Mad Dogs: Series 3 Episode 2 Review
Reviewed by James Wynne.
Two years on from the events that concluded the previous episode, Mad Dogs delivers an outing that’s a bit of a departure from the norm. The ongoing storyline that’s driven the lads all the way from Alvo’s villa to their latest foreign residence, Cape Town in South Africa, all but stalls in favour of extensively detailing the individual exploits of Quinn, Woody, Baxter and Rick, given a new lease of life, along with their new identities.
One can’t help but balk somewhat at the notional likelihood of all four lads securing themselves such adequate circumstances to live in, least of all in a place like South Africa. These guys have been lurching from one disaster to another since the series began, making countless misjudgements under pressure, not forgetting the unsatisfactory lives they lead prior to Alvo inviting them all on holiday, and so it is difficult to believe that upon arriving in this harsh and unforgiving place, all of them were able to build such sustainable lifestyles over a relatively short period of time, with nothing and no one to help them apart from the moderate funds Alex (Anton Lesser) left them with. Even Rick, who we first see well into a spiralling reliance on drugs and sex as a remedy for his loneliness, is living lavishly on the seafront.
Besides the improbability of it, though, the lives they’ve made for themselves are compelling, expansive reaffirmations of what defines each of their characters. Just as Rick’s debased existence is indicative of the character’s inherent infirmity and self-serving mindset, Woody’s distribution of black market medical supplies to those who they would be otherwise unavailable to is exhibitive of the same altruism we’ve seen from him all along. Philip Glenister, John Simm, Max Beesley and Marc Warren are equal parts the strongest assets Mad Dogs has, and when Chris Cole chooses to look inwards and separately reflect on what makes the distinctive characters they play such strong individuals, it’s an assertive and expert reminder that this series has four leading men, front and centre; all of them possessing enough class, talent and screen presence to helm a show like this on their own.
What this episode also does is reinvigorate the confrontational dynamic the four characters have shared since arriving in Mallorca in the very first episode. With the previously inexorable tribulations temporarily halted, necessity is not a factor in what compels them to reunite and make amends with one another. Bax didn’t have to inform the others of what he’d learned, but he did so because, beneath all that animosity, amidst a continuum of turmoil, their mutual experiences have re-strengthened what was a waned friendship.
Moving on to what it was Bax learned, and I’m not so sure he has the truth of it. It’s strange that the sole image of Mackenzie (David Warner) after death contained no confirmation that it was actually him (snapped from behind; concealed beneath his shirt and hat). Also, doesn’t it seem uncharacteristically peculiar of the CIA to release full details of the ceased operation pertaining to him? Is all of this just bait to lure our dogs out of hiding and into the open, where the CIA can once again engage pursuit?
Adrian Shergold, again, showcases a distinctive and varietal, directorial flair; the episode as a whole demonstrates the very best of Mad Dogs. Chris Cole’s acerbically humoured dialogue makes a welcome return after an absence in the previous episode, and whilst I still feel the CIA angle is a clichéd story beat, it’s not without benefit; primarily, the sense of escalation it lends, pre-emptively negating any possibility of the overarching story stagnating.