Previously, on Quarry: “You Don’t Miss Your Water”
Quarry S1E2 “Figure Four”| Starring: Logan Marshall-Green, Jodi Balfour, Peter Mullan, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Damon Herriman, Chloe Elise, Josh Randall, Happy Anderson | Written by: Michael D. Fuller and Graham Gordy | Directed by: Greg Yaitanes
With its premiere last week, Quarry exploded the life of Vietnam vet Mac Conway into a million little pieces. In its second episode, the series sees its protagonist trying his best to gather up all those tiny shards back together into one, sane man or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof. He does not find much success in this endeavor.
If much of that premiere can be said to have worn an ephemeral haze of glowing, evanescent happiness, this episode replaces that sheen with the pervasive stench of drunken restlessness and abject, frenetic longing. This is a beautifully constructed follow-up to the premiere’s events because, in this moment, Mac is desperately missing that ethereal feeling we saw fade away when he realized everyone hates him and his wife cheated on him.
To that last point, from its first moments when we are introduced to cassette tapes Mac has of Joni’s voice, “Figure Four” breathes a renewed point-of-view into the love these two characters have shared for far longer than we have seen. With this insight, we feel more deeply for him and the betrayal that led him to kill a man last week. I hope we revisit more of these tapes in the future–something I think we almost have to, since there are so many and it seems to be something Joni does quite a bit–because this is a window, for us and for the character of Mac, into what his life used to be before he became the broken man we now see.
With Mac trying to find the one-legged man from last week, while at the same time trying to find his own footing within his newly acquired role, the theme of this episode seems to be discomfort. There are so many uncomfortable or awkward moments here. We meet Susan (Haviland Morris), Mac’s stepmother, and there is certainly no love lost between she and Mac; Buddy meets with another new character, Joe Don (Owen Harn), and the two of them are not best buds; and Joni is interviewed by yet more new characters, Detectives Ratliff (Happy Anderson) and Olsen (Josh Randall), who are investigating the death of Joni’s lover whom nobody knew she was “carpooling” with. But, in no scene is this anxiousness more palpable than when Mac visits Ruth, Arthur’s widow. His visit carries an ulterior motive, but he is also visibly upset by seeing her and her kids; she actually ends up comforting him, which feels so realistic because that so often seems to be the case in situations where someone has died.
The series continued its use of diegetic music to fantastic effect. I commented on the music in the premiere, of course, but this episode goes so much further in its continued use of period-accurate, live performances to breathe a soul, no pun intended, into its environment. Here, we see two fantastic performances: Van Ford’s cover of Wilson Pickett’s “634-5789” and J. Roddy Walston & The Business’ cover of “Goodnight Baby” from duo Sam & Dave. These two performances are happening live, within the world of this series, and go so far to awash this environment with the sweet, southern soul one might expect from Memphis in 1972. These live performances, though, are also joined by music heard on records and the radio; it’s an eclectic mix from Uriah Heep, to Big Star, to Waylon Jennings. Take that, throw in the still very subtle score running underneath it all, and you have a series bursting with an established musical identity complementing its already enveloping plot. Quarry is made up of a series of good decisions, so far, but having legendary singer and songwriter David Porter serve as the music consultant is, by far, the best of the bunch. Every week, we are just going to get outstanding music from this show.
Lastly, I will mention the one weaker point last week’s premiere had: its action. It was not bad; it just was not largely enthralling, either. Well, episode two here really kicked the action element up a notch or seven. The action of this series feels like it is also meant to evoke memories of the 1970s, particularly action films of the time, like The French Connection or even Marathon Man, where it all feels very raw and uncoordinated. It is coordinated, of course, and the then-new Steadicam allowed Marathon Man to use coordination never-before-seen in film, but the feeling of spontaneous, “intentionally sloppy/dirty” movement is there, and that is my point. Also, Buddy’s baseball bat may or may not make an appearance.
Overall, “Figure Four” not only continues the quality of the strong premiere, but it manages to elevate itself and the series even higher. I see no reason to doubt each successive episode won’t do the same, but we’ll see about that next week.
Quarry’s premiere knocked its protagonist down with several blows to the head, and this episode does a fantastic job of showing him trying his best to stand back up and get back in the fight before the ten count can get the best of him. He stumbles his way through, but “Figure Four” lands a healthy combination of writing, acting, action, and music to keep Little Mac on his feet and fighting.
It’s wholly confusing to use a boxing metaphor with a term like “Figure Four” that is clearly taken from the world of wrestling, but go with me here: the episode was a knockout.