Postmortem discoveries: The Red Road

Sometimes, dead shows are still worth watching... 

Every year, I make an extraordinary effort to watch every new show that comes along. Of course, I am only human, I have a day-job and I need to sleep. So… I probably only get to watch around 80% of all the new shows.

With SO MANY new shows premiering each season, I rarely dedicate time to a show that has already been cancelled. But I do make a few exceptions. For this to happen, the show has to instantly grab me, and the quality has to be consistently maintained.

My latest discovery was Sundance’s The Red Road which was cancelled after two 6-episode seasons. Sundance has been consistently delivering since it started offering original programming. Their shows are personal and deliciously understated.

Unfortunately, I missed The Red Road when it first aired, but got around to watching it. I have to say… I enjoyed this show even more than Top of the Lake and maybe even Rectify [which I think is phenomenal]. I was saddened when I reached the end, but I definitely think it is worth watching, even post-mortem.

So… here is what I liked about The Red Road:

The show is set in a small town outside New York, home to the Lenape Native American tribe. At the centre of the narrative, we have two male leads.
On one corner, we have Harold. He is a cop and a dedicated family man. He has two teenage daughters and a wife who suffers from mental illness. He struggles to navigate politics and corruption inside the small town police department, while never wavering in his commitment to his family.
On the opposite end, we have Kopus. A Native American ex-con, drug dealer and alleged child murderer who comes back to town after being imprisoned for years. He is violent, morally grey and an unapologetic killer.

So… pretty straight forward good guy/bad guy story, right? Wrong. What I loved about this show was precisely that: The constant play with the audience’s allegiances. On an intellectual level, I knew Harold was the good guy, yet I found myself disliking him more often than not. The feeling intensifies after events in his past reveal that he is less than perfect and that his “devotion” may be a consequence of the guilt he feels.

On the other hand, I couldn’t avoid rooting for Kopus [even after watching him murder his best friend]. Fine… the fact that Kopus is played by Jason Momoa may have had something to do with me liking him, but I am almost sure that it wasn’t just because of that. As we learn more about Kopus, we realize that he was dealt a really really bad hand in life and that he is a consequence of his environment.

And just when you think you have the reverse bad/good dynamic all figured out, something happens that makes everything flip back again. Yes, Kopus is a criminal, but we never let go of redemption hopes. And yes, Harold can be a jerk sometimes, but he is truly trying to do the right thing by his family and town.

The series also deals with broader issues about origin, heritage [Native American] and mental illness [schizophrenia]. It was thoroughly enjoyable. Even though it is gone, I would urge anyone who likes good drama to give it a stream.

The Red Road is available on Amazon Prime in the UK and Netflix on the US.
And if you are looking for more dead shows that are still worth your time try these one/two season wonders: The Black Donnelly’s, Utopia, The BastardExecutioner, The Unusuals

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The TV Empress is a Media Management graduate, screenwriter in the making (and financial engineer in the meantime). She has serious plans to take over global television. You can follow the TVEmpress on twitter @TVRepublik

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  1. Oh Jason Momoa... Yum... that's all.... haha I loved this show, so sad it was canceled! And not even a proper ending.. grrr

  2. I needed a better ending.

  3. The ending was absolutely the worst!!! Cliffhanger of the worst kind and that was it....


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