Is it possible to find common ground between two very different worlds where the tension was always high? Can a criminal and a sheriff find a way to get along without getting each other into too much trouble? That's part of the premise behind the Sundance Channel's new show "The Red Road," which had two very different men coming together to form a unique partnership. Sure, the premiere was slightly flawed, but the acting was close to flawless.
"The Red Road" followed Harold Jensen (Martin Henderson) was a local sheriff who was trying to do his job and keep his complicated family life from falling apart at the seams.He had a hard enough time policing his hometown, but he also had to contend with enforcing the law to a culture that observed him as the enemy. His wife Jean (Julianne Nicholson) was a recovering alcoholic who was struggling to keep her disapproval of her rebellious daughter Rachel's (Allie Gonino) relationship with Junior (Kiowa Gordon) under control. She never explained as to why she didn't approve of Junior, which might have to do where he came from. He grew up in the nearby Ramapo Mountains where a group of Native Americans resided. Jean's behavior started to completely unravel after Rachel lied about her whereabouts to go on a date with Junior that forced Jean to steal her father's gun and end up doing something that could destroy the Jensen family for years to come. Unfortunately, Jean's crime was witnessed by Phillip Kopus (Jason Momoa) who was an ex-con that seemed to be aware of all of the criminal activity going on around him. He used his knowledge of the crime to form a partnership with Harold as they worked together to cover up the crime. Phillip also had to contend with his ruthless father Jack (Tom Sizemore) and his attraction to a mysterious woman (Lisa Bonet) as he tried to cover up his secrets. Will Harold and Phillip be able to make their partnership work or will it fall apart before it truly begins?
In terms of questions, the show posed quite a few big ones, but the biggest one pertained to the overall tone of the show. It also didn't help that certain stories were focused on too much while others were put on the backburner for now. Viewers should've gotten the opportunity to see what Henderson's Harold was like on the job before he crossed paths with Momoa's character to get a better understanding of what the stakes were truly like for him aligning himself with a criminal who would likely betray someone in order to stay alive. The premiere also made it hard to determine if it was a family drama or a crime thriller in the making. Sure, it made perfect sense to use the family drama angle to get the crime thriller part of the story into full swing, but there could've been a better angle to make the criminal/cop partnership still work for the better. Let's hope that the Romeo and Juliet romance between Rachel and Junior doesn't take over the entire season because the premiere also seemed to establish that there were plenty more stories to tell if they were simply willing to do so. Another story that could use some improvement was the rather vague plot involving Nicholson's Jean unspooling for no apparent reason. Maybe, if the show elaborated on her character's background more the story could work for the better. The budding partnership between Momoa's Phillip and Henderson's Harold will likely start to take center stage in future episodes, even though Momoa's character seems to be holding all the cards for the moment. The show's promos also made it seem like Lisa Bonet's character had a larger part in the series when it turned out that it wasn't really the case. It should be interesting to see her interact with her real life husband Momoa when the time comes. Hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later.
As for breakout performances, Momoa and Henderson led the pack because the premiere focused primarily on their characters. Momoa's Phillip was the show's main draw so far because he embodied his character in a way that made him the most charismatic criminal that could get even the most respectable person to break the law for him. He designed Phillip to be a man of unconventional morals who wasn't afraid to do something extreme to prove a point, but Momoa also showcased that Phillip had a weakness towards his father. It was an ironic plot twist that the usually commanding Phillip could literally become someone else when his rather domineering father entered the room. The show hasn't fully explored the strange dynamic of Momoa's on-screen relationship with the always commanding Sizemore, who could get the meanest dog in a room to calm down with just a simple glare. Fingers crossed that Sizemore and Momoa will get to share plenty of scenes together in an effort to explore their characters' unhealthy dynamic that will likely come with a body count attached. Momoa's strongest scene came towards the end of the premiere when Momoa and Henderson interacted for the first time. He basically laid all of his cards on the time in a way that demonstrated that Phillip was more than a common criminal, which was riveting and disturbing at the same time. Henderson, on the other hand, had the more challenging task of playing the troubled regular guy who struggled under the weight of responsibility. He seemed to be up for the challenge, but the premiere didn't give him much of a chance to showcase it. Once Harold's partnership with Phillip gets underway, Henderson should have more to do in later episodes.
"The Red Road" premieres on February 27th and airs Thursdays at 9:00 PM on the Sundance Channel.
Verdict: Momoa made for an interesting anti-hero, but Henderson's family storyline could use a little improvement in future episodes or made more of a background aspect of the show.
TV Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)