Previously on Quarry: “Figure Four“
Quarry S1E3″A Mouthful of Splinters”| Starring: Logan Marshall-Green, Jodi Balfour, Peter Mullan, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Damon Herriman, Edoardo Ballerini, Chloe Elise, Josh Randall, Happy Anderson, Ann Dowd | Written by: Graham Gordy and Michael D. Fuller | Directed by: Greg Yaitanes
After the intensity of last week, I think we all needed just a little breather. We killed a few guys, had one hell of a car chase, and then maybe slept with the bartender from that strip club we were scoping out. Bottom line, we were dog tired; when we woke up, we were hungry. We had a Little Debbie snack cake and some Dixie Beer, or maybe an oyster or two with Texas Pete hot sauce generously slathered over it; we basically ate whatever we could find, and that’s how you get “A Mouthful of Splinters”. Well, one way.
This week picks up right where “Figure Four” left off: with Suggs, the one-legged dude, knocking on Joni’s door while Mac is not there because he’s off revenge-banging that redheaded bartender. From this very moment, we know this episode is not going to be about Mac. Yes, Joni and Suggs only cross paths because they are both connected to Mac, so he is the glue holding them together, but our lead protagonist is relegated to the backseat here, and the episode–and the series–are all the better for it.
I’m not saying Mac is not a great character; I feel quite the opposite, actually: Mac is a fantastic character. After the first two episodes of this season, though? The man was exhausted, and I was tired for him. Granted, he is still running around this episode like a madman trying to save his wife, but that’s the extent of his involvement here–and, spoiler alert, he’s not all that involved in the resolution of that issue, either. Two people are out in front this week: Joni and Buddy.
It’s not much of a giveaway that Joni ends up being kidnapped by Suggs, so yeah, that happens. In seeing how she deals with this, though, we learn quite a bit about Joni and how much she has presumably changed while Mac has been at war. Yes, we know she cheated on him, but that seems indicative of something larger within her: she doesn’t need him anymore. As much as last week’s introduction of those tapes she and Mac made for each other solidified the kind of relationship and love they had before he left, the events this week go just as far to illustrate they may no longer have that relationship; at the very least, they are going to have to get to know each other again, because they are total strangers right now, and that is probably exactly what The Broker wants them to be. I mean, that is what it looks like has happened with Buddy and the people in his life.
Oh, Buddy. This guy has emerged as probably the most intriguing character of the young series. First, we meet his mother, Naomi, and she is played by the incomparable Ann Dowd (The Leftovers)! I was shocked as shit when I heard her voice, but I digress. With these scenes between Buddy and Naomi, we learn Buddy is just worn slap the fuck out. If you think Mac is tired after a few days of this shit, he has nothing on Buddy and his 5 years.
What makes Buddy such an interesting and valuable character is that he serves as a prism through which we can see what Mac could become: a walking, dried-out husk of a man crying to his mother. This is what a life spent murdering people does to you; this is the weight of killing. What’s more, Buddy only has this experience working the banks of the Mississippi river, but Mac is also carrying the burden of whatever it is he did while he was at war in Vietnam. Whether that experience helps or hurts Mac is something we’re sure to find out.
Even though Mac is not physically in this episode quite that much (or, at least, it doesn’t seem as he is), he is emotionally represented in both the growth his absence forced onto Joni and in the disintegration of Buddy’s spirit mirroring his own circumstances. It almost feels like this episode, with the least Mac so far, told us far more about his life than either of the previous two episodes could have. Often, the best measure of who we are is the effect we have on others, and we see Mac’s life is rippling through the lives of so many people.
Two final, quick things, and I’ll get you out of here. First, the detective team of Ratliff and Olsen is not only not going away, but they have the potential to be quite entertaining. Happy Anderson and Josh Randall play off each other in a way I felt–even in what has, so far, been limited screen time–reminded me of Bud Spencer and Terence Hill; it’s probably, mainly, because of Happy Anderson’s magnificent beard, but I’m okay with that.
Finally, I cannot talk about this show without mentioning the music. We only got one live performance this week, but it’s a doozy: William Bell & Speakerbox covering Albert King’s “Born Under a Bad Sign”, a song which feels like it could be about any of the characters of this show but is probably meant to represent The Broker. Also present here is “Why Don’t You Haul Off and Love Me?” by Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton playing over the end credits, which says far more about the current state of Mac and Joni’s relationship than I could ever hope to express here.
In the series’ first episode to focus on characters not named Mac, Quarry slows things down–relatively speaking, at least–and uses its secondary characters to flesh out the world and life of its protagonist. Through the absence of Mac, we see Joni has learned to get by without him and the series can, too.