“Red Meat” more or less officially kick-starts the third season of Shooter after last week’s episode tied up loose ends, as Swagger investigates his father’s death.
You can pretty much consider Red Meat to be the proper start to the third season of Shooter. After the surprisingly above-average second season was cut short when leading man Ryan Phillippe broke his leg, last week’s premiere episode, “Backroads”, had a lot of work to do closing off loose ends, and in particular getting rid of Josh Stewart’s chameleonic Chechen sharpshooter, Solotov. He’ll be missed.
In the meantime, though, we have other things to concern ourselves with: Namely Bob Lee’s investigation into the death of his father, which is unsurprisingly related to the machinations of Atlas and, according to “Red Meat”, a company administered by a coked-up weasel, Red Bama Junior (Eric Ladin). The villains are already stacking up, but available evidence seems to suggest it isn’t the son Swagger should be worried about – it’s the father.
Speaking of evidence, there’s plenty to suggest that Earl Swagger’s death was a conspiracy – so much so, in fact, that I’m amazed nobody picked up on it sooner. It took the entirety of the hour and a fair helping of saggy flashbacks that pinned the blame on the wrong donkey, but Bob Lee finally figured it out. His dad was killed by, all together now, a sniper! How terribly convenient.
The question is how Sheriff Brown (John Marshall Jones) didn’t realise that the audio recording of Earl’s death contained what was quite clearly a rifle report; Swagger made a big show of replaying it multiple times, but it was clear from the first playback. I typically enjoy overwrought displays of Swagger’s otherworldly gun-related talents, but this one just felt way too contrived.
Then again, you don’t come to Shooter for realism, do you? You come for interactions like the one Swagger shared with Red Bama Junior: “You learn a lot about an animal when you surprise it. Like where it’s weak.” Classic stuff.
Swagger’s investigation also took him to farmhouse of the Poole family; relations of the man who allegedly killed his father. Kids are tormenting a dog in the front yard, in case you were wondering what kind of family this is. The conspiracy runs deep and wide. As much fun as I have watching Swagger humiliate yokels, I and Shooter itself will be better off when it all comes back to bite him, especially since Julie Swagger (Shantel VanSanten) has very little to do at the moment other than whine at her husband, share mission-critical intelligence with her sister, June (Lindsay Pulsipher), and ferry their sprog (Lexy Kolker) around. It isn’t a good fit for her, so hopefully the entire family will be imperilled before long.
The rest of “Red Meat” was devoted to a B-plot concerning Isaac (Omar Epps), Nadine Memphis (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), Harris (Jesse Bradford) and Patricia Gregson (Beverly D’Angelo) discovering they’re all on an Atlas kill-list. They unearthed a lot of questions and very few answers this week, but it’s fun to see them all together, digging through files and taking flashbangs to the face. Long may such pulpy shenanigans continue.
“Red Meat” might not have been any kind of classic episode – does Shooter have any classic episodes? – but the show continues to operate at a high-enough quality to be legitimately rather than ironically enjoyable. And that’s all I need from this kind of television, and from stories about a sniper whose nickname is “the Nailer” and whose real name is “Bob Lee Swagger”. Shooter performs exactly as advertised.