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'The Red Road' series premiere recap: SundanceTV gets it right

Season 1 | Ep. 1 | “Arise My Love and Shake Off This Dream” | Aired Feb 21, 2014

For fans of the Sundance Channel’s defining aesthetic, The Red Road fits what we know. Following in the dark and brooding footsteps of its predecessors Rectify and Top of the Lake, it has a gritty stillness that we’ve come to expect from the network. Quiet like Rectify and suspenseful like Lake, The Red Road is one of those shows some folks call slow — but I call it stoic. It has little in the way of exaggerated action sequences or thick melodrama, but it does have rich, textured characters and deep-seated, complex politics.

“Arise My Love and Shake Off This Dream” introduces the central conflict, which centers on the long-existing tensions between the Native American Lenape tribe and the white members of the town of Walpole, New Jersey. The focus is on the beef between the Native Americans and the police. It feels like we are stepping into a blood feud that is a lot older than the characters playing it out.

Jason Momoa plays Phillip Kopus, a Lenape Native American who returns to Walpole after a stint in prison for something we have yet to discover. His backstory is mysterious, doled out slowly and methodically — making you almost beg for it by episode’s end. Episode 1 sees him reunited with his mother, Marie (Tamara Tunie), in an exchange that seems strangely cold and needlessly cruel. She doesn’t introduce him as her son, but “one of her boys,” and his request to hug her is reluctantly granted and ends too quickly for Phillip. It’s heartbreaking and bizarre, and without much explanation.

The scenes with his father, the sadistic and twitchy Jack Kopus (Tom Sizemore)The Red Road: Tom Sizemore (SundanceTV), are also oddly tense. Phillip works for his father, as second-in-command to some sort of petty crime syndicate. When Jack warns him there will be a price to pay if payment is short, “son or no son,” it becomes clear that The Red Road‘s writers are trying to hint at some previous big bad between the three. Lucky for them, I am a patient lady.

Both of these relationships reveal more about Phillip than about the other characters, and it’s anybody’s best guess to figure what got this family here. While Kopus is a whole lot of doom in one place, he is also wounded and broken in a way that endears me to him over all the other characters (and that probably reveals more about me). Momoa is a dream; so terribly handsome and imposing that he fills up every scene he’s in. It is impossible to look at anything else but that menacing twinkle when he is on screen. He need not shout to intimidate, nor do we have any problem believing in his fragility.

The first scenes of “Arise” are working double duty, meant to establish Phillip as the badass we presume he is, and to offer insight into the power struggle between the white police force, represented by Harold Jensen (Martin Henderson) and the Native American population. Almost immediately after we learn that a rich white kid is missing from New York City, we discover that Phillip’s lackey, Mike (Zahn McClarnon), is responsible, having murdered him and dumped him in the lake.

Harold is desperately trying to reconcile his professional troubles with his personal woes, which collide in his wife Jean (Julianne Nicholson). So used to seeing Nicholson as the buttoned-down doctor from Masters of Sex, I am transfixed by her portrayal of a recovering alcoholic with mental health issues. Jean is newly sober, but she is slowly coming unhinged as the rebellion by their daughter, Rachel (Allie Gonino), starts to become too much to cope with.

The Red Road: Allie Gonino and Kiowa Gordon (SundanceTV)Rachel and Junior (Kiowa Gordon), Phillip’s foster brother, are star-crossed lovers, and she continuously demonstrates the terrible decision-making skills unique to a smitten teenager. After being forbidden to see Junior, for instance, Rachel sneaks out of the house to be with him, and Jean drives to Marie’s house to find her. Upset, deranged and wielding Harold’s stolen revolver, Jean hits a kid riding an ATV and flees the scene, claiming later she hit an animal. Harold finds her cleaning off the bumper. It is here that we start to guess Jean’s problems might not just be alcohol, as she mixes up Rachel’s disappearance with that of her brother, who drowned as a result of a drug overdose given to him by a Lenape kid 20 years earlier. The scenes between Jean and Harold are delicate and taut with unspoken tensions. Harold is desperately trying to hold things together, as he grapples with a rebellious daughter involved in a scary relationship, and a wife he must protect from consequences it’s his job to enforce.


The episode concludes when Phillip reaches out to Harold. Arranging a clandestine meeting, Phillip tells Harold he has an ally in him; thus begins an uneasy alliance that will most likely fuel the rest of the season. While Harold seems defensive and scared, Phillip swaggers with every gesture and exudes a confidence that makes it hard not to root for him. The tension crackles between the two. Man, I am going to love it when they have to duke it out over Jean — which is inevitable. Right?

What are your predictions for this love triangle? Tweet me what you think: @sroseholt.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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