The New Year Twins
Much like Counterpart, Fringe and even Heroes before it, playing a dual role on the small screen can really establish just how incredible the art of acting really is and how much goes into creating living, breathing characters that feel real and fleshed out. I Know This Much Is True is the perfect platform to showcase Mark Ruffalo’s staggeringly raw and effective acting, catapulting him from “The Incredible Hulk” to “The Incredible Actor.”
With an hour of hard drama and shards of memories stitched together into a mosaic of beautiful storytelling, I Know This Much Is True gets off to a fantastic start by fleshing out its characters and setting some strong foundations for the season ahead.
Episode 1 of I Know This Much Is True begins on October 1st 1990 with a mentally deranged man named Thomas entering a library and praying to God for mercy. As he brandishes a knife, screams pierce the air as he begins slicing his wrist. His twin brother Dominic arrives at the hospital soon after and speaks to his brother about what happened.
With his severed hand sitting dormant by the bedside and Thomas pleading with Dom not to sign the forms to approve the re-attachment surgery, after some deliberation he decides not to sign.
A lot of Thomas’ mental issues stem from his childhood, and as we see from interspersed flashbacks his abusive step-father Ray makes life hell for him and Dom. Over the years, they endure a lot of hardships together and as Thomas’ condition continues to deteriorate, so too does their Mother who ends up with cancer.
Determined to make her Mother happy, Dom heads over to the university and meets Nedra, handing over his Grandfather’s manuscript in order for her to decipher the words which happen to be in Italian.
Within that body of text she finds hints at a dark past for this family. As Nedra herself tells him, this is a man she “wouldn’t want anywhere near kids”. Later that day, Nedra visits his house and tells Dom that he should read the text first before handing it over to his Mother. She tells him not to pressure her and promises to get it to him soon.
He’s awkward in the wake of Nedra’s drunken dancing and has a hard time connecting with her as she starts kissing him. Unfortunately it leads to her storming out the room and sobbing uncontrollably, telling him he’s abused her and slamming the door shut in his face. Even worse, Dom heads to the university to get his manuscript back but Nedra is nowhere to be found.
As we cut forward in time, we see Dom’s final moments with his mother in hospital, promising to look after Thomas no matter what. With her now passed, Dom visits Thomas and breaks the bad news to him. As he does, this happens to set off the catalyst of events that causes Thomas to turn toward religion and slip further into his mental issues.
Three years pass and Dom continues to struggle connecting the dots of his shattered life. He meets Nedra again but things become awkward between them, Thomas’ mental issues crescendo into the earlier scene of the episode with the knife and all of this made worse by the volatile wildcard of step-father Ray, who resents Thomas and wishes he was more like Dom.
Back at the hospital during our present day timeline, Dom watches as Thomas is handcuffed and taken back to the institute as Dom rides along with them, reading from the bible to soothe his brother. Unfortunately Thomas is not being take back to where he was before; the cops have orders to transfer him to Hatch Forensic Institute.
When they get there, Dom finds himself caught in a difficult position as Thomas urinates on the floor and the guards forcibly drag him into the ward. Dom is powerless to stop him being taken away and as Thomas leaves his line of sight, something inside him snaps and he begins lashing out.
The officers are having none of it though and knock him down the ground, leaving him to sigh in exasperation, which is where the episode ends.
I Know This Much Is True is a hard watch at times. It’s a miserable, bleak and harrowing look at how much one man can take in the wake of such overwhelming stress and sorrow around him. Having to deal with all the issues Dom has had to endure can’t be easy and at the heart of this sits Mark Ruffalo. His dual performance as both Thomas and Dom is nothing short of masterful and he perfectly exudes the right nuanced looks and afflictions for both characters.
It’s a subtle shift but one that’s beautifully captured here. Much like the aforementioned Counterpart and J.K. Simmons, sometimes all you need is a single glance or look to portray both sides and this miniseries clearly understands that – especially given the sheer number of extreme close-ups. With wonderful cinematography and plenty of scope for the episodes to come, if it can keep this kind of momentum up I Know This Much Is True may just be one of the best mini-series of the year.