Mad Dogs: Series 3 Episode 1 Review
Reviewed by James Wynne.
WARNING: FULL SPOILERS
It’s been well over a year since last we saw the four dogs of Mad Dogs, and things are as dire for the lads as they’ve ever been. Stumbling into another barren locale (Morocco), Woody (Max Beesley), Baxter (John Simm), Rick (Marc Warren) and Quinn (Philip Glenister), detained and being interrogated by militant authorities in a ghost prison under the employ of the British government, somewhere in the middle of the desert, have never looked further from escaping their nightmare holiday abroad.
This first episode sets an absurdly surreal tone right from the get go, in the form of a hellish specimen that looks like it could be the lovechild of the Predator and American Dad’s Roger. Chris Cole has taken the “mad” in Mad Dogs and gone the whole nine yards with it – let’s face it, though, if events don’t leave you in a state of incredulous disbelief, thinking ‘what the f*** is going on?’, then the show isn’t doing its job. Could this strange creature be a trauma-induced manifestation of Rick’s mind, perhaps? It seems the most likely scenario, going on its two appearances thus far, coupled with the susceptibility of Warren’s character – which is likely to have been exacerbated tenfold in light of him being forced to go it alone from hereon in.
What’s always been best about Mad Dogs is the believably hostile friendship between its four protagonists; the cynical, self-hating Quinn, the naively optimistic Woody, the petulant, narcissistic Baxter, and the weak and disloyal Rick. While the frequent coming to blows between these characters can prove tiresome from time to time (no more so than with Quinn and Bax’s cursory falling out in this episode), it’s been an integral part of Mad Dogs from the beginning. You really do get the impression that what’s held these four lads together since Alvo’s brains decorated his villa is necessity, rather than loyalty. Never has this been more apparent than with Quinn, who has always seemed most intent of all to make his own way since things kicked off. It’s apt that he should be the first to stride off on his own when the notion of doing so is proposed, and the formality of his departure rings just as true to his character.
In fact, whilst the story propelling this episode comes across like a ham-fisted assortment of conspiracy clichés (the CIA are evil, yada, yada, yada), the real strength lies with its four leading characters. Whether we’re watching their futile attempt to shuffle out of earshot of Jaime Winstone’s bullying sociopath, or them bidding final goodbyes to their loved/hated ones as any remaining hope of ever returning home is diminished in light of news from Anton Lesser’s (Qyburn in Game of Thrones) peculiar authoritarian character – all four actors shine. Particular commendations must go to Simm and Glenister on the latter front, as their last contact with an inattentive ex-wife and dad, respectively, prove the most heartrending.
Another real positive is the directing; Adrian Shergold returns after his absence during last series. The multiplicity of styles and shots he exhibits in this episode alone is a flourish that was definitely missed after the first series. Of particular note is how he meshes filming from the first person and filming as though it’s from a first person perspective. It creates an uneasy sensation, as though the viewer is present amongst the characters of the show, leering in at them through the cordoned fencing.
It’s not Mad Dogs best outing; strangely lacking in humour when compared to previous episodes, and nor is the plot quite as engaging, but the pedigree of acting talent helming the show has ensured a largely successful return for Sky 1’s hit show.