Having watched the first 5 episodes – i.e. half a season – of Amazon’s Mad Dogs, it’s time to take a breather and see what we have here. Where did the pilot, ‘Xtabai’, ‘Well’, ‘Flares’ and ‘Hat’ take us, where are they presumably headed, and most important of all: do we care enough to find out?
The pilot, released a year ago, took its sweet time, but it didn’t really bother me. All I knew was Mad Dogs was Shawn Ryan’s (The Shield, The Chicago Code, Last Resort) newest project, and that was enough for me. I went in blind. So, unaware of what this potential series was all about, I climbed into the rollercoaster and just let it surprise me. Not a whole lot happened at first, and the longer nothing did, the more the suspense started building up. This wasn’t just going to be a nice holiday in Belize, with old friends catching up. Something had to go wrong, but how? And when? And then it did. As horrible as it was unpredictable. Please keep reading if you want to spoil it for yourself.
Arrogant And Obnoxious
Four old friends, with a lot of emotional baggage and unfinished business, travel to Belize (or the Puerto Rican version of it, anyway) to meet up with their long lost friend Milo who’s made it. He’s retired and spends his days in this luxurious villa, looking over the ocean, all by himself. Joel (Ben Chaplin, The Book of Negroes, and the Milo character in the British version of Mad Dogs), Gus (Romany Malco, Weeds, Blunt Talk, No Ordinary Family), Lex (Michael Imperioli, The Sopranos, Detroit 1-8-7, Californication) and Cobi (Steve Zahn, Out of Sight, Treme) are all arrogant and obnoxious, but their old buddy Milo (Billy Zane, Head Above Water, Titanic) is the biggest (but richest) asshole of them all. You’re basically watching five guys bitch and moan about the past, their lives, wives and the lives and wives of the others. Suddenly, there’s a dead goat floating around in the pool; a sign that Milo’s perhaps not as squeaky clean as he may appear.
Milo knows who did it and why, so as an act of revenge, he steals and hides their yacht in a bay somewhere. He’s not a very talkative man, and the others want to know what’s going on. Milo promises to explain everything over dinner, but man, does he have a short fuse. Every interruption is too much. At the point when he finally appears to want to make an effort, a cat walks in. That is, a little man wearing a cat mask, asking where the boat is. Milo ‘knows nothing’, which makes the cat pull out his gun and without further ado shoots Milo in the head. From holiday to nightmare in a few seconds. The other guys are given an ultimatum by Mr. Cat to bring back the boat, but they decide to split immediately. Until Cobi realizes he’s left his videocamera on the boat. He’s been filming everybody, they’ve been calling each other by name, so leaving it behind would be a big mistake.
There were concerns about where the story could go from here, and they were valid. Mad Dogs has taken implausibility to a whole new level. At first, the actions the characters take, are understandable. Until they’re getting more ridiculous by the minute. Master of dominoes falling Shawn Ryan has a knack for constructing intertwining storylines, webs of lies, corruption, coincidence and consequence, but here, he’s gone into overdrive, testing the limits of what an audience can take. It’s just one crazy turn after another – and I mean reality defying crazy. Mad Dogs is like a horror movie inside a gruesome video game inside a dream sequence, disguised as high concept drama.
High School Play
In episode 3, ‘Well’, it turns into a bad high school play, when the four guys manage to catch the Cat. The little (hit)man is going completely berserk, in an overacting kind of way, kicking and screaming while they tie him to a chair. Cobi somehow convinces the others to lower Mr. Cat down into the well of the villa, by shouting ‘Well! Well! Well!’ like a 4 year old. Not even cartoons write stuff like that anymore. Spongebob Squarepants would be embarrassed. Anyway, after a lot of walking to and from the boat for different reasons, they go to the American embassy and meet the lovely Rochelle (Fargo’s very own Allison Tolman). She’s going to help them get out of the country. Get into the car, boys. Of course, quickly they have to stop because some kids block the road with a refrigerator. You know what, the guys think, we want to get out of here as fast as humanly possible, but let’s first give these kids a lift to where they want to go. I’m not making this up.
Worst Case Scenario
At the end of the fifth episode, Rochelle is lost. She went to pee, but still hasn’t returned. The guys go looking for her, figure she fell off a cliff, and hitchhike to the harbour. They board a fishing boat that takes them far, far away from Belize. That is until they enter an ‘infectious zone’. Mad Dogs is the scripted version of Wipeout; one idiotic obstacle after another. This show is the worst case scenario of a worst case scenario, if that makes any sense. It has got nothing to do with any form of reality or plausibility anymore; the price of trying to avoid predictability, I guess. In that respect, it feels like the movie The Game, just without the big relief of the end of the game at the end.