As we reach the second half of The Red Road’s first season, I can’t help but be reminded of another show that had its freshman series last year, The Bridge. Both are about two culturally different regions in very close vicinity, with huge problems on both sides. Yet while The Bridge was for the most part successful in, well, bridging, these two regions, The Red Road still feels like two separate stories that just occasionally connect at times.
The main and potentially most interesting connection between these two areas comes with the interactions of cop Harold Jensen and drug thief Phillip Kopus. This relationship is much more brutal on Harold’s end, as he continues to protect his wife from going to jail by continuing to shield Kopus and his friends from incrimination. Already the rest of the department is getting highly suspicious about what seems like careless police work instead of a cover up. Yet this relationship doesn’t really have any negative effects for Phillip. He’s basically given a get-out-of-jail-free card, even having Harold race to Phillip’s house to save him from a DEA raid. Phillip has it made at this point.
The other connection between the two groups was the relationship between Rachel and Junior. But after Junior’s freak out and abandoning of Rachel, the two are now over. Rachel no longer wants to make her mother go any crazier than she seems to already be, but instead works towards understanding her mother and her family more clearly.
After two weeks, Jean has returned home, but Harold doesn’t think the doctor’s claim that she is schizophrenic is correct. As he says, she can’t be schizophrenic; she’s normal. The odd direction this family is heading is far more interesting than any of the drug-running or kid murdering that the show focuses on at times, and watching the dynamic between Jean and Harold and the words they choose with each other still causes the best moments of drama for the show.
While we are learning more about the past of the Jensen family, the Kopus family doesn’t seem nearly as fleshed out, Phillip especially. All we really know is that he grew up in a terrible family, one that has no problem telling him they wanted him aborted. In “The Bad Weapons,” Phillip is forced to kill his stupid partner, Mike, who has only caused problems from the beginning of the show. Phillip has become interesting because even in his darkest moments, there seems to be humanity that is trying to peek out, but it would be great and in the show’s interest to show us more of what turned him into this, rather than just a bad childhood.
The Red Road does have interesting characters and stories, but with only two episodes left this season, it’s hard to imagine this initial run being long enough to do either the justice it deserves.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.