Durham County: Season 1

This is stylized, grotesque, gripping Canadian dramatic television. Set in the titular rural community of Durham County, the show focuses on Mike Sweeney (a note-perfect Hugh Dillon), a Toronto cop who moves his family out of the big city following the murder of his partner and the near-loss of his wife to breast cancer. That the show literally begins with a vicious depiction of a double rape/murder is a fair indication that things aren’t any better in Sweeney’s romanticized hometown and as bodies pile up in a series of mysterious and equally vicious attacks, Dillon’s character is forced to confront some seriously dark, very Canadian shit. Durham County’s six-episode first season is like an epic feature-length film, and it looks the part; this isn’t your mama’s Canadian television, as the sleek visual aesthetic and arresting performances attest. Dillon, who has made the leap into acting full-time after demonstrating a particular on-screen power in the ’90s with a star turn in Bruce McDonald’s Hard Core Logo, is unequivocally brilliant as the tortured Sweeney. The cast that supports him is equally strong, particularly Justin Louis as Ray Prager, a deeply conflicted character whose history ties him to Sweeney in unavoidable ways. For anyone who’s been absorbed by the stellar output of American cable networks in the last few years, Durham County is a powerful entry that holds up alongside the likes of Six Feet Under and The Wire. At only six hour-long episodes, it’s got the kind of brief, gut-punching impact that so much Canadian TV lacks. The extras are pretty weak however. There’s a behind-the-scenes featurette that feels like it was tacked on out of obligation, along with two tracks from the Hugh Dillon Redemption Choir, bios and a synopsis. As for the show itself, let’s hope there’s more where this came from. (Anchor Bay)