Feb 20, 2012

[REVIEW] Durham County: Season 3 DVD

Harbinger of Gloom

I love Durham County. I think it's one of the top shows on Television right now, and really Breaking Bad is truly the only show that I can think of that is currently airing that can approach Durham County's level of depth and detail as it pertains to the characters and world that they live in.

In fact, the one show I would compare Durham County to the most in this regard is The Wire. The Wire was such a complex show and every single character had such a wealth of depth to them and the dialogue and acting were all superb, as was the writing that it often felt like you weren't even watching a show, but were actually watching a real life documentary.

This show has that effect on me as well. I was thinking this as I was watching Ivan and Mike talking to Ivan's friend right before they went target shooting. Ivan was having a conversation and he was talking about why they call the man "Pansy", and then Pansy lifts his shirt to show a huge scar that he claims Ivan gave him.

A lot of shows don't bother giving a lot of back story on characters to provide depth. It's all about the here and now. With so many shows getting canceled early without getting a chance to build the audience, I suppose that can be expected. Or maybe it's one of the reasons WHY it got canceled.

Durham County has always been a very uncomfortable show to get into.  It's not for the queasy or the easily offended.  If you can't take scenes of violence or torture or crimes against women, then this probably isn't your show.   However those who are able to get through it are handsomely rewarded with a top notch intelligent show that is richly layered with various levels of detail.


And as I wrote in my previous reviews of the series, this isn't a show that's violent for violence sake.  It's disturbing yes, to anyone with a conscience or a sense of morality.  However the violence is there for a reason.  It's not gratuitous.  It's not torture porn like films such as Saw or Hostel.  It's an adult television drama made for and by adults.

And part of what makes it so uncomfortable is that it makes us re-evaluate who we are and how we react to what we see.  When we see someone do something horrific and then find ourselves almost on their side later, what does that say?  Does that say anything about us?  Does it perhaps challenge many people's thoughts of things being simply black or white?  I think it might.  I think it points out that nothing is black or white, really.

There is good and bad in all of us. 

We all have the potential for violence and things that we perhaps are against.   Some of us are better at holding it all together than others. As the third, and final, season begins we learn that Sadie and Ray Jr. are still in a relationship, and that they are expecting a child, unbeknownst to her parents, Mike and Audrey.

Sadie and Ray Jr. feel like an actual couple to me now. I'm not sure why, but in the previous seasons they never felt like a strong couple, and that there was just something waiting to happen to split them apart. And that even they didn't seem to think that they would stay together.Considering the history of animosity between their families, and Ray Jr's father, the sociopathic Ray Prager's actions towards Sadie and her father, I suppose it is to be expected.

Now they seem to have more confidence in themselves. There's an air to them that wasn't there before. Perhaps it's the "time heals all wounds" aspect, and with Ray Prager out of their life, they can finally move on. Although Sadie still has the gun that Prager left for her after escaping in Season 2.

When Mike finds out about Ray's gun and demands it, Sadies' response was shocking, and you can see the surprise and frustration on his face. You can see that Ray still has some type of hold on her. Maybe not enough where he would control her or anything, but I think that Sadie looks at Ray as someone she has a connection with, whether good or bad.

And her unwillingness to give up the gun is a strong indicator of that. There's also the idea though, that I believe, that she keeps that gun because she feels it gives her power over a situation that she was powerless in.

When Ray had her in that farmhouse in Season 1 she was paralyzed with fear and despite the fact that she ended up shooting him, she perhaps felt shame at how she allowed herself to get into that situation.

Therefore, her keeping the gun is not only a connection to a situation that she triumphed over, with finally facing him and testifying against him, but it's also something that maybe she has a bit of "stockholm syndrome" going on. I mean, is it any concern to her family that she's planning on marrying and having a child with the son of the man who assaulted her and tried to kill her father? They don't say anything to her or Ray Jr. but I would have to think it's there in the back of their minds. I think they realize that the sins of the father should not be levied on the son, but you never know.

I swear, a therapist could put their children through college on the Sweeney's sessions alone.

With the case of the character of Sadie (Laurence LeBoeuf) I had a fear, while watching this, that it would turn into a Kim Bauer type situation. In the American series 24, Jack Bauer is played by Kiefer Sutherland and he is a CTU (Counter terrorism unit) agent. His daughter, Kim, throughout the first three seasons was constantly in trouble, getting kidnapped, running into trouble, babysitting for sociopaths and then going to work for CTU and dating a field agent.

It became a running joke (and source of frustration) among fans that she just kept getting into one situation after the next which were totally implausible. The "Jump the Shark moment" was when she got trapped in the mountains by a cougar.

With Sadie bonding with a psychopath, hitching up with his son, going undercover, ignoring advice and going back with someone who may or may not be a strong danger, and then comforting him as he's about to blow his brains out, while listening to sexually degrading voice messages, well...at the halfway mark I was strongly concerned that Sadie was going the way of Kim.

However I was very pleased with how her character develops over the season, particularly with a bombshell that occurs at the halfway point.Michael Nardone as Ivan is just incredible this season, and is truly unsettling.  Even when he's smiling and being polite, you just feel something unnerving about him.  I'm sure seeing him do something astonishingly brutal in the beginning of the season will do that to ya though.

The main storyline of this season is actually twofold.  The main investigation is into murdered drug dealers who are found skinned  and dismembered.   And in addition to that, there is the situation with the character of Ivan, who is partnered with Mike, and his unstable at best family members and some horrible stuff going on there, as Mike begins to question whether one of Ivan's relatives murdered Ivan's wife who has gone missing. I don't want to get too much into it because it's a tricky thing to discuss a show like this without revealing too much.

With the main dynamic between Mike and Ivan, that's a crazy situation. And once again, we have an antagonist in Ivan who despite us seeing him do something truly horrific in the beginning, we later see that he was manipulated into it and is tormented by memories of war. Much like Ray Prager we see him do horrible things and rightfully despise him. Then we see other things and realize what he's going through and can ALMOST muster up some sympathy, only to see him do something else that draws more questions.

There were so many moments in this series that stood out to me, so many quiet moments, so many loud moments, so many instances of imagery that was both shocking and beautiful and sad as well.Some of those moments (without spoiling anything and being vague about them) include the shot of Mike sitting on the couch and the camera slowly pushes in as you see him through a slight opening in sliding doors.  Then as it zooms in, it reveals his daughters sitting on each side.  That shot was amazing to me, for some reason.

The scene of Ray Jr. sobbing uncontrollably in the hallway, the image of the woman on the gurney, the sheet covering her body, but her hair hanging down off the edge.  Also Mike's conversation with his youngest daughter Maddie about Audrey's former boyfriend leaving a message on their voicemail. When Mike seems to be upset over this, Maddie said "you had an affair, why can't she have an affair?" I actually laughed out loud, and almost expected him to pull out the classic "We were on a break!" Alas, it was not to be.

My one question about the series has to do with what seemed to be a mistake or it could very well just be an error on my part. Ray Jr. was talking to Audrey about his and Sadie's relationship, and she said something about how long they've known each other, and he said "7 years going on 20" or something to that effect. However, I thought they just met in Season 1, when Mike moved his family to Durham County, and across the street from the Pragers. Has seven years gone by between Season 1 and 3? And in that case, however, wouldn't that make the final season taking place in the year 2014?

That was always the running joke with the "24" fans, because each season was supposed to be 6 months or several years after the previous, which would make the final season in like 2025 or something.

Another high mark of this series is the young actor Shannon Kook-Chun who played David Cho, the person that Sadie was going undercover to get information from.  His portrayal of the conflicted lieutenant in his gang was stunning and some of the scenes were genuinely unnerving and disturbing on many levels.

And in one scene in particular, you can literally see him falling apart at the seams on a path of self destruction as Sadie does her best to calm him down and bring him back to this side, so to speak.  Had never seen him in anything before this but man was he incredible in this.

And that's a high praise for a show defined by it's stellar performances by the actors and actresses that inhabit this series. Hugh Dillon, once again, was stellar as well in his role as Mike Sweeney.  A man who has gone through just about everything a man can and seems to find a way to survive it.  Many of his issues are self-inflicted, others are not.  Yet he makes the best of a horrible situation, and has to check himself for whether or not he is able to go on.   He has to evaluate some of his motives and actions towards the second half regarding his family and that was not an easy thing to deal with, by any means.

The thing I like about this show, one of them anyway, is that no one is just good.  No one is just bad.  They have layers to them.  On the outside they seem completely evil and irredeemable, and then you stick around and see their personal lives, see their motivations and you realize that man, these people are just like us, only they made horrific choices. Even the "good" guys are deeply flawed and occasionally do things that are beyond defense, even while they justify what they have done.


The packaging is a standard dvd case that holds two discs.  It has the insert in the middle of the case that holds the second disc, that flips back and forth.  Nothing spectacular, but it gets the job done, so to speak. I have noticed that from Season 1 til now, each season has gotten progressively skimpier on the packaging and the extras.  This season the case seems a bit flimsy.  I've gotten a couple of DVDS that were "manufactured on-demand" such as the Warner Brothers Archive titles that had that same type of cheaply used cases.  There's nothing really wrong with them, but it's still something I noticed.

As for the extras on this, the only real extra is the Making Of Durham County Season 3.  Clocking in at almost thirteen minutes, this is a really good and informative featurette highlighting the producers and directors, as well as info from the actors and actresses on several of the scenes and the set locations and whatnot.

Very fun to watch and while I wish it had more extras, I realize the show may not have a massive following outside of Canada, and so perhaps the money just was not there to fill out the set with commentaries and other featurettes.

It's one of those things that I would have loved to have, but all things considered it's not a make or break on getting the series.  You don't get the dvd set because of the extras.  They're a bonus.  They're gravy.  They're the cherry on top of the sundae.  You get it for the sundae, and in this case you buy this because this is one of the best television series to come along in the last ten or twenty years, if ever.

Besides, at least the set is released.  There are other shows that I've loved over the years that either didn't get releases at all, or they released the first couple seasons and then didn't release any of the others due to poor sales.

Now for those who are perhaps wondering, there will NOT be a Season 4 of Durham County.  However the producers of the show have stated that they are working on a movie to wrap up everything. When I asked the producers about what's going on in the film, they were predictably tight lipped however when asked about the character of Ray Prager, they said the following:

Absolutely! In Season 3 Ray doesn’t make a physical appearance but the effect he’s had on the characters is always present. None of our main characters can escape from the torment or memories that they have of him. As for the Durham County movie – he’s definitely back!

There's a few things I think need to be addressed in the film, mainly the Ray Prager thing seeing as how season 2 ended.  That said the one thing I'd love to see but probably won't, is for the killer of the two girls in the beginning of Season 1 to be caught.  That might not actually happen as his role was simply to set up the back and forth between Mike Sweeney and Ray Prager.

All in all this is a fantastic series, one of my top 5 ever, and seriously if you can, you should pick this up.  Word to the wise though, it is for adults and not for kids.  And it's not for those who are offended by violence or cursing.  That said, it's an amazing work of art and really should be seen.

You can buy this right now from Amazon.CA (Canada).  NOTE: If you are in America the Canadian DVDS will work with your player.  US and Canada are both Region 1 so anything you buy from Amazon's Canadian page will work with American DVD players, Playstation 3 or Xbox 360.  Basically any thing you have in America that plays DVDS (including computers) will play the Canadian DVDS, so buy with confidence!




  1. I agree with you the show is great just discovered it on netflix streaming and am totally hooked there is so much garbage out there this is truly above and beyond the everyday. Exhibits human nature in all its frailty and that there in no real black or white in the world just a million shades of gray. Too bad they only made 3 seasons!!!!!

  2. Thanks for the comment! You can check out the official Durham County page over on Facebook (there's two labeled Durham County, but go with the link I included in my post) and the ladies of Back Alley Films (who also are doing the new series Bomb Girls), maintain that.

    You can also follow them at www.twitter.com/BackAlley_Films

    They are going to be doing a movie to wrap everything up, but with Bomb Girls ongoing, I'm not sure when that might happen.

    Flashpoint is done, so Hugh Dillon won't be occupied with THAT anymore (after this season anyway).

    Hope it's good!


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