs to do. He needs to find Suggs and kill him. That's the revenge he needs for Arthur's death. And yet, the drinking is how he copes with a world that is so foreign to him right now. He no longer understands Joni. She is not the wife he was fighting to get home to. She's not the same woman as the voice on the tapes she would mail to him in the war zone. He still idolizes those moments. They bring him comfort in this incredibly dark time. Alcohol does that as well. But these vices and fantasies can only distract from the truth for so long. And when Mac finally breaks, it happens in some pretty epic fashion that is really compelling to watch.

Actors can sometimes go big and broad when playing drunk. It's the characteristic that most comes out of the storytelling beat. It's something audiences expect. Once the alcohol is consumed, the characters loosen up and do things they typically wouldn't do. Here, it's instead played for the tragedy and loneliness of Mac's life. He is all alone. No one wants him nearby. His stepmother doesn't want him at her house. She doesn't want to make small talk with him. Arthur's wife, Ruth, has no time for him or any desire to take his money. Arthur's family is suffering without him but there's nothing Mac can do to fill that void. Mac doesn't care what Joni is up to. He is not interested in where she is or how she is feeling. She betrayed him and he wants to move away from her. And yet, she is his comfort zone. He has to return home at some point. But that home is now marked with the shocking details of this massive betrayal. It's only once Mac lays down on the bed that he realizes all the horrifying things that have been done there. He finally breaks. He lashes out. But there's a sadness to it as well. It's an act of desperation. He pulls the bed apart hoping that it will change things. It doesn't. All he has to show for it is a cut on his hand. That's it. He's no closer to dealing with these difficult emotions than he was before.

Mac is also frustrated that he can't seem to contact anyone from the Broker's organization. He doesn't know what comes next. It's all still new to him. He was manipulated into killing Cliff. The Broker knew that's what Mac would do after learning the truth. And now, he's just gone. Buddy is still around to offer advice. He's looking for a friend and Mac doesn't want to be that. He wants to understand what's going on. He needs to know that there is order amongst this chaos. He needs to trust something about this organization he finds himself a part of. That's difficult to come by though. First, the Broker does nothing to assuage his fears about this arrangement. Mac is still in love with Joni even after knowing what she did. He wants to take comfort in her again. It's just more difficult now after learning the truth. Plus, the Broker is still seemingly threatening her at every single turn. He only cares about getting his money back. He's forced Mac into working for him to play off Arthur's debts. The Broker already has a man searching the life Arthur left behind for the money that he was given. Ruth doesn't know anything about it. More importantly, a search of the house doesn't turn up anything. So, Mac will continue to have to work jobs. But that only further highlights just how dangerous life really is for Mac right now.

By the end of "Figure Four," Mac is seriously questioning whether or not there is any order or sanity amongst this chaos. He accompanies Buddy to purchase guns. Buddy is a good customer for the guys selling the weapons. He just wants to pay his price and not the offer these men are saying. It's a tense situation heading into the meeting. Buddy is a big and eccentric character. He can be forceful and aggressive just like the rest of them. But outside perception of him is defined by his sexual orientation. This man gifts him with a pink gun. And then, he's willing to destroy this professional relationship just because Buddy refused to pay full price. It's a tense confrontation. This show does action so well. That shootout is exciting to watch. It's just Mac and Buddy up against a half dozen men who have the upper hand. It's a terrific showcase for how skilled both of these guys are. Yes, they have their limitations. Their guns keep running out of bullets and they have to keep finding new ones to fire with. They are resourceful that way. They are really lucky too. Mac doesn't take out the final guy who drives away. Instead, a truck hits the vehicle. Buddy and Mac clean all of this up by sending all of these bodies to the bottom of the river. It's a bonding experience for sure. But it also shows just how fragile this working relationship truly is.

Because of this tense and precarious situation, Mac doesn't know if everything is going to work out. So far, a lot has gone wrong for him. A job hasn't gone according to plan so far. He brings chaos everywhere he goes. It's starting to really wear him down. But it also leads back to Joni. After spending an entire episode distant from each other, they are able to fuck again in the end. Joni doesn't know that Mac knows the truth about Cliff. She just knows that Cliff is dead. It may be an accident or it could be murder. It's an emotional time for her. Cliff is dead and Mac is spiraling out of control. Her journey isn't as fascinating as Mac's is though. It's still tantalizing when they finally have sex again. But it's also a moment marked for doom as well. Joni wants to get back to that happy place with Mac again. She wants to be that rock for him. The person who keeps him from feeling absolutely miserable or terrified for his life. And yet, all of the chaos of his world after returning home may be crashing into her reality as well. Suggs is looking for Mac just as much as Mac is looking for Suggs. It appears Suggs was more successful though - which is a tense place to close the episode on.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Figure Four" was written by Michael D. Fuller & Graham Gordy and directed by Greg Yaitanes.
  • Yaitanes is just such a fantastic and unique director. His skills really help the story move along in a significant way. Plus, it's great watching that chase sequence and its conclusion from within Mac's car. It's a different but very effective way of seeing that familiar story beat.
  • The detectives who land Cliff's case also happen to be the ones investigating Arthur's murder. That's just too much of a plot contrivance to truly work. It's something the audience just has to accept. Only doing eight episodes means some narrative shortcuts have to happen.
  • One of the detectives also went to high school with Cliff. They were actually close friends who just fell out of touch over the years. This is the first dead body he recognizes which will make this case much more personal to him.
  • Joni was afraid of talking dirty on her initial voice message to Mac. And yet, she has no problem being recorded when she's having sex with Cliff. In fact, she deliberately has to get that tape before the detectives find it.
  • Life is continuing to move forward for Ruth and the kids. They have to worry about the changing school districts and desegregation. Mac's visit is nice. And yet, they have no idea of the kind of trouble literally lurking around the corner.
  • Mac's search for Suggs largely happens at a strip club where Mac has quite the flirtatious conversation with a bartender, Quinn. He was pretty drunk at that point. So, it's unclear what all happened between them.
  • Buddy and Arthur don't emerge completely unharmed from their big confrontation. Buddy is shot in the leg. He's able to keep the money that was going to be used to pay for the guns. But it's just a good thing he has a friend who can look at this injury for him. Otherwise, this could be a major setback.