Review: The Red Road 1×1 (Sundance TV)

Redroad

In the US: Thursdays, 9pm, Sundance TV

Sometimes, as I watch global TV from the vantage point of my extinct undersea volcano, I begin to feel a bit like Russell Crowe. Not good Russell Crowe like in Gladiator or Master and Commander but Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind.

Making connections. Making connections everywhere. That’s me.

Case in point – yesterday, we had a look at Australian TV series Secrets and Lies, which stars Kiwi actor Martin Henderson as an everyday guy whose life takes an extraordinary turn for the worse when he comes across the dead body of a child while out running.

You might think the fact that it’s being remade by ABC in the US is the global connection. But no, because at precisely the same time, in the US, Martin Henderson is an everyday guy whose life takes an extraordinary turn for the worse when someone else comes across the body of a child. The only difference in this regard between Secrets and Lies and Sundance TV’s The Red Road is that Henderson is a house painter in the first story, a cop in the second.

But that’s not connection enough. Because in Secrets and Lies, Henderson takes his top off – a lot. Which would be nothing except for the fact that in The Red Road, which is set in the Ramapo Mountains in New Jersey and involves the Ramapough Mountain Indians, Jason Mamao is an ex-con Indian who knows about the kid. Jason Mamao, as we all know, started his career on Baywatch: Hawaii and Stargate: Atlantis, before achieving greater fame on Game of Thrones and from there, Conan. And he’s very famous for taking his top off – in fact, he’s so well known for it, he’s actually sick of it and turned down a lead role in Guardians of the Galaxy because he’d have to take his top off a lot in it.

Coincidence? I think not. It’s all part of some greater puzzle I can’t quite see yet.

As for the show itself, The Red Road, like Sundance first’s scripted effort Rectify before it, is a slow burn. A very slow burn. It takes an awful long time before anything happens in it, instead largely consisting of Henderson dealing with his alcoholic almost ex-wife and his teenage daughter, who’s taken up with Mamoa’s teenage brother, something Mrs Henderson doesn’t like at all.

Mamoa drives around a lot, growls a lot and is actually surprisingly good for someone who normally just has to take his top off; meanwhile, Henderson just has to look pained a lot and upset that everyone is being a colossal dick to him while he tidies up their messes. His accent’s a bit wobbly, too.

However, once ’the incident’ occurs, the show does pick up considerably, and the relationship between Mamoa and Henderson, which doesn’t exist until the end, is likely to prove the lynchpin of the whole piece. I’m going to hold off until episode two before saying whether it’s more than just a slightly more realistic depiction of modern Native American life than Banshee offers. It’s certainly got potential and it goes along a greater clip than Rectify did (thankfully).

Does it really do anything new or take us to any good places? Not yet. But it might.