The Red Road Series Premiere Review: “Arise My Love, Shake Off This Dream” (Season 1, Episode 1)


With AMC’s The Walking Dead regularly besting the once-untouchable Winter Olympics and FX’s The Americans drawing critical raves, you can’t blame SundanceTV (previously known as the Sundance Channel) for wanting another piece of slow-burn, high-quality programming to call their very own. Its first series Rectify was a success, garnering acclaim and awards buzz, so the network is trying its luck again with The Red Road, a dark drama starring Martin Henderson and Jason Momoa. 

Front and center in this show are the complicated tensions between a Native American tribe and the nearby town of Walpole, New Jersey. Unfortunately, it’s not entirely explained where all of the bad blood between the groups comes from, and I have a feeling that viewers invested in finding out will have to wait out the full six-episode first season in order to get a complete picture.

Early on, we’re introduced to our main players. Sheriff Harold Jensen (Henderson) is an honest man attempting to keep his family from falling apart whilst also keeping the peace between the tribe and the townspeople. On the homefront, he’s beset by his recovering alcoholic wife Jean (Julianne Nicholson), who has become noticeably unhinged in her efforts to prevent rebellious daughter Rachel (Allie Gonino) from continuing a relationship with an Indian teen named Junior (Kiowa Gordon). Why is Jean so tightly wound? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that, according to her, the drowning death of her brother could have been prevented by an Indian.

Over in the Ramapo Mountains, where the Native American tribespeople have laid their claim, the return of nefarious ex-con Phillip Kopus (Momoa) immediately stirs up trouble. When Jean’s conflict with Rachel and Junior intersects on the Native American reservation, resulting in tragedy, Phillip uses the incident as leverage to enter into an uneasy alliance with Harold.

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