Finally, a show to leave you thinking
Too often television is watched and forgotten. Tune in in prime-time and it’s just a blur of cookery comps, talent comps and bitchy housewives. But if you’re after something that leaves you thinking, then try new United States drama Quarry (Wednesdays, 8.30pm, SoHo).
Adapted from a series of novels by Max Allan Collins, it’s the tale of US Marine, Mac Conway (Logan Marshall-Green) who, on returning from Vietnam, struggles with civilian life. Sure, that’s not a particularly original storyline. But like everything in this drama – it’s not quite that simple.
Set in the 1970s, it’s placed firmly in the period. There are vinyl records and towelling T-shirts and checked lounge furniture and brown, so many shades of brown.
But this is not a series defined by its period drama details alone. It’s got intriguing characters and a cracking storyline. Mac is shunned by the town, due to his link with a particularly high-profile massacre.
Despite having been cleared of any involvement, he struggles to find a job, money becomes a worry, his relationship with his wife comes under strain and pretty soon the sheen of the welcome home party has well and truly worn off.
In steps The Broker (perfectly played by Peter Mullan), a shady highlevel crim recruiting for a somewhat vague job.
‘‘People have problems, I fix them,’’ he says proffering a large sum of money in notes. It seems an unconventional job interview, but he clearly has a reasonably high success rate and pretty soon Mac’s postmilitary life looks like it’s going into free-fall.
The characters here are perfectly drawn – The Broker is clearly a hardened criminal fixer, but he’s also unflappable and intriguing. Mac is struggling with his own dark world of post-war life and he’s just conflicted enough to keep it interesting without tipping it over into a Deer Hunter- style parody. While criminal Buddy, with his tight shorts and Spanish karaoke, could have been lifted straight out of a David Lynch movie.
The mood is slow and dark, with a tension that ratchets up again and again before exploding into some very brutal violence. And at points, it does feel a little bit gratuitous, but it also feels like we’re learning something about Mac – he’s unreservedly violent when it’s called for.
This is a thoroughly gripping show that hooks you in from the start, with skilful storytelling. It’s the best thing I’ve seen in a long time and I’ve got high hopes for it.
Another adaptation from a novel is British series The Secret Agent (Mondays, 8.30pm, SoHo), based on Joseph Conrad’s work of the same name.
Set in London in 1886, it follows businessman Verloc, who is spying on a group of anarchists for the Russians. The Russians want Verloc to create a terrorist incident and awaken England to the threats of the anarchists.
There are some recognisable names among the cast (Vicky McClure, Stephen Graham, Toby Jones) and it looks good. And yet, somehow, it feels like hard work to watch.
Toby Jones is The Secret Agent