First Time in Saint Disgrace – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Snap, Crackle, Pop – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Terrible, Shocking Things – | Review Score – 3/5
Breadknife Weather – | Review Score – 3/5
Behind God’s Back – | Review Score – 3.5/5
The Most Sinful – | Review Score – 4/5
Butterscotch – | Review Score – 4/5
Most Likely to Succeed – | Review Score – 4/5
Game Theory– | Review Score – 3.5/5
Felicity – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Briarpatch is an odd kettle of fish. Fresh off the success of Mr Robot, Sam Esmail takes to the murder mystery genre with a deliciously twisted and dark tale of revenge, treachery and greed. Within that pressure cooker of flavours lies our main protagonist Allegra. When it comes to slow burns, Briarpatch is one that’s slower than most making the journey incredibly lethargic and at times outright nonsensical as the plot twists this way and that.
There’s a distinct sense of the show feeling a little too convoluted for its own good and although Esmail’s conventional stylistic cues are here, early on they interfere with the main narrative, making it very difficult to warm to this eclectic group of characters. Briarpatch however is a show that rewards your patience, ending things with a beautifully written finale that bows out the season on a high and ties all the loose ends up in a twisted, gnarly bow.
The story itself begins right in the heart of the drama. A young girl called Felicity dies in a car bombing and with fingers pointing at a whole host of colourful and deceptive players in a small town, Felicity’s sister Allegra arrives to try and get to the bottom of what happened. With a migrant smuggling ring, shady deals, a power struggle for Mayor-ship and the return of a powerful arms dealer in town, Briarpatch throws everything and the kitchen sink into its opening half of the season.
While it takes a while to get to know everyone and understand how everything slots together, the second half of the series really comes into its own and flexes its muscles, showing off more of that familiar Sam Esmail style and allowing the layers of mystery to unfold, one at a time, to reveal a sinister and dark core infecting and poisoning the town. It’s a seriously slow burn mystery, made all the worse by the weekly gaps between episodes. As a one-a-week drama, Briarpatch certainly takes its time to get to the good stuff.
In that respect, now that the full season is out this is one that benefits from watching two or three episodes at a time. As a stand-alone binge you don’t fully appreciate the nuance and little foreshadowed nods in the episodes but across 10 weeks, Briarpatch certainly outstays its welcome at times. If you stick with it though, Briarpatch rewards your patience with a wonderful finale and a satisfying conclusion to this tale.
Stylistically, Briarpatch makes the most of its hopeless, bleak surroundings with plenty of sun-drenched locales and interesting, layered conversations with the different inhabitants in town. The perspective shifts slightly to the different players at the heart of this one and as the murders continue, and the number of suspects whittle down, a lot more focus is given to the main players involved in this mystery. There’s plenty of slick camera movements, including smooth dolly movements and a couple of gorgeous rotating shots, that certainly help give this one an artistic edge.
With the inclusion of zoo animals (which have escaped from the nearby zoo) there’s a lot of symbolism here, with the slow-burn mystery surrounding a tiger early on given some great closure toward the end. I won’t spoil anything of course but suffice to say, this is one of those really satisfying moments and a highlight of Briarpatch’s story.
Despite its issues with pacing and a difficulty in allowing us to warm to the characters, Briarpatch really comes into its own during the second half of its 10 episode run. It’s one that utilizes Sam Esmail’s stylistic ticks perfectly and does so by encapsulating that in a really interesting murder mystery. While the show could have done with a bit of tightening up in the middle, and perhaps an 8 episode run rather than 10, on the whole Briarpatch is well worth persevering with to the end.