by: Michael Shields
Across the Margin introduces you to your latest television obsession, Cinemax’s Quarry…
Quarry, a new series from Cinemax, commences with a body face down in a swamp. The faintest hint of dawn illuminates the sweltering bog, and adjacent to the carcass, cemented into the thick, foul mud is a red, white and blue “I Voted” pin – a story for another episode it seems. Unexpectedly, the dormant body stirs and arduously the person – a man – pulls himself to his feet. He then, water-logged and mangled, sifts through the sucking mud, eventually retrieving a handgun. Venturing into the nearby brush with purpose, he comes upon another man in a white button-down shirt with his back turned. Without hesitation, he shoots the other man in the back who falls to the ground like a wet rag. Before long, the gunman fires another shot into the fallen body for assurance. And with that murder in the fleeting shadows of a new dawn begins as intense and captivating a series as you will find on television.
Quarry is the story of a soldier’s homecoming. Upon returning home from the Vietnam War, Mac (Logan Marshall-Green, Charlie Holloway in Prometheus) quickly finds that not only is the nation fed up with the war, but that he, and his fellow soldier and friend Arthur (Jamie Hector, Marlo Stanfield in The Wire), have been demonized by a heinous incident they were involved in (yet cleared of wrongdoing) while abroad. Luckily these two embattled souls each have a woman at home who loves them (played by Jodi Balfour and Nikki Amuka-Bird), a welcome respite and an oasis in a dessert of hostility.
But Quarry is far from a simple story about the hardships of soldiers returning to a life and a country where they aren’t wanted. It’s about the lengths a man will go to in order to survive in such an unforgiving environment. Recruited for the skills he acquired in the jungles of Vietnam, Mac is lured into the employ of a syndicate run by a man known as The Broker (the incredibly talented Peter Mullan), eventually agreeing to a murder for hire proposition. The series title, Quarry, is the codename Mac is given in this sinister new capacity, and Mac finds himself journeying into a world unimaginably as precarious as the one he left behind.
Based on the novels by Max Allan Collins (Road to Perdition), Quarry is brought to life by screenwriters Graham Gordy and Michael D. Fuller ((Executive Produced by Steve Golin, David Kanter, Matt DeRoss, and Greg Yaitanes.)) – the duo responsible for the frighteningly affecting and brilliant series Rectify, which recounts the the tale of a man re-acclimating to life after a lengthy stint in prison for a murder he may have not committed. Once again, Gordy and Fuller are penning a tale of the hell that sometimes lies in wait when you think you have finally escaped from the grasp of a fiery darkness. Like Rectify, Quarry can be trying in the struggle it presents, but this is also where it excels. The insight that can be garnered from exploring the darker edges of our human nature is profound, and the rocky road that Mac stumbles over – and the eccentric characters who wade into his world (particularly Damon Herriman as Buddy) – are as fascinating as they are menacing.
Set in Memphis, Tennessee, Quarry examines place in the same way that True Detective’s first season highlighted the penury and spiritualism of the Bayou and Breaking Bad walked us into the seedy narcotic-laden underbelly of Albuquerque. Memphis is the perfect backdrop for this ruthless tale, a southern city where blues music howls through the wind like smoke from the bountiful factories. Emmy winner Greg Yaitanes (House) directed the entire first season, and his discerning eye is viscerally apparent as we venture through a city that will be front row for Martin Luther King’s assassination and the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement.
With a genre blend composed of action/adventure, crime thriller and psychological drama, Quarry’s intrigue is multi-layered. But what strikes the hardest is that a formula that many thought to be timeworn by now manifests itself fresh here: a besieged anti-heroes’ quest toward redemption. At one point in the pilot episode, titled “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” Mac comes upon a small figure in a souvenir shop of a troll-like being flushing himself down the toilet, with a caption reading “Goodbye Cruel World.” At this point in the show, Mac believes his most trying days are behind him, not knowing the struggles a post-war Memphis has in store for him. But while suicide, for this humorous statuette, was the easy and most inviting idea, that isn’t Mac’s style (at least not yet!). For there is still fight in him, through the adversity of those who will never understand the hell he weathered, through the (visually-stunning!) flashbacks which assault his waking hours, and through the trying, brutal enterprise he falls backwards into. In many ways, even though he has just returned from a gruesome war, Mac’s journey has just begun.
Quarry premieres tonight, September 9th, on Cinemax!