Somewhere through the evolution of television, the idea that any antihero had to have a tragic past became the norm. If our main character had a bad streak, surely there was an explanation for it that would make him or her’s actions understandable and make the character even more sympathetic. Don Draper has his troubled childhood growing up in a brothel, Dexter Morgan’s first memory was murder and being covered in blood, Walter White had a friendship that went south that ended up changing his life, etc. At this point, TV has been filled with antiheroes to a point that its basically cliché. As we learn more about the pasts of the cast of The Red Road,, it is interesting to learn about what makes these characters tick, yet like almost everything in The Red Road, it just sort of feels like we’ve seen this all before.
Harold Jensen is slowly growing more character as he continues to be in over his head. His wife is now in a mental hospital and only getting worse; his daughter won’t quit running off with her no-good boyfriend; and he’s being pushed by Phillip Kopus to help him out, which is detrimental to his job. Having left his kids at his parent’s house, Rachel discovers more about her father. First, Rachel may have been a twin, and second, her father used to record weird cassettes of himself talking about how much he loves dead bees and how great it must be to be a ghost. The first fact will surely only cause more distrust between Rachel and her family, but the second, I mean, what’s the point? That her father used to be sort of a weirdo? Alright.
This matter-of-fact weird knowledge dropping always seems out of place in “The Woman Who Fell From the Sky.” While bargaining for a gun with his father, Phillip is told bluntly that his mother wanted to have him aborted. Thanks dad, can I have the gun now? It doesn’t really serve any purpose in the scene rather than show just how crappy Phillip’s life growing up was, which we already have seen. Phillip’s mother, Marie, even drops some awkward knowledge on Junior. When he won’t tell her why he’s been beaten up, she just lets loose the bombshell that she has cancer. It’s out of nowhere once again, like it would make more sense in The Room.
Phillip’s history does make him a much more fascinating character, as it’s clear that he tried his best in life to not end up like his father, yet that seems to be where his path is leading him. He reconnects with Sky Van Der Veen—maybe the coolest and most unrealistic name ever—played by Lisa Bonet, who is a lawyer protesting the police for still not arresting someone over the boy who Jean supposedly ran over. To make that matter even worse, Harold is now trying to convince his wife that what she believed to be her almost killing a child was probably just one of her crazy hallucinations.
Speaking of going crazy, Junior is rapidly trying to follow in step-brother Phillip’s footsteps. He tries to act tough at a party (then gets his ass kicked), pulls a robbery with Phillip (then helps an old lady instead of running away) and yells at Rachel after taking her on a trip to pick up a gun and abandons her in New York. Junior wants to be a badass, but the kid has too much heart to truly go down that rabbit hole.
The characters of The Red Road are growing more complex and thus interesting as this show goes on, but the way it disseminates information just feels so sloppy that it becomes distracting. It’s literally just spouting out facts it feels the audience should know in a way that couldn’t make less sense. The Red Road’s main idea at this point looks to be “we may be done with the past, but the past ain’t done with us,” but haven’t we heard that all before?
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.