Candice’s Top 5 TV Shows: #3 – DURHAM COUNTY

Durham County

In the realm of great TV, there are shows that entertain you, that change your life, or that leave you considering how messed up our world is. DURHAM COUNTY falls into the last of those. I’ll focus on series one here, purely because this is the only show I watch where I actively avoid reading or writing spoilers. (In the spirit of full disclosure, series two is generally seen to be the weaker of the two aired so far. It is, however, still entertaining. I can’t wait for season three.)

What is the show about?

Mike Sweeney thought his wife, Audrey, was dying of breast cancer. His partner on the police force was killed. His oldest daughter, Sadie, is obsessed with murder and his youngest is withdrawn. So when Audrey goes into remission, Mike moves his family out to suburban Durham County to get a fresh start. But the past always lingers. Soon Mike’s real reason for moving to Durham County is revealed, but not before his wife and kids start growing close to their neighbours – especially Ray Prager. A guy Mike knows from high school. A guy who may be a serial killer.

Why I love it:

You know a series has balls when it opens with a vicious murder. Tuning in to see what Hugh Dillon’s latest role was, I was both shocked and drawn in by the opening scene of series one. I absolutely love dark characters and storylines, and Durham County is nothing if not dark. Nothing is ever black and white – the bad guys have softer sides, the good guys have questionable motives.

Even the lead character of Mike Sweeney keeps us on our toes, never sure whether we should love him or hate him. Ray Prager is the perfect antagonist; we see his change from viewer of violence to active participant, and the reluctance and excitement that goes along with it. Even the Romeo and Juliet teen romance between Sadie Sweeney and Ray Prager Jr is twisted into something as messed up as their parents’ relationship.

The setting for the series is almost a character in its own right. The stereotypically beautiful Canadian landscape is marred by man made structures all around, the muted palette of the cinematography emphasizing how bleak the world of Durham County is and how the villain of the piece may be humanity in general.

Why people should watch it:

Durham County isn’t for everyone. It seems strange to start a recommendation with that acknowledgment, but in this case it’s warranted. If you like your dark balanced with a little light, this series isn’t for you. There’s almost no let up in the sadistic cat and mouse games that are played. Each series only being six episodes long is probably its saving grace – any longer and it would be too much, even for a nihilist like me.

But it is a rewarding piece of viewing. It’s refreshing to never be sure who to root for, and with all the darkness, no character is ever safe. Durham County is not an idealized fantasy, it’s dirty and dangerous and twisted. It’s the brilliantly written tale of a metaphorical train wreck – and who can look away from those?