The Crow Road is a miniseries made by BBC Scotland that is based
on a novel by Iain Banks. The back of the case states that this series
is a mystery, and in a way it is. A more accurate description would
be that it's a character study of a Scottish family with some black comic
moments. While the program does have some interesting bits, the story is slow
and fairly aimless for most of its running time.
McHoan is a slacker who doesn't have much ambition or aim in life.
One day his grandmother puts in idea into his head that slowly takes root:
he'll discover what happened to his Uncle Rory. Seven years previous
Rory hopped onto his motorcycle in Glasgow and headed off to see his brother,
Kenneth, Prentice's father, in his house in the country. He never
arrived, and was never seen from again.
Told from Prentice's point of view with frequent flashbacks, the first
half of the four hour series introduces McHoan family. In addition
to the brothers Kenneth and Rory, there's a sister Fiona who has married
the local rich, arrogant, fascist, prat named Fergus Urvill, and another
brother, Hamish, who has started his own branch of Christianity.
(The religion main consists of advising God who he should smite, and how
to best to inflict his heavenly retribution.)
As the story unfolds, various seemingly unrelated family secrets are
revealed. When he was a child, Rory was playing with matches and
burned a barn down. Someone discovered that their wife has been unfaithful,
and Prentice lets everyone know that he's in love with an upper-class girl
Verity, who isn't interested in him in the least. Several family
members also die over the course of the series, though none of them seem
suspicious in the least.
As Prentice goes through his life, every once in a while wondering about
his Uncle Rory but more often not, he recalls stories and events from his
family's past. Sometimes it's events that occurred when he was a
kid, sometimes it is things from a year or two ago, and fairly often he
relates stories that happened when his father was a mere lad. This
can get more than a little confusing, especially when they have flashbacks
within flashbacks. Viewers who pay attention should have no more
than a little trouble keeping the multiple story lines straight.
While much of the story is entertaining, filled with colorful characters
and at least mildly interesting stories and anecdotes, it's missing something.
There's really no 'glue' to hold it together. The mystery of Rory's
disappearance isn't really investigated. Prentice finds some of his
papers and reads them, but that's it. (It isn't until the last half
of the final episode that the mystery moves to the forefront.) There
is a subplot involving Prentice's rejection of his father's atheism and
his uncertainty of the meaning of life, but that's not terribly pressing
or enough to carry the miniseries.
Ultimately the resolution isn't as satisfying as it could be either.
While many questions are answered, viewers will arrive at the answers well
ahead of Prentice, who seems to take his time piecing things together.
The way the series finishes is a bit anticlimactic too. Instead of
being impressed with a witty twist or a tightly plotted conclusion, viewers
are given an ending that is rather bland and run of the mill.
This series comes with a Dolby Digital mono soundtrack. Unfortunately
there are no subtitles, as there are more than a few scenes where it is
hard to make out what is being said. This isn't because of any audio
defects, but because the Scottish accents are so thick. When people
get upset and start talking fast, especially when they throw in a lot of
slang, it's incredibly difficult to make out what is being said.
Aside from that the audio is about average for a 90's British TV show.
The 4:3 image is suitable but not outstanding. There's a bit of
grain through the show, and the picture is a bit soft but not distressingly
so. A spot of dirt appears now and again but it isn't frequent.
Overall an average looking show.
This is a pretty bare bones set. The only extra is a series of
text cast profiles.
This is a series of mildly interesting stories and characters sketches
that are thrown together with a mystery added almost as an afterthought.
While these bits weren't bad per se, they never really grabbed my attention.
When one episode ended, there wasn't that drive to get to the next one
to see what happens like occurs with the best mystery series. I don't
regret watching this program, but it's a better rental than a purchase.