TV’s most messed up characters return for what’s likely the third and final season, and in place of vile Ray Prager, the writers have brought in one mother of a complicated character who’s not wholly evil in spite of beating his wife to death in the premiere’s first 5 minutes in a horrific fit of jealous rage.
Ivan Sujic (Michael Nardone) is the end product of a conflict raging since the fall of Yugoslavia. He’s a Serbian son who immigrated to Canada, became a soldier and served with distinction for the U.N. peacekeepers, but was emotionally blackmailed into killing a boy to prove his fidelity to his sadistic friend Miro (Andreas Aspergis, sporting the maddest hairstyle ever) and the latter’s mercenary cousins. After marrying Miro’s sister Katya, the newly minted couple moved back to Canada and attempted to start a new life, planning for a child, and Ivan quickly becoming a Toronto cop.
Naturally, emotional baggage and family loyalties corrupted Ivan’s plans, not to mention his fertility problems (which were aggravated by rumors of marital infidelity when Miro and his idiot cousins arrived in Canada as quasi-refugees to set up their own little crime syndicate).
Conflict of interest for Ivan? You bet! And Miro’s accusations of Katya’s infidelity not only planted the murderous seed in Ivan, but guaranteed his loyalty would no longer be exclusive to Metro’s Finest.
That’s essentially the villain’s primary background, and it’s impossible to fully regard him as evil because he’s also a good cop: he supports Mike Sweeney (Hugh Dillon) as the new partner, and the two must set aside rising mutual distrust when Ivan’s missing wife becomes a nagging issue, and a hottie named Eva (Heartbeats’ bodacious Bénédicte Décary) is endangered by Miro and his goons when she takes an interest in Mike.
Meanwhile, back at the Sweeney homestead, Audrey (Hélène Joy) is expecting a child, and daughter Sadie (Laurence Laboeuf) is carrying her own child that may owe more of its DNA mix to Ray Prager than boyfriend / potential fiancé Ray Junior (Greyston Holt). Audrey’s pregnancy eventually becomes unstable, and Ivan’s involvement causes a major rift within the Sweeney family, with youngest daughter Maddie (Cicely Austin) regarding Ivan as trustable uncle.
It’s like emotional incest, pricked by an unreal thickness of stressors that ultimately push not only Mike but Ivan far off into realms each had prayed they would never return, yet the pair must remain professional to solve a local gang war, and a series of drug runner killing where the youths were skinned and dismembered.
Season 3 is described by its makers as larger in characters, scope and scale, and although the first five episodes brilliantly crest to an insane Grand Guignol saga of absolute social impropriety (a homoerotic drunken hugging scene between Ivan and Mike is brilliant bathos), the final episode reveals a few major problems that were never ironed out during the season. The amount of characters isn’t a problem, but their usefulness is sometimes lessened, causing some to stand at the margins and step forward only when they’re necessary for a new plot point. Among the weakest characters is Maddie who frankly should’ve been written out the show and sent to a private school or college, returning only for the finale to chastise her father during a grim family situation.
There’s also too many shock revelations that are packed into the finale, all of which create a bit of a blur among character motivations, their ‘true’ interrelationships, and their usefulness in the finale (of which one or two could and should’ve easily been killed off to make things a bit neater).
Still, for fans of Durham County, there’s no disappointment in having numerous scenes that display the grey areas of inner and outer torment, of emotional consequences, and characters who initially seem begin vile, transfer to grey terrain, and remain sympathetic even when culpability in criminal activities extends to outright butchery. Season 3 is also much gorier and emotionally horrific, and fans may be wise to replay the prior Seasons 1 [M] and 2 [M] because the lengthy 1-2 years gaps between airings and / or video releases mandates a refresher course on exactly what small details have been carried over to the new season by the writers.
The cast is uniformly good, but the real standout is Shannon Kook as a Chinese drug lieutenant David Cho. Kook gives his fairly flat character multiple levels of menace and normalcy, and he validates the soft compassion that compels Sadie to remain in contact with David when her duties as police trainee go beyond the day shift hours.
Anchor Bay’s 2-disc DVD set features crisp transfers of this gorgeously shot HD series (cinematographer Eri Cayla’s a lighting magician), and while there are low light moments that reveal the video camera’s limitations, they also give scenes a docu-drama feel. Pity the series hasn’t been repackaged on Blu-ray, but perhaps that’s being saved for the next installment, if the writers still have plans for a fourth season, or a feature-length film.
The only bonus is a basic making-of featurette, but the interviews with cast and longer interviews with co-producer Michael Prupas, writers Laurie Finstad-Knizhik & Janice Lundman and directors Adrienne Mitchell & Charles Binamé cover all the basics of the season’s whys, hows, and new cast additions, including Michael Nardone (Rome), whose Scottish accent never wavers. Montreal looks nothing like Toronto (and neither do the silver commuter trains), but the creative team pull off some good camouflage to maintain the illusion.
As for further adventures in distinct Canuck weirdness, Ray Prager is still out there… probably waiting to reclaim Sadie… so the question is whether the series’ creative team are able to wrap up his loose storyline or let fans concoct their own happy / miserable ending for the Sweeneys.
© 2012 Mark R. Hasan