Third-episode verdict: The Red Road (Sundance TV)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Thursdays, 9pm, Sundance TV

We’re now three episodes into The Red Road, Sundance TV’s new drama in which ex-con native American Jason Momoa blackmails local sheriff Martin Henderson when Henderson’s alcoholic, schizophrenic wife knocks over a kid with her car. However, the best that can be said about it is that while it has many good elements and considerable promise, if it’s ever going to capitalise on them, it’s taking it’s time about it.

It’s easy enough to praise individual parts of it. Martin Henderson and Jason Momoa are best known for taking their tops off a lot, but both deliver excellent performances, particularly Momoa (even if he’s more Hawaiian than New York in the accent department). The script is intelligent and thoughtful, dealing with life in a small town, bringing up teenagers, less than organised crime, the heartbreak of mental illness, and Native American/non-Native American politics and racism with clarity and subtlety.

But, as you might expect of a Sundance show, not a lot happens. At all. There’s a degree of tension, the innocent forced to do things they would never normally do in order to protect the people they love, but the most that’s really happened so far is that Momoa has asked Henderson to let off one of his friends with a warning. It’s not exactly high-stakes at the moment. Instead, this is more a manly character piece in which we observe one man in a crucible, another in control of that crucible but still having to pick a safe path through his community. 

To be honest, though, I’m not sure I care. I can envision this spiralling into darker and darker territory in later episodes. But I’m not sure I actually care about any of the characters and ‘criminal blackmails a cop’ isn’t exactly new territory. The script is so joyless, so bereft of anything that would make you want to see what happens next that unless you enjoy watching people suffer through emotional hardship, finding the motivation to watch each week might prove very hard.

And since life is short, I’m not going to bother. Your mileage may vary, but I think I’m going to call it a day on this one. It could still become a very good series, perhaps more worthy of a box set viewing, but beyond seeing Momoa prove his acting chops, I can’t see the appeal at the moment, particularly since Henderson’s Secrets and Lies is proving to be a far more engrossing and enjoyable show already.

Barrometer rating: 3