The Red Road is Sundance Television’s second original, scripted series. The first season, which consisted of six episodes, debuted in late February of 2014. The show is set in a fictitious town, Walpole, New Jersey and includes ties to the Ramapough Mountain Indians.
The show revolves around a police officer, Harold Jensen (Martin Henderson), and his wife, Jean Jensen (Julianne Nicholson). The couple also has two daughters, Rachel (Allie Gonino) and Kate (Annalise Basso). Rachel is the bratty teenager that attempts to rebel against her parents. On the contrary, Kate is more mature and doesn’t cause her parents any trouble. From the very beginning, Jean is struggling to avoid her temptations for alcohol. Of course, she slips more than a few times. While Jean battles her addiction, Harold attempts to track down information involving the disappearance of an NYU student, who disappears within the Ramapo Mountains. Of course, he will get no help from the Lenape Native Americans, since they do not trust the police.
Meanwhile, Phillip Kopus (Jason Momoa, Game of Thrones) has been released from prison, after a long stint for drugs. Immediately after his release, he rushes to start up another illegal operation. He quickly recruits an old comrade, Mike Parker (Zahn McClarnon). He also makes contact with his mother, Marie (Tamara Tunie), and brother, Junior (Kiowa Gordon). Little does he know, his fate is about to be intertwined with Harold’s.
Harold’s eldest daughter, Rachel happens to be dating a Lenape boy, Junior, and her parents definitely do not approve. Their relationship causes Jean great turmoil. She begins spiraling out of control. The ungrateful, stubborn Rachel continues the relationship, regardless of her parent’s wishes. One night, Rachel doesn’t come home, which sends Jean on a wild manhunt. She grabs Harold’s service firearm and heads to Junior’s residence, where she is greeted by Marie. Of course, she doesn’t receive any answers and heads off into the mountains.
During Jean’s dramatic hunt for her daughter, she runs into an object, but refuses to stop. Harold learns about the incident and overhears that a Lenape boy has been hit and killed in the mountains. He immediately goes to work covering up the evidence, by repairing the vehicle. The only problem? There were several witnesses. The solution? Phillip Kopus has pull over the Indians. Although this is a risky fix, Harold is left with little choice, in order to protect his wife.
As the series continues, Phillip begins working with his father, Jack (Tom Sizemore), to sell prescription medication. Of course, the relationship sours, when he discovers he father was behind his recent arrest. At the same time, he continues to elevate his game, by blackmailing Harold, who has little choice, but to play the corrupt cop role.
Harold continues having problems with Jean, who is eventually checked into the psychiatric hospital. When she learns about Harold’s communicate with Phillip, she grows angry. When they were younger, the three knew each other and Jean actually dated Phillip for a period of time. The relationship fell into turmoil, after Jean’s brother drowned and Phillip and some other Indians were accused of standing around letting it happen.
The small town of Walpole is about to take a turn for the worse. Can Harold reclaim his authority and figure out a way to outsmart Phillip, without putting suspicions on his wife? Will Phillip’s illegal drug empire continue to thrive or will he throw is all away to gain revenge over his father?
The Red Road is definitely a slow burner that takes time to build up to the climatic season finale. Of course, each scene seems to hold some value, even if minimal. The Georgia mountains are a perfect setting for this drama, which is somewhat bleak and sobering. Those looking for chaotic action scenes should look elsewhere. The Red Road attempts to distinguish itself as a sophisticated police drama. However, it falls short in a few regards.
Some of the actings seems to fall flat at times. I enjoyed the conflict between the Jensen family and felt admiration and pain for the younger Kate. The show could’ve delved into the family dynamic a little more. At the same time, Jean’s character is anything, but likable and Harold always seems a little too eager to come to her aid. Still, it would be a lie to call this unrealistic.
The season built up slowly and concluded dramatically. While I will not go into too many details, it setup another season excellently. Although the show isn’t perfect, it is well worth a watch, if you can get past the incredibly story telling. The Red Road Season 2 is currently set to air in January of 2015, which I have confidence will improve upon the original formula. The first season deserves a 7 out of 10 and you should definitely check it out, before Season 2 airs!