When I started watching Quarry, I didn’t have high expectations of the show. The promo image of a fully-clothed guy diving into the pool hinted at a complex story but it certainly didn’t scream: must-see.
And when I caught the first episode, which was just over an hour long, I found the narrative moving at a very sedate pace.
Impatient by nature, I was about to throw the towel in 30 minutes later. I felt it was a fair enough time to give a show a chance before I wrote it off. Well, that’s what I thought anyway.
But just as I was about to do so, the story started going somewhere. And not long after, I marvelled over the incredible writing.
Created by Graham Gordy and Michael D Fuller, Quarry is a story born from the novels of Max Allan Collins.
The story is set in the early 1970s. It starts with army soldiers Mac Conway (Logan Marshall-Green) and Arthur (Jamie Hector) returning from Vietnam. They are greeted by Ruth (Nikki Amuka-Bird), who is Arthur’s wife. The “happy reunion” is short lived though. Mac and Arthur are vilified by a large group of people over a controversial incident that went down in Vietnam.
After shoving their way through the crowd and their barrage of insults, Mac is dropped off at home to surprise his wife Joni (Jodi Balfour). The scenes following his return home are laden with sex and the smoking of weed while listening to his impressive collection of LPs.
Amid all of this, you start getting a better sense of the layered storytelling. Mac seems to be suffering from PTSD, although he conceals it from Joni. He also has a very uneasy relationship with his father.
There’s also another problem, adapting to civilian life and getting a job. And it’s a struggle for Arthur too. He takes a job at a factory.
Of course, there’s more pawns in play in this story. There is The Broker (Peter Mullan), who gets Buddy (Damon Herriman) to do a full dossier on Mac.
The intention is to hire Mac for his specialised abilities. The intimation being that he killed in the war, why not do so for a living.
While desperate to find work, Mac turns down the enticing offer at first. However, he finds himself roped into the gun-for-hire scheme when he, very reluctantly, agrees to help Arthur who takes the job instead.
Unfortunately, things go pear-shaped and Arthur is killed while trying to take out a target. And Mac finds himself having to pay off Arthur’s debt (he was paid in advance when he was recruited).
He is morally-conflicted by the decision, which plays out rather poetically when he meets The Broker and his bodyguard in a quarry, hence his nickname and, of course, the relevance of the show’s title.
The episode ended with him taking out his next mark, the guy who, unbeknown to him at first, was knocking boots with his wife.
And the second episode explores the emotional aftermath of his failed marriage while, at the same time, looking at his budding friendship with Buddy.
Quarry is akin to a magnificently intricate blending of True Detective and Breaking Bad. It’s gritty, intense and engaging.
Did I mention that the actress playing Joni is South African?
l Quarry airs on M-Net Edge (DStv Channel 102) on Tuesdays at 9pm.