I’m always searching for a new show about murder. They’re the best. Watching fictional people die on screen makes me happy. So fittingly, in my eyes, top-shelf streamers about hitmen rarely miss. Show me Ray Donovan bashing henchmen with a hammer or Barry Block shooting someone in the head before a Macbeth performance and I’m hooked. Whoever the skull-basher may be, one thing's for certain — America loves hitmen.
All this being said, you can imagine my excitement when I caught an old trailer for FX’s coolest show that nobody knows about.
Take your favorite crime drama and perform the following steps:
1. Dry age it for a few months. It’s gotta be leathery — like beef jerky.
2. Stuff it in your JanSport and fly it to Australia. Sydney, more specifically.
3. Package it for distribution and slap Scott Ryan’s face on it: he’s your creator, writer, producer and main character (legitimately everything).
Done? Good — your product is a slow-burning Australian gem of mass media: Mr. Inbetween. The show follows Ray Shoesmith, a Sydney-based hitman juggling fatherhood with a crime-for-hire lifestyle — both of which he tries executing smoothly. The series is short, but the pacing is — in the best possible way — molasses in January. Its pilot’s opening scene demonstrates this speed, and the episode's timespans are usually no longer than a day or two in content and a day or two apart.
The supporting cast is all complementary to Scott Ryan’s character. It’s the 2006-07 Cavaliers of drama TV — perhaps the most individualistic case study I’ve ever seen on screen. Without his brilliant performance, the whole thing would fall, but this is clearly intentional. I can count on two hands the number of times a scene doesn’t include Ray Shoesmith.
Mr. Inbetween is intentionally quiet. Twenty-or-so minute episodes are often wordless for a third of the time. This plays directly into the show's greatest strength: the masterful, often brutally honest depiction of communication.
Unlike lots of on-screen dialogue and its insistence on filling every second of runtime with witty conversations and emotional encounters, Mr. Inbetween takes speech at its most natural and makes a show out of it. On more than one occasion, you’ll find yourself wondering “what the fuck was that for?” You’ll close your laptop and go about your day, then, out of nowhere, you’ll arrive at a harrowing conclusion: “I talk exactly like that.”
The series finale ran on July 13. I started my watch the following night and finished it two days later. In that span, I laughed, cried (for real) and took a long hard look at myself in the process. I fell in love with Scott Ryan’s creation for the same reason you will: it’s so fucking human.