Cat masks, sinkholes, and a nightmare in Belize: ‘Mad Dogs’ season 1 in review

Senior Television Writer
01.25.16 19 Comments

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On Friday, I posted my review of Amazon's “Mad Dogs,” avoiding the spoilers even as I discussed my feelings based on the whole season. As promised – which may be especially handy for anyone who watched the whole season during the weekend blizzard – I have a few more specific, and spoiler-filled, thoughts on the first season, coming up just as soon as the ice cream's made from rosehip…

* As discussed Friday, the inevitability of the guys screwing up every task – and/or for acts of God to happen on the rare occasions when the guys did what they were supposed to – created a sameness to some of the episodes when watched closely together, and I at least had about a week in between when I finished the sixth episode on a screener and when I watched the last four. I'm curious how others who marathoned the whole thing in shorter order felt.

* The apparent death of Rochelle from the embassy was presented oddly at the time, but it turned out this was necessary to leave it ambiguous for her return in the final episode. I was glad to have Allison Tolman return, and for her to point out what a terrible thing the guys did in not climbing down to look for her. We're meant to sympathize with them to varying degrees – Cobi much less than the other three (which is no doubt why they cast the fundamentally likable Steve Zahn in that role, since he'd need the most forgiveness) – but they do some very bad stuff in the name of self-preservation.

* Related to that, I thought the show did a good job of mostly keeping us inside the heads of the guys – and, thus, mostly knowing only what they did, so we'd feel as confused as them with each new twist of the story – while still establishing villains like Lawrence and the Cat as interesting characters when glimpsed away from the four leads.

* Tolman was my favorite of the various American guest stars, though Ted Levine was also a lot of fun as the agent investigating Rochelle's disappearance. Coby Bell's Aaron, though, was maybe a touch too self-consciously quirky even for a show that found many of its pleasures in the strange like the Cat's mask or Lex's interlude with the ghost of the murdered police captain.

* The teaser from the start of the premiere of the guys going completely tribal had a much earlier, and sillier, payoff than expected. I wonder if that was something where Cris Cole, Shawn Ryan, and everyone else decided they liked the imagery and would figure out later how to get there.

* I know nothing of the story of the British show (nor do I want to), and have no idea what a second season of this version would look like. Joel has taken Milo's place in the local drug/CIA infrastructure, but the other three are safely on their way home. Even if they come back looking for him (assuming he doesn't just reach out and tell them he's fine), their circumstances won't be the same, because one of them's now an insider. Of course, I wouldn't want them to just repeat the structure and tone of this season, but it feels like a second season would be fundamentally different due to Joel's new position.

Okay, let's talk about it. For those of you who watched the whole season, what did you think? Would you want to see more? Did you have a favorite character? (For me, it would be Gus.) Any diversions you found particularly enjoyable? Any that seemed more blatantly to be stalling? And where would you put Mennonite Agnes on the continuum of Sutton Foster TV characters?

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