This Quarry review contains spoilers.
Quarry Season 1, Episode 1
Cinemax has put together another gritty anti-hero vehicle to add to the litany of others viewers have enjoyed recently, and Quarry certainly holds its own in excellent company like Breaking Bad, Fargo, and Preacher. Although the first episode of its 8-episode run follows the predictable path of disillusionment for its protagonist, Mac, who has returned from Vietnam to an America that despises him and can’t (or won’t) employ him, his journey towards becoming a reluctant hitman is simultaneously bleak and entertaining.
Quarry is based on a hard-boiled, late-70s series of novels by Max Allan Collins, which tells the story of a man forced into a life of crime, where he is given the codename Quarry, referencing both the rock quarry in which he is recruited and his designated targets as a gun for hire. Mac (Logan Marshall-Green of Prometheus) and his friend Arthur (Jamie Hector of The Wire) have returned from one of several tours in Nam during which they were accused and cleared of violent acts on a village of civilians, setting the stage for the public’s hatred and the criminal element’s attention.
Marshall-Green plays the heck out of the title character, even though he’s not very likable, and although his story feels very familiar, the source material’s decade of origin allays any concerns of derivative character arcs. The performance as Mac is one of strong anger against his detractors, powerful resolve in the face of rejection, and commitment to the inevitable in defeat. Mac may have a long way to go in becoming fully developed, but his story from the start is compelling.
Sadly, this is not the case for his beleaguered wife, Joni (Jodi Balfour of Bomb Girls), who at first appears to be a supportive wife who happens to spend a lot of time nude and ready for sex. Not that that’s a bad thing, but it does tend to stunt her character a bit. At times it feels like the swimming pool out back is the entirety of the couple’s existence. Although the revelation of her affair may have come as an interesting twist to some, it didn’t serve to round out her personality.
The real heart of the show lies with its criminal element, a colorful mix of eccentricity, brutality, and an almost seductive desire for Mac’s unique set of skills. Viewers no doubt found themselves wondering what they would do if offered a shaving kit full of cash to give into their darker instincts and kill others for profit. There’s a certain logic to the accusation that Mac both detests and craves the adrenaline rush of war that can’t be matched in returning to civilian life.
And the very idea of a Broker who brings in clients for his squad of assassins appeals to those who enjoyed the meticulous nature of Gustavo Fring in Breaking Bad. The Broker offers order and acceptance where elsewhere Mac only finds chaos and abhorrence, and even as Mac fights against the crazy idea of becoming a hitman, the audience almost roots for him to change his mind.
Definitely a favorite shady character to watch out for is Buddy (Damon Herriman of Justified). His casual violence and friendly competitiveness denote someone truly disturbed but supremely confident and comfortable in his own skin. Buddy’s interactions with both his established colleagues and with the newbie Mac hint at many entertaining scenes to come for this flamboyant character.
The cold open with Mac already having given in to the inevitable felt unnecessary and perhaps even a little spoilery, and the subsequent slow pace of the episode made it difficult to wait for the payoff. In the end, though, it didn’t matter since the great music of Memphis and the rich potential of the Dixie mafia motif makes for such a complex palette for the show. As long as the characters can hit their rhythm, Quarry will undoubtedly have huge appeal once it reaches its core audience.