Programming Review: Briarpatch

USA Network looks to build on its growing reputation as a home for serious, adult scripted dramas with Briarpatch.

Based on the Ross Thomas novel, Briarpatch stars Rosario Dawson as Allegra Dill, a Senate staffer who leaves Washington to return to her hometown of San Bonifacio, Texas, to investigate the murder of her sister, a police officer killed by a car bomb.

Rosario Dawson in 'Briarpatch'

Rosario Dawson in 'Briarpatch'

Dill gets more than she bargains for in her return to what she thinks is the quiet, sleepy town she left years before. Before she steps out of the cab from the airport she’s confronted by a traffic jam caused by a dead kangaroo shot by police in the middle of the town’s main road. It’s one of many animals that have escaped the local zoo and are roaming free around town.

Angry over her sister’s death and unwilling to deal with the small-town antics she left behind, Dill immediately confronts local police and politicians. While no one can tell Dill who killed her sister and why, it becomes clear to her that local law enforcement knows more than they’re letting on.

The show’s appealing intrigue is built around the supporting characters Dill encounters and must quickly evaluate as friends or foes: A.D. Singe (Edi Gathegi), her sister’s lawyer and confidant, who switches to speaking French in harrowing moments; Gene Colder (Brian Geraghty), a cop who worked with Dill’s sister and was closer to her than she knew; and Dill’s childhood friend Jake Spivey (Jay R. Ferguson), who grew up poor but is now rich and lives in a mansion populated by giraffes after executing years of shadowy business dealings overseas.

The murder/mystery plot is slow to build, and viewers will have to stick closely with the complicated twists of an evolving 10-episode plotline. Dawson is strong as the tough, persistent and somewhat flawed Allegra Dill, and series executive producers Sam Esmail and Chad Hamilton (Mr. Robot), along with Ana Lily Amirpour, create a visually stylish and complex mosaic.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.