'The Red Road' Episode 1 Recap: A Dark And Thrilling Ride
'The Red Road' Episode 1 Recap: A Dark And Thrilling Ride
Find more information on The Red Road, including schedules, at The Sundance Channel.
It makes sense that a show called The Red Road would begin with a shot of a road. Although it's not red, it's winding, with a truck barelling across the rolling greenery of the Lenape Mountains in New Jersey. In the truck is Philip Kopus (played by Jason Momoa, Game of Thrones' Khal Drogo himself) arriving home to the community of the Lenape Mountain Indians.
A pow wow is in full effect, and Kopus stalks the edges of the scene. The guy breathes menace as he hugs the sidelines of the party. It's obvious this is a guy who doesn't play well with others.
But there's an interloper at the pow wow. Police Officer Harold Jensen (Martin Henderson), who's surveying the crowd about a missing NYU student. Kopus watches him from afar, and quickly ducks away from the crowd to one of the houses where his friend (friend? colleague?) Mike (Zahn McLarnon) is sleeping. Within 60 seconds, we know that Mike killed the NYU kid by accident, in the house, and sunk the body in a lake. Holy media res, batman.
OK, so here's where we now this isn't going to be your average Friday-night crime show. We're not even 10 minutes in and someone has already fessed up to a) murdering the missing person, b) where the crime happened and c) where the body is. If this were a game of Clue, it would be all wrapped up by now. We're already up on the who, what and where; we're just waiting on the why.
Back in New Jersey, we find ourselves in the Jensen family residence, and you could cut the tension with a rusty butterknife. Turns out their teenage daughter, Rachel, has been hanging out with a boy from the Lenape group. (OK, maybe a little more than just hanging out) and MaterfamiliasJean (Julianne Nicholson) is freaking out. Jensen, going for the good cop deal, steps in to play peacemaker, but we get the sense that this is not something that is going to be easily papered over.
If the Jensen abode is in a state of chaos, it's countered by the peace of Marie's place in the Lenape community. Junior, the boy Rachel is seeing, has been suspended from school, but his adoptive mom seems pretty laid back about it -- and his relationship with Rachel. "You really like this girl?" she asks him, somewhat incredulously. She trusts his judgment.
Then Philip rolls up. If there's anything that could disrupt the peacefulness of Marie's house, it's him. He's her biological son, which makes Junior and Philip brothers. But there's obviously some weird past between mom and son. What is up with that awkward hug? And why can't he stay there?
Back at the sherrif's house, Jean riffles through Rachel's things to find a phone number for "the boy." Hands shaking, she makes an intense call to tell Marie to get Junior to back off. The juxtoposition here is razor sharp. As a mom, Marie is hands-off, totally laissez-faire. But Jean needs to control the situation so that Junior will leave her daughter alone.
Of course, Junior and Rachel aren't going to leave each other alone. They're teenagers. They're going to do what teenagers do: sneak off to an abandoned auto factory to smoke pot and make out. You know, what Romeo and Juliet did way back in fair Verona. (Save the pot.)
It's no mystery why Rachel is rebelling. Things are dire between Harold and Jean. Turns out Harold has been sleeping in the guest room for the past few weeks while Jean is working on getting sober. Suddenly, it makes sense why she seems so wound up: she's not just trying to control her daughter, she's trying to control herself.
Meanwhile, Kopus drives up to New York and wends his way through a dilapidated apartment in Brooklyn or Queens. There's a blind dog in a cage (symbolism for something? Let's highlight this image for further review later, yes?) and a really weird creepy guy wearing a medical mask in the background. Kopus there to do deliver some money -- money obtained from the NYU student incident. The man tells him to keep Mike in line, and to cough up more cash next time. This cologne-drenched guy isn't just a random thug, he's Kopus's dad. We see where he gets it from.
When Rachel returns from her sojourn, her mother finally reveals where her vehement racism is coming from: the death of her brother. He was swimming, he was doing drugs, and he drowned. Jean faults the death on an "Indian boy" who allegedly watched as her brother died. Jean then implores Rachel to think about her brother's death in the context of Junior. Not exactly rational, but, well, grief never is.
So Rachel decides to think about it by running away with Junior, and the pair head to Kopus's place. Kopus thinks Rachel looks "familiar" (does he recognize her as being a cop's daughter? I'm not sure), but invites them in anyway.
What happens next is maybe one of the creepiest series of scenes in television history. Junior, Rachel, Kopus and Mike traipse through the forest to a cave. Kopus pulls out a bottle of booze from a hiding spot -- and a gun. He then pretends to shoot Mike. The gun isn't loaded, but you know it could have been. Kopus laughs and puts the barrel in his mouth and pulls the trigger again. You'd think that Rachel would be put off by this, but no. She wants the gun, too. Maybe her mom has a right to be worried.
After swigging the booze, the four decide to go swimming -- in the same lake that the NYU student's body is in. Philip jokes with Mike that if he finds the body, Mike is dead, but the comment seems to go over Junior and Rachel's heads. They all strip off their clothes and jump in the dark lake, but Mike gets totally out of hand and starts grabbing Rachel and assaulting her. Junior tries to intervene, but Mike holds him under the water, laughing wildly.
While this is happening, Philip skirts the scene, peering out of the water like a predator, just watching. He's the only one who's able to stop the situation, but he just observes with pure, malignant passivity. A boy drowning while someone watches on -- remind you of anything? And there's another dead boy sharing the lake with them, too. Creepy.
When Rachel doesn't return home, Jean loses it. She takes Harold's gun and heads off in the car, eventually arriving at Marie's house. Marie doesn't let her in (she does have a gun, after all), and Jean heads off, frantic and crazed. Along a dark country road, two people start following her on ATVs. They disappear into the dark and suddenly -- she's hit something. Something, or someone?
Back home, Jensen realizes his gun is gone from his holster, and realizes what Jean is up to. He heads out after her, but is stopped by cop cars on the road. A kid has been killed in a hit-and-run. You can see Jensen process the idea that maybe, just maybe, it was Jean's fault. But he let's the thought go and drives on to Marie's place. She's not about to let him in after what happened with Jean, but she agrees to help when she sees how worried Jensen is. Marie leads him to Mike's place, where hey find Rachel passed out in Junior's lap. Jensen scoops Rachel into his arms and warns Junior that if he ever sees Rachel again, Jensen will kill him.
Harold returns to his house, and finds Jean cleaning the hood of the car and not really making a lot of sense. "An animal ran out in front of it" she explains, but Jensen knows it's not true. This ugly situation just got even uglier, and Jean's doing her best Lady Macbeth impression on that car.
Then Harold gets a phone call from Kopus, telling him to meet him by the auto factory. Our protaganists aren't strangers; they went to high school together. Kopus also has some history with Jean, he mentions that he's sorry for what happened to Jean's brother. Wait, what? The guy who just watched a guy almost drown in a lake was the guy who watched Jean's brother drown in a lake? It's hard to believe he's not to blame, even if he says he's not.
Kopus also mentions that some kids from Lenape saw a "white lady in a SUV" hit the kid on the road. He also knows that Jean was at Marie's looking for Rachel.Putting two and two together, there's 100 years of conflict that's set to erupt on the Jensen's if this gets out. He's willing to ally himself with Jensen, but for what price?
Kopus has one more thing for Jensen: his gun. "You're going to need this," he says as he hands it over. And you get the feeling that he will.
Find more information on the show, including schedules, at The Sundance Channel.