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Quarry - Series Premiere - Review: "An uneven but promising start."

10 Sept 2016

Quarry is created by Graham Gordy and Michael D. Fuller, both of whom are known for working on Sundance TV's Rectify, and is entirely directed by frequent Banshee director Greg Yaitanes. From this description, this sounds like a strange mix. Rectify is a slow, meditative character piece, while Banshee was a stylised, heightened, pulpy crime drama, though it had solid characterization at its core.

With Quarry, Gordy, Fuller and Yaitanes attempt to essentially merge these two great shows, and as of this premiere the results are...mixed, as Quarry tries to be a slow, methodical pulpy crime drama, as well as a deep character drama, and I'm not sure if it has entirely worked so far. Whenever Banshee slowed down to focus on character, it was always in the wake of a cool action set-piece, but with Quarry, its the opposite, as most of this episode is spent trying to flesh-out the show's protagonist.

Said protagonist is Mac Conway (Logan Marshall-Green), a Marine who, in 1972, returns home to Memphis from Vietnam, along with his friend Arthur (Jamie Hector, aka Marlo), both of whom seem to have been involved in a terrible war crime. When they return home they come under scrutiny from the media, given the anti-war movement that was sweeping the country at the time, and they both struggle to adjust to normal life. This episode focuses far more on Mac than it does on Arthur - which makes sense given Arthur's sudden death later in the episode - and the scenes in which Mac tries to adjust to life back home are a bit hit and miss.

It's in these scenes where Rectify's influence on the show is most felt, but while that show is able to give such scenes immense pathos and emotion, here they mostly served to grind the show to a halt, thereby making one feel every minute of the ridiculously long 75 minute run time of the premiere. There were some exceptions to this, however. I enjoyed the scene in which Mac looks for a job as a high shool swimming coach but is turned down, and I think overall the episode did a solid job of making both Mac and Arthur's decision to turn to a life of crime feel natural.

But the lifelessness of the scenes between Mac and his wife Joni (Jodi Balfour, giving her all in a thankless role) is unforgivable. I often applaud shows for using silence, feeling that it often gives scenes more weight, but the overused silence in the Mac/Joni scenes instead only made them feel shallow and meaningless.

This premiere truly came alive when it moved away from Mac's spousal difficulties and towards the crime drama aspect of the show. It's here when not only do the performances get more interesting, but the direction does too, making it clear Yaitanes is far more comfortable behind the camera for the pulpier, crime-related scenes.

I mentioned the performances getting more interesting when the premiere embraced its crime drama roots, and said performances belong to Peter Mullan as The Broker, a local crime boss interested in hiring Mac as a hitman, and Damon Herriman as Buddy, an employee of The Broker. Mullan is fantastic, but Herriman is the one who truly shines as he gives a far more menacing performance than he did on Justified, making me almost forget he played Dewey Crowe (I said almost for a reason. Every now and then I still expected him to start talking about himself in the third person).

I've seen critics mention in reviews of the show that it suffers from a similar problem that Boardwalk Empire once had: the wrong protagonist. And I'm not entirely sure if I agree with that assessment. Like Boardwalk, Quarry is creating a world in which its protagonist is far less interesting than some supporting characters. But while many of Boardwalk's supporting characters could've easily carried their own show (how great would a show about Chalky White have been?!), I'm not sure I can say the same about Quarry's supporting characters, with the exception of Arthur, but I suppose it's too late for that.

Boardwalk eventually figured out how to use its protagonist, Nucky, and after a few seasons that show finally achieved its full potential. I'm pretty sure Quarry's in the same boat. Mac is, on paper, an interesting character, and Marshall-Green is giving a good performance, but the show just needs to figure out how to use him.

I am excited to keep watching, despite my issues with the show thus far. The potential is there, it just needs to be realised. Visually, the show is stunning, with Yaitanes' camera really capturing the claustrophobic heat of the setting. And Mac, on The Broker's orders, killing Joni's lover indicates that perhaps the dynamic between husband and wife is about to get more interesting in the weeks ahead.

About the Author - candon_sean
Sean is a student living in Ireland. He has a keen interest in dramatic television (as well as some comedies). Some of his favourite shows right now include The Leftovers, The Americans, Game of Thrones, Black Sails and Mr Robot. Some of his favourite shows of all time include The Wire, The Sopranos, Deadwood, Person of Interest, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Lost. He is also an "A Song of Ice and Fire" obsessive. You can visit his blog at
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