Thursday, February 6, 2020

REVIEW: 'Briarpatch' - Allegra Lands in Her Hometown in Pursuit of the Truth About Her Sister's Murder in 'First Time in Saint Disgrace'

USA's Briarpatch - Episode 1.01 "First Time in Saint Disgrace"

Allegra Dill returns to Texas after her sister is murdered.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of USA's Briarpatch.

"First Time in Saint Disgrace" was written by Andy Greenwald and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour

Zoo animals are on the loose in Saint Disgrace, Texas. That is a part of this world. It's not random when an alligator or a giraffe or a tiger are seen in the background of this story. In fact, it amplifies the noir aspects of this world and just how off balance it all seems. Allegra and her sister Felicity both see the world decaying around them. They live in a place where it is regularly over 90 degrees outside. It's dry but remains colorful with unique personalities. There is a long history to this place. Allegra hasn't been back to her hometown in over 12 years. Something happened that made her leave for good. That put a strain on her relationship with Felicity as well. And now, she must return because Felicity has been murdered in a bombing. In fact, that too may become a recurring feature of this investigation. The narrative points out that not everyone is who they appear to be. Most people don't pronounce Allegra Dill's name correctly on the first try. Others refer to her by a nickname she had in high school. That's how people in town know her. Others still are trying to figure out how her presence here will disrupt whatever they have going on. Their business interests may be open secrets but it still comes with the certainty that their illegal and amoral actions could be costly at a moment's notice. It's a strange and peculiar world. One where Allegra knows how to operate. She remains in power. She knows how to wield that to her advantage. She doesn't want to be coddled as the grieving family member. She wants answers just as desperately as Felicity's colleagues do. She doesn't want to sugarcoat things either. As soon as the perception centers around her sister thinking she would die because of something she uncovered, Allegra wants to know when Felicity got corrupted by the world around her. It seems inevitable in this community. There aren't strong pillars of moral fortitude in this place. Even those in charge of the police and the investigation seem sketchy and lurk around the proceedings just trying to monitor and control what Allegra discovers. She may not have been close with her sister. But she still knows when an apartment is staged to make it look as if Felicity lived there. She trusts the people that Felicity let into her life. Sure, she keeps them at a distance as well. She didn't know who A.D. Singe and Gene Colder were until this moment. It took tragedy to bring them together. Felicity had a lawyer and a fiancé. Those are big declarations. In fact, Allegra's ability to speak French saves her life when it seems like the killer is once again trying to tie off all the loose ends in this investigation. It means that Captain Strucker can't take Allegra to where her sister actually lived. He too dies by a bomb planted in his car. It casts further suspicion on how A.D. knew that things weren't right and had to step in to protect Allegra. These are the mysteries she now finds herself in. And yet, she has a long history in this town as well. In fact, the power players of this world also have the attention of the Senate subcommittee she works for. That's how she makes her living. That's where she broke free to from this town. She is kinky and possibly destructive as well. But she is more than willing to hold her own against those who make big promises and may only rarely follow through on them. She is sensible in that regard. She knows what to expect from any given situation. She may not get Jake Spivey to flip on the criminal the Senate is really looking to convict. She puts in the effort regardless because she is a woman determined to get to the truth. That is at the heart of the proceedings. It's just wrapped up in a package in which a dinner tray is left to rot outside her room and it's only consumed when a tiger roams down the hallway of the ninth story in this hotel. That is so out-of-the-box. It's engaging and ensures that the audience may not expect some of the plot beats of this story. But Allegra is also given an apparent foresight to instinctively know when someone is in her hotel room or lurking from afar. That makes her perceptive while still a little beholden to the corruption and decay of the world around her. She may be accustomed to that. She has found her place within that system. She still forcefully moves ahead needing absolute clarity on the mystery that has now presented itself to her.