Previously, on Quarry: “Coffee Blues”
Quarry S1E6 “His Deeds Were Scattered” | Starring: Logan Marshall-Green, Jodi Balfour, Peter Mullan, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Damon Herriman, Edoardo Ballerini, Chloe Elise, Josh Randall, Happy Anderson | Written by: Max Allan Collins | Directed by: Greg Yaitanes
In the first episode of the series to be written by the author of its source material, Max Allan Collins, Memphis’ music scene continues to do its best to shine beneath the tarnish of racism, we see evidence of relationships blossoming and withering, and Mac gets to see just what can be called a “good deed” in his new profession.
The below review contains spoilers.
As a lot of television viewers are wont to do, I often find myself looking for deeper meaning in moments on screen that may or may not be meant to have any significance at all. Of course, that’s not something I do with a sitcom or less heady shows, but something like The Leftovers, for example? That series has had me looking through Wikipedia articles and reading old news clippings with damn near every episode. With the nature of Quarry‘s story and the fact that it is a “period” show, there have been moments where I’ve been driven down these same kinds of rabbit holes. This week, my madness began with The Carpenters.
Mac pays a visit to a record store in this episode; while there, he receives a call from The Broker on the store’s phone. In his conversation with The Broker, Mac makes the comment “Yeah, there’s a Carpenters album with your name on it.” Call me crazy, and you may be right, but I wanted to see if The Carpenters actually did have an album out in 1972; they did: A Song for You. At this point, I don’t rightly care if this is an intentional place for me to have ended up. With this series’ story, setting, and use of music, I feel entirely justified reading this much into an offhand remark.
“His good deeds were scattered everywhere that day and into eternity.”
A Song for You, is an album littered with love gone wrong: “Hurting Each Other”, “It’s Going to Take Some Time”, “I Won’t Last a Day Without You”. Of all the songs on that album, though, I look at “Goodbye to Love”, a song about letting go of the pursuit of love and realizing you are better off alone. Whether this is the path I was meant to follow to reach this destination or not, I do believe this is representative of Mac’s current mindset.
Mac is caught between the romance of Joni and the normal life she represents for him and the romanticization of the life presented to him by The Broker. Mac is good at killing people, and this episode allows him the opportunity to accept that he also likes it. The problem with that is Joni does not. Joni wants Mac to be finished with The Broker as quickly as possible, even to the point of talking to Mac’s father about helping her sell their house behind Mac’s back. The saddest part about this is Mac wants to want that, too. You can tell Mac does love Joni, and he wants to make her happy, but maybe he can’t.
This episode opens with a cold open showing Mac wake up in the middle of a night terror brought on by the PTSD he has developed as a result of his time in Vietnam. Joni tries to snap him out of it, to no avail. Mac ends up naked in the middle of the street holding a loaded shotgun, ready and willing to kill. Perhaps this is a microcosm of their relationship as it stands. No matter what Joni says or does, she cannot change or fix Mac, and neither can he. His experience at war has left him with a condition that, in 1972, simply is not able to be addressed; he has also been left with a skill set that makes him particularly suited for The Broker’s needs. As horrible as it may seem, Mac looks to be on the path to saying goodbye to love.
It doesn’t help, either, that The Broker is a manipulative demon sitting on Mac’s shoulder, opposite Joni’s angel. Last week, The Broker forced Mac to accompany him to an illegal casino to “have fun”. No job, no killing, no nothing. It was a trip meant to loosen Mac up, and it worked. Mac and The Broker seem to have a friendlier relationship now. This week, The Broker serves Mac a softball in his next assignment: Eugene Linwood. Now, you’d be forgiven if you don’t recall Eugene Linwood by name, but he is the guy who went on the school bus last week, dragged a kid outside, and beat him near-to-death with a crowbar.
After Mac informs The Broker that he has killed Linwood at the end of this episode, what does The Broker do? He pours himself a drink and puts on a record: Al Green’s I’m Still in Love with You, an album full of songs about good love and how sweet it is (There’s literally a song titled “What a Wonderful Thing Love is”). The song we hear, though, is “For the Good Times”, which is a song about a love that has ended. Yes, I do think that could be in reference to Mac and Joni’s relationship, but the other reason I believe this song is played here is because the killing of Eugene Linwood represents, to The Broker, a recognition of “good times”. They may not get a lot of chances to use their profession to take out unquestionably bad people, but sometimes they do.
The Broker uses this particular opportunity to further romance Mac. That phone call I mentioned earlier involved The Broker inviting Mac to Tom Lee Park. Tom Lee is a man who, in 1925, saved 32 people from a capsized boat in the Mississippi River. The Broker uses the story of Tom Lee to convince Mac that killing Eugene Linwood would make him a hero, much like Lee. The monument in Tom Lee Park is where this episode takes its title, and The Broker repeats the full line at least twice: “His good deeds were scattered everywhere that day and into eternity.” This lionization of Mac seems to work, and it also seems to a way for The Broker to justify his own bad deeds; he does them for the good times.
Tom Lee was also a black man. A man’s race should not matter to the story of him saving 32 people’s lives, but it does here. Memphis in 1972 is home to a park memorializing a black man, while at the same time cultivating a systemic racism that sees a curfew forced upon black people because a white man, Linwood, beat a child nearly to death in broad daylight and then was released without being charged due to “lack of evidence”. It is through this prism, however, that we get to know more about Moses (Mustafa Shakir) aka Felix, the man The Broker has watching Ruth. He seems to be getting closer with Ruth than anticipated, to the point of spending time in her home with her and her kids during the aforementioned curfew.
It turns out Moses is a struggling musician, which may be how he came to be entangled with The Broker? I’m not sure if that’s something that has been established or not, but The Broker does seem to pursue troubled people, so it would make sense. In Moses, however, Ruth’s son Marcus sees strength, particularly in a confrontation Marcus witnesses Moses have with a police officer where he implores the officer to “‘Boy’ me one more time.” After Marcus lost his father and then had to sit helplessly by while his friend was taken off his bus and beaten, Moses may be a valuable figure introduced to a young man in desperate need of help finding answers to unanswerable questions. On the other hand, Marcus is a 13-year-old who is angry at the world; an influence like Moses could lead to unintentional danger, especially given the false pretense that has brought Moses/Felix into his life in the first place.
This review is getting long, but this series continues to inspire me to say more and more about it. I’ll just quickly hit on two more subjects, and then I’ll let you go.
First, we check back in with Buddy and his mother, as the former continues dealing with his own PTSD-like symptoms that have been caused by his work with The Broker and the latter plays Bingo. At the same time, detective Tommy Olsen gets a little closer with Cindy (okay, a lot closer). Guess what? There’s a guitar involved there, too. Music is everywhere on this show.
Speaking of the music, a review of this series cannot omit a mention of the live performances. After last week was all one artist (Chris Thomas King), this episode explodes with an eclectic mix of several musicians: Blackberry Smoke performing “One Way Out” by The Allman Brothers, Carla Thomas’ “B-A-B-Y” performed by Keia Johnson & The Royal Studio Players, Alynda Lee Segarra’s anachronistic performance of her own Hurray for the Riff Raff song “Something’s Wrong“, and The Kid Carsons performing Todd Lundgren’s 1972 song “I Saw the Light“. With all of those performances combining with The Broker playing the Al Green record and the series’ subtle score mixed in, this was the most music-laden episode so far; it’s no wonder I’m forced to go looking into Carpenters records, right? Right?
This episode is light on action, save for one major moment, but that is not missed, as the episode fills itself with character development for Moses we didn’t know we were missing and further relationship deterioration for Mac and Joni.