The Crow Road
BFS Entertainment // Unrated // $29.98 // July 17, 2007
Review by John Sinnott | posted June 30, 2007
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The Series:

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.

Prentice 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.

The DVD:


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.

Final Thoughts:

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.

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