We are introduced to James Schaeler, Jimmi Simpson (“Westworld (TV)”, “House Of Cards (TV)”), a former firefighter who has been through a bad experience during a job.
The next time we see James, he’s collapsed at the side of the road as a car pulls up and Pa, Ben Kingsley (“War Machine”, “The Jungle Book”), and Ma, Jacki Weaver (“Bird Box”, “The Disaster Artist”), get out and give him a lift, literally.
It transpires that Pa and Ma are exactly what our addict, James, requires. They help people like him, people having problems. They take him back to their ranch in Half Acre, New Mexico and begin helping him as he finds more out about the couple.
He learns they have a son, Paul Allen Brown, but they don’t know where he is. Pa describes him as a troubled child, someone he couldn’t tame, manipulative. But James knows all this already, as he’s met Paul, he’s struck a deal with Paul, he’s working with Paul.
All seems to be going to their plan; James tells Pa and Ma that he can find their son, as they’ve helped him, and he tells them he’s found him in Mexico. They head out, to pay off the prison guard Hector Contreras, Luis Guzman (“Traffic”, “Boogie Nights”), whilst James applies for a drivers license under their sons name, in a bid to rob the couple of their church fund, Our Lady of Perpetual Grace, LTD.
Hector is in on it and is set to keep Pa and Ma in prison whilst James performs the scam, even faking death notes so that James can inherit the money.
But in Mexico, Pa turns out not to be the quiet, helpful parishioner James has been led to believe, in fact, he has a rap sheet that would make most criminals blush. And, when he bludgeons a man to death with his shoe and then Texas Ranger Wesley Walker (Walker, Texas Ranger), Terry O’Quinn (“Castle Rock (TV)”, “Lost (TV)”), turns up to talk to James/Paul about a murder, things head downhill, fast.
The series is written and directed by Steve Conrad (“Wonder”, “The Pursuit Of Happyness”) and James Whitaker (“Patriot (TV)”). As opening episodes go, “Eleven” is up there with the best.
It is funny, darkly so, it zips along but leaves you in no doubt who is who, what is what, until the twists of course. Conrad often puts the camera behind the protagonist, allowing us to see things from their point of view, whilst the forays into black and white, for the flashbacks, keep things simple.
Simpson is wonderful as our main man. A downtrodden man, questioning everything after the disaster involving his colleague, who had eleven children, all girls, and with the promise of money from a manipulative Paul, Damon Herriman (“Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood”, “Judy & Punch”).
Episode Two has a lot to live up to, but the ending of one leaves me in no doubt it’s going to be as good.
THE QUICK SELL
Pa and Ma discover drug addict James on an empty New Mexico road and bring him home to their ranch in Half Acre, N.M.