Blightyvision: “Mad Dogs” Series 2

Written by Cris Cole
Directed by James Hawes
Starring Philip GlenisterMax BeesleyJohn Simm, and Marc Warren

In its first series, “Mad Dogs” managed to tell a whole lot of story that theoretically could have left off on its bizarre cliffhanger.  The quick version?  Four guys find themselves abroad with a dead best friend, no cell phones, a whole ton of drug money, and the cops on their tail.  And that’s not even giving away any major plot points.  So after all the mess they went through, was there really any more to say about these poor guys?

Yes.  Plenty more.

The first series of “Mad Dogs” kept Baxter (Simm), Quinn (Glenister), Woody (Beesley), and Rick (Warren) in pretty much one small contained area.  In the second series, though, they go even farther abroad as their bad luck compounds.  Yes, they have enough money to keep them all happy, but whose money was it?  And will that person come looking for them?  For that matter, will anyone else come looking for them?  Along the way they pick up Carmen (Leticia Dolera): part money launderer, part love interest for Bax, and all sorts of suspicious.  They crash a wedding, anger some locals, cause a few public scenes, and buy new glasses.

And then David Warner shows up and things really go to hell.

One thing I’ve noticed about “Mad Dogs,” both this year and last, is that it’s very difficult (if not impossible) to speak of the virtues of individual episodes.  In this case, that’s a good thing — the whole show keeps a very constant flow, so that you don’t have episodes so much as week-long (or year-long) breaks between scenes.  And by virtue of that, I can’t really complain about each series being only four episodes long.  This is a tight, planned story with very little downtime, and trying to make it stretch over the length of even a “regular” UK season would feel forced.  It knows what it needs to do and adapts the format to fit it, not vice-versa.

The characters aren’t stagnant, either — then again, anyone who stayed the same over the course of what these four go through would have to be very poorly written indeed.  While the first series saw them afraid for their lives and able to think of very little else, the second relieves the panic on occasion just enough to let us see what the boys do when confronted with the very real temptation of getting away scot-free (they think) with all the money they could ever want.  Over time, the show has begun blending very real character studies with the plot, and it’s wonderful to see — especially with all four actors at the top of their game.

Two things happen that make series 2 that much better than series 1, though.  First is a bit of flashback — specifically, a bit of insight into the plot proper in retrospect.  Second, and tied to that, is the aforementioned Warner taking what actually ends up becoming something of a major role.  Without giving away his actual relation to the characters, I can say he makes a brilliant antagonist, really wicked in a backhanded, ice-cream-enjoying way that’s difficult to describe.  He was a magnificent addition to the cast, and perhaps a risky one from a writing standpoint, seeing as how the main four make up a fairly tight ensemble.  Then again, this is David Warner we’re talking about; I really expect no less.

Once again, we’re left on a cliffhanger, but there’s a third series in production as we speak.

This is really just a massively overblown way of saying … “Mad Dogs” lived up to its initial hype, and it hasn’t lost steam at all.  If anything, it’s just improving as the four main cast get more and more into their characters.  It really is Just Plain Good, and I think it has the potential to become a classic and stay in the Anglophile consciousness for years to come.  If you haven’t seen it yet and have the ability to, do yourself a favor and watch it from the beginning.

“Mad Dogs” has not been made available in the US yet, and the possibility of it ever being is becoming slimmer and slimmer with each violent death.  And also possibly for stuffing things in the Virgin Mary.