Shows have a problem with heroes. Or better with anti-heroes. Or better yet, with fans who take the wrong side. At the beginning of the 2000s, series critics were pleased that series in their sweeping run lengths very rarely resolved classic binary conflicts with simple good-bad templates.
The possibility of showing different perspectives and sides in order to let central questions shimmer in a multifaceted way made series like “The Wire” shine. It reflected the certainty that the world was too complex for questions of morality to be squeezed into those reductive hour-and-a-half plots that dominated Hollywood’s broad-spectrum storytelling. Instead, the focus was on the nuances that were able to unfold over hours, months and years in the expansive narrative space of the series.
The consequences of bad boy cool
However, the slightly toxic fandom that emerged in the first peak of the series boom surrounding “Breaking Bad” suggested that the longing for the outlaw antihero had strange effects. The psychogram of a man who changed from the average Otto to the murderous drug czar was not understood by some as a tale about the corruptibility of the common man in the face of power and money. It was seen more as a self-empowerment fantasy, in which a tamed white man, free from the shackles of morality and decency, finally realized himself.
The corresponding merchandise items and the clientele who bought and displayed them were clear indications of the supposed bad-boy coolness that Walter White exuded in his final incarnation. Instead of being shocked by the gradual descent of a family man into the dark abyss, there were parts of the audience who admired him appreciatively.
What does all this have to do with the Australian series Mr. to do in between? A small moral dilemma that opens up. For a total of three seasons – the last of which is now available on Disney+ – we follow the everyday life of Ray Shoesmith (fascinating: Scott Ryan), who makes his living as a killer. “No women, no children” is one of the guidelines for his consistently bloody job, which is otherwise permeated by a brutal but consistent code of honor.
On the side, Ray tries to be a good father to his growing daughter, takes care of his seriously ill brother and tries to bring his outbursts of anger under control in therapy sessions. A whiff of “Fargo” blows through the monotonous suburbs of Sydney when murder, torture and robbery take place with dry to evil humor and violent pragmatism.
Our sympathy for Ray grows stronger over three seasons, as the small half-hour vignettes alternate between casual brutality and emotional moments. A man who is drawn as a monster from the first minute. A monster who kills other monsters while tenderly caring for his loved ones while wrestling with the demons of the past.
A killer’s moral transformation
A monster with a chance of rescue. But while Ray gradually changes in front of our eyes, the question gently resonates in whose eyes the subtle, grim character study, including swan song on tough guy clichés, is not understood as such. It is perceived as a similarly problematic macho killer fantasy as that of Walter White.
With a crisp running time, precise dramaturgy and the greatest possible binge factor, “Mr. Inbetween” is one of those indie discoveries that easily gets lost in the somewhat frenetic blockbuster fireworks of the streaming giant. Considering that this may mean that some of the more hesitant fans will never identify with anti-hero Ray Shoesmith, maybe not so bad.
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