Episode 1 of American Rust begins with a man named Del Harris popping pills before grabbing his gun and heading out into the small town of Buell. Away from this tranquility is a whole pot of bubbling tension ready to spill over.
At the center of this is Isaac, a boy who steals money from his father and heads out with his buddy Billy. Only, he notices an old enemy called Novick, a guy who was instrumental in seeing Billy arrested in the past. There’s certainly a lot of bad blood between them, which we learn more of across this episode.
Del soon receives a call from work regarding a possible body being found at the old mill. That same mill Billy and Isaac have just visited. Despite being his day off, Del decides to head up alone. As he makes his way through the dark, dingy corridors he finds… something.
We then cut back six months earlier. Billy and his mum Grace are on the verge of eviction. Grace bursts in to see Virgil, her husband, who happens to be in bed with another woman. It’s not exactly a great introduction to him, and it reinforces how broken this home is.
Buell certainly has its fair share of broken characters though, although a local auctioneer is not one of them. With different houses around town up for sale, Virgil and his buddies arrive with guns ready to intimidate any prospective buyers and ward them off. The auctioneer isn’t exactly happy, and as he speaks to Del about it, his nonchalance only riles the man up more. Still, he’s escorted out of town nonetheless.
However, trouble brews for Isaac when he ends up walking into an icy lake, determined to commit suicide. He’s saved by Billy though but it’s certainly a scare. Isaac is smart, but he doesn’t have much money and with his father sick, things certainly look bleak for them.
His sister, Lee, was actually Billy’s girlfriend but she’s moved to New York and married someone wealthy; a real kick in the teeth for Isaac.
While Del heads out on a date with Grace, getting hot and heavy over at her place, the pair are broken up by a call about a bar fight. This fight happens to be between Billy and a disgruntled boy from college, unhappy that Billy has a scholarship. Billy defends himself though, but unfortunately ends up on the floor with a gun to his back when Novick jumps un,
A video from the scene certainly doesn’t look good for Novick, confirming the self-defence, so Harris takes immediate action. He fires Novick, forcing him to hand over his gun and go home. Billy meanwhile, is taken away in handcuffs.
Now, Del’s drug addiction stems from his time in Iraq. Any time served in a warzone is likely to trigger some serious PTSD, but Del is in danger of becoming addicted. Chasing down pills with alcohol is probably not going to help much either – especially if the scene following that is anything to go by.
Court soon begins though, with Billy pleading guilty. He’s lost his job, he’s moving back with his Mother and he’s out on probation for six months. Billy has been offered a football scholarship of course, and the judge gives him some sound advice to take this before something bad happens.
So now we’re back to our crucial timeline six months forward. Novick is found dead in a pool of his own blood inside the Mill. Del is first on the scene and notices Billy’s jacket on the floor. He immediately hides it from the crime scene before other officers arrive at the scene.
Given it has blood on it, this seems to hint that Isaac and Billy are responsible…but is there another twist in the tale?
The Episode Review
American Rust is a seriously slow slow burn. It’s a show that doesn’t feel like it’s in a hurry to actually tell its story, while not enticing enough with its mystery to keep things engaging in the long run.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s still some enjoyment to be had here but American Rust feels a little too rusty – especially for a pilot episode that needs to hook people in. Thankfully the preview for the next episode does seem to hint that we’ll be seeing an improvement on this.
There’s definitely some positives to be had here but they’re buried under slow-paced mediocrity. Lets hope this one improves next week.