If there’s a core truth to The Red Road it seems like it would be that early on in our lives, either we are thrust into situations out of our control or we make decisions that will have lasting consequences that we can’t quite foresee. For the most part, this show sticks to that idea, with the two most interesting characters—Phillip Kopus and Jean Jense—-daily being reminded of the incidents that have led them down their current paths. Even with the younger characters like Junior and Rachel, we’re seeing how their recent situations might lead to similar problems down the line. This general thesis is what keeps The Red Road interesting, so it makes sense that the one person that this doesn’t seem to be true for—our main character Harold Jensen—also just happens to be the show’s most boring and problematic character.
Time after time, we’ve seen that the rules don’t quite apply to Harold. Last season, it was discovered that he’d been lying to his wife for decades, yet after a brief period of mistrust, Jean has seemingly let bygones be bygones at the point of “Intruders.” In last year’s season finale, we saw Harold and Phillip shoot a group of men that attacked them. Phillip got sent to jail, Harold received a promotion, with the possibility of another one coming up. No matter what life throws at Harold, he’s constantly on his way up.
“Intruders” might be the most time we’ve spent with Harold this season and his segment of the episode is by far the most boring arc this week. Last season Harold had a rival in Phillip and sure, this relationship still works in the rare moments that we do see them together, but this season Phillip has plenty on his plate to deal with, while Harold’s stories just don’t seem to have as much impact, likely because nothing can harm him.
In “Intruders,” Marie’s house gets robbed by two men who believe Phillip has hidden $150K on her property. The tribe police try to stop the criminals, but it’s nothing that Khal Drago himself can’t stop with a well-placed car door upside the head. Phillip straight-up lies to his mother, saying he has no clue about any money, then goes on the search for the two masked criminals. Meanwhile, the tribe police team up with the city police, meaning Harold has to work with Frank, the cop whose house Jean has been leaving toys at.
Clearly, these two don’t like each other—Frank uses every single line of dialogue to prove that he’s a better cop than Harold. The whole dynamic between them just doesn’t feel like it holds any weight. The pair accidentally run into the two criminals, with Harold shooting one, while the other gets away. After the criminal dies, Harold questions what he’s doing and seems to be considering moving the family with Jean’s family, who also has apparently decided to move, without telling anyone.
By the episode’s end, Jean realizes she started hearing voices earlier than she originally thought, Phillip starts sleeping with one of his friend’s girlfriends, then quickly decides this is a bad idea, and Rachel and Junior seem to be an item again, while Junior seems to think growing his little mustache out is a good idea.
The Red Road’s first season was flawed, but still maintained focus in a certain direction. This season sort of feels confused, without a real destination in mind. There are quite a few plots in the air, but none of them ever feel strong enough on their own to be all that interesting. It’s also hard to care in general when the main conceit of the show doesn’t really seem to have any effect on your main character. This second season—which is now halfway over—just doesn’t have the tensity or the dynamics that made the first compelling.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.