We’ve known for awhile now that the characters on The Red Road have flawed pasts in which they have sustained deep cuts, but before the season finale, we never truly realized just how deep those cuts go. “The Journey to the Sunrise” sheds new light on almost the entire cast of The Red Road, pulling a 180 degree turn on most of these characters in only six episodes. Heroes become villains, criminals become lovers, and the past becomes indicative of the future in what is by far the best episode of The Red Road.
It always seemed odd to me just how easy it was for Harold to lie directly to his wife Jean during his recent actions, but here it turns out this is because he’s been lying to her since they were teenagers. Even though there were bags of tapes from Jean’s brother, the one tape that mattered most was in Harold’s possession all along, proving that Harold was with her brother Brian the day he died and kept it from her. Not only does this deception change Jean’s perception of her husband, it also puts Phillip in a completely new light. Jean and Phillip had a past together, one that could’ve changed the course of Phillip’s life. So when Phillip took the blame for Brian’s death, it also changed everything for these three. Harold ended up with Jean, and Phillip went on to his life of crime that would eventually lead to prison and running from drug dealers.
Even decades later, Harold’s actions are impacting Phillip, as Harold took all of the drugs from Phillip’s cave, meaning that Phillip has some pissed off drug dealers searching for him. While Phillip doesn’t want the dealers to find him, he doesn’t mind when Jean finds him hiding out and they rekindle their relationship. Of course, it doesn’t last long and Jean heads back home eventually, but still, that’s something quite interesting to look for if The Red Road receives a second season pickup.
As the third act hits, the show does become more violent than it has been so far. Jean toys around with the idea of committing suicide the way her brother did before going back on the idea. Out of nowhere, Jack comes to Junior’s house in a stolen cop car and with a dead cop in the front seat, threatening Phillip before Junior shoots Jack down. It’s a weird twist, but does wrap up Jack and Junior’s stories in a way that makes sense.
In the end, after Harold beats the crap out of Phillip for his latest actions on Jean, the two team up in a shoot-out between the angry drug dealers. It seems very uncharacteristic of a show like this, which hasn’t had any huge action sequences until now. Yet in the end, it makes sense, with dead drug dealers around them, Phillip and Harold are down on the ground, covered in blood, some from other people, some maybe their own. They’re both equally injured, they just didn’t realize how much until the very end.
For the first time this season, The Red Road became an exciting and compelling show, and that’s before the action sequences. In its final episode of the season, and maybe ever, its focus on Phillip, Harold and Jean finally made The Red Road fascinating, fleshing out these characters and their pasts in a way they deserved. If The Red Road comes back for a second season, it’s coming back headed in the right direction.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.