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Lost in the Shadow of Lesser Greatness, or How The Sopranos: Season 6B (2007) Hurt Durham County (2007)

Bada Boobs!
Bada Boobs!

Dear Kiddies,

Rather than giving my late review of the final nine episodes of "The Sopranos", known to audiences as Season 6B, I think I'll refrain from riding / fighting the tides of the other million opinions on the subject. Imagine the horror of missing the final episode on the night it aired and having to be hermetically sealed for three days, walking around with earplugs and not surfing the Net in fear of spoilers. Sometimes the information age is NOT a good thing.

I heard that the HBO website was crashed by nay-saying fans who wanted a different end then they received, but given that these episodes are worthy of competing with Who Shot J.R., I think the site would have been crashed no matter what happened.

I'm not going to give anything away here, but personally, what I would have liked to see in the last episode of "The Sopranos" was Carmela Soprano being shotgunned down on her own driveway, dying with her intestines hanging out as she contemplated the last five years of her life with Tony. Call me sick but I think that would have been most appropriate, Hell it could even be called foreshadowing. Either way, the conclusion of the now-immortalized New Jersey Gangster Drama is not what I'm here to discuss.

Let me segway from mobster clips and hits to Canadian small town serial murders: "Durham County" (2007).

 Darker, deeper, more exciting
Darker, deeper, more exciting than "The Sopranos" 6B

For those of you who were too busy watching the very decent final season of "The Sopranos", let me enlighten you on something you've been missing this whole time. 

Unlike "The Sopranos", this 6-hour Canadian Dramatic Thriller is a mini-series that doesn't take a meditative hour to build the moments that define it as an important show. We kick of the series with a blond man in the woods, preying on two school-uniformed teens with tie-me-up games, all while a strong and agile man watches from afar. Rather than rescuing the naïve young girls from their certain demise, the strong, agile man relishes in the sadistic moment. When the deed is done, he not only basks in the glow of the scene laid out on the picnic cloth before him, but approaches and cuts the hair of each of the girls as a keepsake. Much to his surprise, one of the girls is still alive, gurgling pleas for help. The strong man instead strikes her down with a large stone.

This strong and agile man is Ray Prager, once an NHL up-and-comer who had his dreams crushed when he was injured in a car accident in high school. The car's driver was Ray's best friend at the time, Mike Sweeny. Today, Mike Sweeny has returned to Durham County, now a homicide detective investigating the murder of those two young girls, and moved in across the street from the successful business-owning Ray Prager. What a perfect kick off.

Mike's wife is a very recent survivor of breast cancer. Ray's son earned himself a scholarship for his writing. On the surface everyone should be proud and happy, but cancer has taken it's toll on Mike's family, and Ray wants his son to do anything but go away to follow his own path. 

Throughout the series we explore the lives of these men pitted against one another as well as their battles at home.


Hugh Dillon, whom you may remember as Joe Dick from Hard Core Logo, is our hero, and Justin Louis plays Ray Prager, his testosterone-fuelled ex-best-friend.  

This series, written by Laurie Finstad-Knizhnik, is strongest in the ambiguous moral compass of its characters, and rather than being a straight up investigation by a go-getting detective or a vengeance plot by a rogue cop, we have something here that's far muddier, far more honest and daring in its exploration of the human condition. Aside from this we have a strong constant in the symbolism of dangerous things left unfinished: in their back yard sit ominous power transmission lines, while renovations inside and out never seem to get worked on. 

Oh little Joe Dick all grown up!
Oh little Joe Dick all grown up!

"Durham County", sadly, suffers from what most Canadian shows do: a gross lack of proper marketing. Don't try looking for it on Rotten Tomatoes or Wikipedia to get in-depth information, you have to go directly to the source to glean anything: The Movie Network. Why there is isn't all over the Internet is simply a sad state of affairs.

Overall Rating: 92% (A Place For All Seasons)


When I write, it's usually to let you know what I thought of a movie you've heard about, or rant about a film you should keep away from, or let you in on an obscure little foreign film you might want to look into. 

I don't usually write in an attempt to convince you to see something with such a desperate resolve. This is one of those rare times, and those of you lucky enough to get the Movie Network have access to this, including their On Demand feature.  I understand there's also The Movie Channel for you Americans out there.

You need to go out of your way to see "Durham County".  It's as simple as that.

It's not the most perfect of mini-series, but it's damned close, and is definitely better than "The Sopranos", because above all things, it doesn't take a detour when it goes places.

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