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The Entertainment Journal
Issue 21, August 3 - August 9, 2010
TV Reviews

The Curlicued Target
Premieres August 5, 10 p.m. HBO

by Ariadna Hardy

Despite its shaky first season, which included many a whisper of cancellation due to its see-sawing between quirkiness and gravity, it didn't take long for The Curlicued Target to become the sleeper hit of the 2008 summer TV season.

Co-creators Darren Nichols and Benton Fraser had managed to build a definitively cerebral yet addictive premise: a tightly wound sheriff's deputy called Allen Laramie (played with searing intensity by veteran theater actor Ray Vecchio) is trying to find the source of corruption in the sleepy town of Whispering Pines, VA. Viewers ate up Laramie's off-duty, slow-as-molasses-in-the-North-Pole investigation of everything and everyone in town. Even with an episode that was about nothing more than a waitress' nearly hourlong ode to her favourite shoe store (a flight of fancy that most definitely came from Nichols' absurd mind) , the show kept an often labyrinthine but engaging narrative.

Fans of the HBO/CBC collaboration were left reeling after its second season finale in which Laramie (maybe?) died in a barn explosion just minutes after being found out by one of his co-workers: Patricia "Pinky" George (the luminous Elaine Besbriss.) The Internet went ablaze with viewers analyzing all of George's appearances. Could she have something to do with her partner (both at work and in her bed)'s death?

Having watched the third season's two-hour premiere episode, I can state that worried viewers will get at least five answers sometime before the first hour is up. However, the plot's many twists and turns will elicit an entirely new batch of questions.

The subtle beauty in Fraser's writing shines in scenes such as George's conversation with Lori, her cat. Playing it a little drunk and a lot vulnerable, George tells Lori the story of how she came to end up in law enforcement. Halfway through, we learn a lot more of her motivations in pursuing Laramie while wanting to maintain their relationship at a casual level. The rawness of her pain culminates in a flood of tears without the accompaniment of music. If I were Ms. Besbriss, I'd send that scene to Emmy/Juno voters.

The Curlicued Target's second hour is solid yet different . . . and filled with charming craziness courtesy of Darren Nichols. A robbery investigation centered around a half-eaten apple pie is at once sinister and whimsical and a fantastic way to balance the previous hour's somberness.

More interestingly is the new season's addition of Ray Kowalski as Cameron White--a sheriff's deputy from neighbouring Landon, VA who has his own agenda. This was a risky move for Nichols and Fraser's critically-acclaimed series (won two Emmys in the US and three Junos in Canada). As Laramie's complete opposite, White brings another delicious (some would say devious) layer to the show. Volatile (he threatens to break a drunk driver's jaw during a a DUI stop) but easy going (he is the very meaning of a social butterfly at the Sunday after church service picnic), viewers will find him hard to resist . . . unlike George with whom he has a few scenes thick with tension. It doesn't take a genius to understand George's initial coldness: having lost a partner who lied to everyone including her, but holding tight to her loyalty to Laramie, she has decided to continue Laramie's investigation.

Fellow newcomer to the town, Edgar Glass (British soap opera star Wesley Windham-Price doing an exceedingly good job of making the viewer forget he isn't American), the town's new vet, enters as a new possible interest for a woman . . . or a man. Fresh from his divorce and newly out as bisexual, Edgar has a shy (one could almost say taciturn) personality that only blooms open when Sheriff Meyer is around.

Renfield Turnbull's mellow yet scatter-brained turn as said Sheriff has a few heavy scenes , including the somber one at Laramie's funeral. His tentative relationship with Edgar is sure to fuel many an online conversation.

The Curlicued Target is not an everyday show, but it certainly is one that rewards its viewers. Dripping with noir while in the most idyllic of places, it's a journey and a destination for lost souls and the chance at redemption. By the time a character picks up a shovel and announces that "it's time to go dig up the body", viewers won't hesitate to follow this dark and unconventional sojourn into the heart of America. Grade: A+