Durham County: Season 3

Durham County: Season 3
What's unique about Durham County, in comparison to other procedural mystery programs, is that the mystery is mostly irrelevant. It holds some thematic clout, often about the nature of violent acts and social horrors on the psyche, but where most series rely on the unknown to keep viewers invested, this Canadian cable program reveals its secrets to the audience upfront, letting us focus on character reactions and arcs instead. In the opening episode of season three, Serbian immigrant police officer Ivan (Michael Nardone) beats his wife to death for presumably having an affair. We then learn that this killer is working with our series' protagonist, Mike Sweeney (Hugh Dillon), on a bloody drug war case between urban drug runners and suburban money launderers. While Ivan and Mike bond over various male responsibilities, the dramatic conflict stems from our knowledge of who this friend of the Sweeney family really is. It makes his interest in Mike's very pregnant wife, Audrey (Helene Joy), as discomforting as the entourage of Serbian family members peculiarly milling around the periphery. And while this concept of living in the shadows of horrific violence looms over the season thematically, Mike struggles with ambivalent feelings towards his impending newborn, much like his daughter, Sadie (Laurence Leboeuf), whose police force ambitions are challenged by her pregnancy. The role of gender politics plays a large part throughout, as male ownership of female identity is frequently juxtaposed with modern generational differences, chiefly that of Sadie's identification with her father rather than mother. Violence is a grim reality, constantly threatening the safety and sanctity of suburbia, much like the threat of the other – here defined by Serbians and Asians – on a dying generation of traditionalist Judeo-Christian Western values. Up until the midseason mark, when a main character dies unexpectedly, this third season of Durham County meanders with an often-incoherent narrative, forcing characters into unlikely situations while social subtext takes the front seat. Fortunately, the latter season exploration of grief as a selfish act compensates for these structural shortcomings, making the mediocre mildly profound, even if some of the character motivations and dialogue are dodgy. While exceedingly dark, there's a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel for this third and final season of the murder mystery series, which is explored partially in the 12-minute "Making of" supplement included with the DVD. (Anchor Bay)