The premiere of SundanceTV’s (formerly The Sundance Channel) original drama series Red Road may have been one of the most vague yet intriguing series premieres we’ve seen in a long time.
The series drops you literally in the middle of life in Walpole, New Jersey a town situated in the Ramapo Mountain region. We get no introduction to any character, we know nothing of this area we’re in, we know nothing literally about anything going on — except that everyone seems to be harboring a secret of some kind.
And strangely all these secrets, all that we don’t know is exactly what will bring you back for more (or at least consider tuning in for a second episode). Red Road has so much lying beneath the surface and despite very little indication on what in the world is going on, you’re intrigued to figure out just what exactly is happening.
We do know the following — police officer Harold Jensen (Martin Donovan) is coping with the turbulent new sobriety of his wife Jean (Julianne Nicholson) who is still wounded by her brother’s disappearance and apparent death 20 years before. The Jensen’s daughter Rachel (Allie Gonino) is mixed up with a local Native American boy named Junior (Kiowa Gordon) whom she is forbidden from seeing. Of course she sees him anyway and this causes massive problems within her family. Meanwhile, Junior’s older brother Philip Kopus (Jason Momoa) returns to town and is back in the service of his criminal father Jack (Tom Sizemore).
Hints of murder, deception, organized crime and most importantly, tragedy seem to be lurking around the corner for every character in Red Road. As we’ve stated before, everything is so vague in this show, but the potential for something compelling is there.
If there’s one concrete, rock solid thing this show can plant a flag on — it’s Jason Momoa. Momoa absolutely owns this show delivering a cool, calm and utterly charismatic performance. Many might dismiss him as just a musclebound action star that’s better suited for shoot ’em ups and sword and sandal pics than a pot boiling drama. Yet, he dominates every scene he’s in. He’s the epitome of smooth and yet behind his slow, cocky smile lies danger, an explosive unpredictability and maybe even a hidden vicious side. Momoa’s performance makes you want to come back for another helping of Red Road — he’s a character that really intrigues and you want to know what truly lies beneath his hulking exterior.
Yet, there is a character that may ruin the show for you based on the series premiere alone and that’s Julianne Nicholson’s Jean. This is quite surprising since she’s killed it back in the day on Law & Order: Criminal Intent and made the most out of her limited role on Boardwalk Empire. Sadly, Nicholson can only work with what she’s got and what she’s been told to do. Jean is such a violently chaotic character; prone to absurdly over the top emotional outbursts. The problem with that is…we have no reason as to why this is. Yes, they’ve established her alcoholism, which we can vaguely attribute to the disappearance and death of her brother, but her reactions to her daughter dating Junior are near psychotic. This is the one time in Red Road’s premiere where a little more explanation would’ve helped…especially regarding a storyline of this magnitude.
Red Road is a series that is going to demand your patience. It’s the type of show that will be a slow burning pot boiler of drama that, in theory, will deliver with a big payoff at the end of the day. If the show does not make things more clear, intensify the atmosphere or pick up the pace it will be deadly boring and a waste of a good cast. The verdict is out on the series there’s no way to give it a definitive positive or negative review based on the premiere alone, but it has us curious enough to tune in for a second episode.