Previously on Quarry: “A Mouthful of Splinters“
Quarry S1E4 “Seldom Realized”| Starring: Logan Marshall-Green, Jodi Balfour, Peter Mullan, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Damon Herriman, Edoardo Ballerini, Chloe Elise, Josh Randall, Happy Anderson | Written by: Michael D. Fuller and Graham Gordy | Directed by: Greg Yaitanes
Coming into the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany, American swimmer Mark Spitz had his eye on six gold medals; he would break several world records on his way to an eventual seven gold medals that year. That incredible performance is overshadowed, however, by the events that would unfold later in the games: nine Israelis were tragically taken hostage by terrorists and killed. This dark moment in history serves as a macabre backdrop to–as well as a stark mirror of–this episode.
Each successive episode of Quarry has been my favorite of the series, and I see no reason why “Seldom Realized” should derail that trend… well, until next week when the series must try and find a way to top this outstanding ball of rubber bands languidly popping apart over the course of an hour of weed, prostitution, and Gumby.
In last week’s “A Mouthful of Splinters”, we saw the abscessed tooth that was Mac and Joni’s relationship extracted and shown for the rotten and still-decaying mass that it really was. They did not know each other anymore, they did not need each other anymore, and they did not love each other anymore.
This week is all about staring directly into the raw nerve left exposed by that extraction. Mac and Joni took the car given to them by Karl last week, and they ran all the way to a rundown motel in northwest Arkansas (about 5 hours from Memphis, two days later). The brilliance of this episode–and I do think it is brilliant–is in what is not here: namely, Memphis. The previous three episodes spent so much real estate establishing its environment: Mac and Joni’s house, their pool, the bars, the streets, the homes of their friends and neighbors; all of it is stripped away from Mac and Joni. They are strangers in a strange land, and all they have is each other.
Most notable among everything taken away from them–and us–is the music of Memphis. The previous episodes, and what is presumably going to be the entirety of the series, is deeply rooted in the musical presence of its locale. In such a fantastic decision, Greg Yaitanes (or whomever made the choice) doesn’t just take the music away outright; it’s put through a shitty radio and played in the tinny way only terrestrial radio in the 1970s can provide. It makes us long for the familiar, just as Mac and Joni are doing.
We’re not finished with narrative tricks, metaphors, and allegories, yet, because this shithole motel also happens to have a swimming pool in dire need of cleaning; it has become a cesspool of neglect and indifference, just like Mac and Joni’s relationship. What does Mac do? He spends much of the episode trying to fix it; to fix everything. You can only fix things, though, if you acknowledge what is wrong. Is it a bad pump? Is it keeping secrets? Maybe a little of both.
While this is going on, Suggs–the one-legged man–inserts himself into Mac and Joni’s lives; their actual lives. He goes through their home, he visits Joni’s coworkers: he is a foreign presence in our environment. I felt violated while watching him touch our stuff. Suggs, The Broker, Karl, all of it; it’s all supposed to be kept separate from Mac’s personal life. At least that’s what the first three episodes told us, but we knew that couldn’t last. You can’t keep two lives separate; not if you want them both to survive.
This is illustrated perfectly, and in a very dark reflection of that massacre in Munich in 1972, by the inevitability of danger finding Mac and Joni’s island paradise of stress and paranoia. As those Olympic games take a tragic turn, we see all of Mac and Joni’s gains come crashing directly into Suggs and his dogged pursuit of vengeance.
Isolating Mac and Joni, and forcing them to talk, was the perfect way to pivot this story in a new direction as it still has four more episodes to play out its plot. “Seldom Realized” could easily standalone as a singular story of fear and loathing in Arkansas, but to have it as just one episode of a series? That is something that is… uh… not often achieved.
“Seldom Realized” takes the events of all three preceding episodes and plays them for leverage against the audience’s expectation and comfort, leading to an exceptional hour of riveting television.