I’ve said it before, but it’s really wonderful that Briarpatch creator and showrunner Andy Greenwald decided to gender-swap the lead from Ross Thomas’ novel. Not only did it give Rosario Dawson a chance to headline a series, but it provided her an opportunity to play a character-type that she’s so strongly suited for. I imagine when casting a noir, Dawson would strike some as being perfect for the femme fatale, but Briarpatch proves she makes a better Bogart than a Mary Astor.
“Breadknife Weather” is an incredible showcase for Dawson. Finally being forced to emotionally confront the death of her sister, Dawson careens from anger, gallows laughter, quite reflection, disgust, and good old fashioned grief. We finally get the details about Allegra’s past in San Bonifacio, her parents’ tragic death, and her past relationship with her sister, including the last time that she saw Felicity alive. Pick started the season in somewhat of a daze, bewildered to be back in the hometown she ran from, then literally concussed after the Strucker bomb, and she also has spent years perfecting stoic, yet quietly simmering demeanor. “Breadknife Weather” is the first time we see a crack in Pick’s carefully crafted armor and a lot information pours out.
The characters of San Bonifacio are already an overwhelming and suspect bunch, so rounding them all up for a funeral is cacophonous and Allegra has a hard time navigating the day. So many people, like Captain Raytek, appear to be eulogizing either a person that Allegra didn’t know, or a person that didn’t exist. She’s incredibly weary of the kind words that Raytek, Colder, and the rest of the officers share on behalf of Felicity, and she unearths information that confirms that Felicity was involved in something bad, Strucker learned of it and confronted her, and they both wound up with bombs in their cars.
The only person that Allegra can lean on during the funeral is Jake. As duplicitous as he seems, Spivey is the closest thing that Allegra has to family in San Bonifacio, and he’s able to supply her with a friendly face, cold beer, and some laughs from a “truly awful” story. It must be said again that Jay Ferguson is just lighting up the screen every time he steps into focus, and he was especially brilliant in this episode subtly teasing Colder about his eulogy and his wife’s presence at last week’s garden party. Still, Allegra gets unfortunate news from Cyrus that if Brattle is willing to play ball, even if it seems out of character, then Jake will be the head that the Senator delivers to congress.
On the murder investigation side of things, Gene and Lucretia Colder certainly make a suspicious pair. Colder delivers a pious and sanitized version of a eulogy even though most of the people in attendance at the funeral knew they were an item. Lucretia attends the funeral and makes it a point to get some one on one time with Allegra, which causes Gene to short circuit. On the surface, it just looks like Gene is nervous that his soon to be ex-wife is causing trouble at his girlfriend’s funeral, but Colder’s skittishness maybe suggests Lucretia has information that Colder doesn’t want Allegra to know?
The only thing we do know for sure is that Floyd Furness did not kill Felicity, but he pays the price as if he had. While Allegra is finally having her private moment to grieve her sister properly, Floyd shows up with the flash drive that contains the recordings from Snow’s bug. Floyd indicates that there’s information that reveals the trouble that Felicity got mixed up in. Instead of just slipping out in the fashion that he came, Floyd essentially gives up hope of ever being exonerated and essentially commits suicide via cop. Clearly with Felicity gone and the ghost of football career still haunting him, Floyd believed he had nothing left to live for. I have to say, his monologue while lying on the high school football field talking to Allegra over the phone echoed some hokey noir clichés, but things got genuinely affecting when he reflected on the silence he heard after his injury and the way that the stadium knew his life as he knew it was over before he did. I liked Floyd’s character, and I’m sad to see him go.
Now that the San Bonifacio police believe they’ve stopped their man, I imagine their guards will go down just a little bit, giving Allegra a chance to crack the case for real. “Breadknife Winner” is the episode where I finally stopped being more invested in the quirky eccentrics on the margins of the story than the lead at the heart of it, thanks to Rosario’s fantastic work. It certainly feels like this is a turning point for the series and that the best Briarpatch has to offer is still to come.