The Red Road Review: Shades of Gray

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There was a veritable information dump on The Red Road Season 1 Episode 1 with blink-and-you-miss-it scenes and cough-and-you-miss-them lines. 

If you want to be certain you caught all of the information revealed, you can either watch it more than once or you can see if I noted something you might have missed my recap, linked to above. 

It seems so cliche to use the term Romeo and Juliet story, but there was a bit of that in the premiere, as a white girl named Rachel and an American Indian boy named Junior continued a dalliance despite the greatest wishes of Rachel's mother. 

Harold Jensen is former high school and college football star who broke his back and became a policeman. I'm calling him Jensen because he doesn't look like a Harold. Jensen married Jean whose brother drowned when an Indian (a story she told her girls) got him messed up on drugs, forced him to swim and just watched him die. 

Jean's a recovering alcoholic with what appear to be mental issues tied to the death of her brother, meaning she's been on the edge a long time. Maybe the drinking helped taper her illness. Anyone who can stand in the yard and using a leaf rake get a foot deep hole is holding back some issues. 

Not that Jean's holding anything back. She knows her daughter, Rachel, is seeing Junior and she starts threatening his mother and goes so far as to brandish her husband's police handgun at the house trying to find Rachel. She's a little out of it. In her quest to find the girl, she may have hit an Indian boy on an ATV and carried on her merry way. She never looked back to see what she it.

Phillip Kopus (we're calling him Kopus) went to high school with Jensen and Jean and had something with Jean back in the day. "They" said he may have had a hand in her brother's death. Kopus is an ex-con and a wild card. He's Junior's big brother, but they are strangers. Junior and Rachel think he's cool. He is cool, but he's also a bit dangerous.

He takes a man he knows to be a killer, Mike, with Junior and Rachel out into the woods, gets them drunk and they all go for a swim. Did he know at the time that's where Mike dumped the body and they were all swimming with the dead man at their feet? Who knows? It was a chilling scene nonetheless.

Jensen finds Rachel with that gang and scoops her up and returns home but is summoned back out by Kopus. He knows what Jean did and he wants to talk to him before he talks to anybody else about it. 

Jensen shows up sporting a rifle over his shoulder, which is a clear indication of what he feels about Kopus. Kopus' easy going demeanor allows him to reminisce about old times before he reveals himself as an unlikely ally in the shitstorm that's about to his the Jensen family. 

There were witnesses that saw a car matching Jean's description hit the boy and drive off, but Kopus' past with her makes him feel protective. He's willing to make sure the statements given are in her best interests. Jensen merely nods but before he leaves Kopus gives him his handgun. Where was that

Clearly we have barely scratched the surface in the opening hour what connects these families and what makes them tick. Julianne Nicholson gives a frenetic performance as Jean. She doesn't know whether she's coming or going and it's painful to watch. 

There don't seem to be any delineated good guys or bad guys right off the bat, but a lot of people who seem clueless to what's going on around them. They'll need to take their blinders off and see things for what they really are or they'll fall to the side of bad simply for not paying attention.

You have to wonder why so many of these things are only surfacing now. Was Jean repeating the story about her brother to her daughters because Rachel is dating Junior or did it really take her this long to share it with them in the first place? What are the details of her alcoholism and supposed mental illness?

How did her brother's belongings go unnoticed in the woods for what appear to be 20 some odd years without being found? Who was the murdered college kid and does it tie into the story or is it completely separate? There are a lot of questions and only six episodes to find the answers. 

Will you be sticking around for the next five episodes?

Arise My Love, Shake Off This Dream Review

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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on X and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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The Red Road Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Kate: Why do you watch this?
Jensen: Because I like it.
Kate: Even though it broke my back?
Jensen: Especially because it broke my back.

Rachel? Baby? If you ever go near her again, I'll kill you.