Crime-Fueled AMC Series Doesn’t Pack A Punch

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People can grow, but they rarely change. When backed in a corner or placed in impossible situations, it’s human nature to revert to what you’ve always known. Base instincts kick in, and often, we find ourselves walking down the same paths we’ve sworn we’d never return to. In AMC‘s “Parish,” an adaptation of BBC One’s “The Driver,” the past of Gracián “Gray” Parish (an always precise Giancarlo Esposito) comes thundering toward his present. Just a year after the tragic death of his teenage son and facing a dire financial situation, an old colleague, Colin (Skeet Ulrich), makes Gray an offer he can’t refuse. What should be a one-time job and payout turns into a tumultuous alliance with the volatile Tongai family that puts Gray and his family in harm’s way. With Esposito leading the charge, “Parish” positions itself as a thrilling crime drama. Unfortunately, predictable plots and bizarre stylistic choices make it a laborious narrative that may have been better as a TV film adaptation.

The series opens in New Orleans amid a chaotic chase involving several police cars. Sliding back in time to a week prior, the audience learns how Gray, a middle-aged car service owner, became entangled in such a harrowing escape. Consumed by grief, despondent and prideful, the driver is easy prey for Tongai leader, The Horse (Zackary Momo) and his siblings, Zenzo (Ivan Mbakop) and Shamiso (Bonnie Mbuli). Impressed with his discretion and particular skill set, the trio isn’t so keen on turning Gray loose after just one successful job. As a result, Gray finds himself in the middle of the Tongais brewing war with another crime organization, which puts his livelihood, his wife, Ros (Paula Malcomson) and his daughter Makayla (Arica Himmel) in peril.

On the surface, “Parish” is a straightforward thriller about a man struggling with morality and past mistakes. Unfortunately, the series falters because of its choppy narrative, strange pacing and peculiar dream sequences. While some of the flashbacks involving Gray’s family are moving and compelling, others are muddled. As a result, the audience is left scrambling to understand what happened to Gray’s son Maddox (Caleb Baumann) while struggling to figure out the structure and model of the Tongais’ business and strained familial dynamics. When everything finally clicks in place during the series’ final episode, “A Good Man,” it feels so convenient, it’s anticlimactic.

Despite the actors’ competency, plot holes and choppy dialogue bury the real meat of the episodes. Though plenty of violent and action-packed sequences are sprinkled throughout the series, the musical selections and montages used to portray Gray’s memories and inner psyche strip these scenes of intensity. In fact, the narrative doesn’t begin taking shape until the end of Episode 3, “Sanctuary,” when a plea from The Horse’s young son, Luke (Dax Rey), leaves Gray toggling between the boy’s anguish and his own family’s safety.

The show has some intriguing elements. Sister Anne (Amanda Brugel), an old acquaintance of Gray’s who has found solace in the church, isn’t given nearly enough screen time. Unpacking her background might have given viewers a more well-rounded view of Gray’s past. Also, the series follows new African immigrants coming into New Orleans who find safe harbor at the Tongais’ restaurant, Kemba. However, honest conversations regarding visas, work and the trafficking of Black bodies in the 21st century aren’t explored as thoroughly as they should be.

Throughout its six-episode run, “Parish” feels like being relegated to the passenger’s seat. As the show presses on, more is revealed about the life Gray once led, the true nature of the Tongais business and its connection to New Orleans’ political scene. However, obvious clues and disjointed dialogue give the series a haphazard flow that will make it challenging for viewers to see it through the end. With so many storylines, characters and revelations, “Parish” loses its plot, and even the prowess of Esposito can’t save it from feeling like a cobbled-together journey with no distinct destination.

“Parish” premieres March 31 on AMC and AMC+.

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