'American Rust' Season 1 Episode 1 Review: Quite slow, but promises some substance
We're inclined to give 'American Rust' another shot when it returns next Sunday partly due to the fact that it promises to speed up
This review contains spoilers for 'American Rust' Episode 1: 'The Mill'
There's nothing colorful about 'American Rust'. The setting is somber and brown-tinged making the rust part feel rather alive and nails the tone. It's very 'Defending Jacob'-like, but rather slow, quite painfully, so to speak, but has its moments. It's extravagant in detail. The key characters are fleshed out enough in the pilot making it an absorbing deep enough episode to start things off. The series based on Philipp Meyer's novel involves a murder in a small town, but the episode sheds light on the multiple themes involved.
Buell, the fictional Pennsylvania town is in dire straits. There's addiction, a crumbling economy, and mounting disappointment everywhere. Jeff Daniels as police chief Del Harris is not the same Teddy Sanders we saw in 'The Martian' He's broody, life's got some regrets after trying to hide his demons from the past, he's on prescription meds, and it's ironic that a man who is supposedly the one to clamp down on opioid and alcohol abuse is actually dependent on meds.
Things get complicated when he finds a body in an abandoned steel mill. The victim is a former cop who Harris had previously fired. The prime suspect in the case is Billy (Alex Neustaedter), the son of Grace (Maura Tierney), a woman with who Harris has a rather complicated relationship. There is also a parallel storyline: Billy has a friend named Isaac (David Alvarez), who watched Billy wade into what eventually became a crime scene. Isaac has his own troubled history, and current angst with his father, Henry English (Bill Camp). His mother who was found in the nearby lake with rocks in her pockets, and his sister Lee (Julia Mayorga) left Buell for the big city and marry a rich guy.
Isaac vanishes into thin air by the end of Episode 1, and Harris perhaps makes the grave error and compromises on his duty when he finds Billy's varsity jacket, but hides the evidence when the police troop in. It's a no-brainer he's doing this for Grace, but the question is how far he's willing to go to mask a potential murder suspect.
'The Mill' is surely just the first step of what promises substance and is an ambitious series. The mixed feelings about the show's success and an opening debut are primarily due to the turtle speed it crawls at, but that has been the template with some of Showtime's previous shows. 'City on a Hill' was an absolute slow burner, but it ended being one of the more enterprising and successful shows the network rolled out. We're inclined to give 'American Rust' another shot when it returns next Sunday.
'American Rust' airs Sundays at 10 pm ET/PT on Showtime.