Two is a coincidence; three is a trend. Therefore, it was just happenstance when Barry and Killing Eve, two Emmy-nominated series about assassins at odds with their depraved profession, were released within months of each other earlier this year. But now, with the release of FX’s Mr Inbetween, it is officially official: We have entered into the era of the assassin dramedy.
Upon watching Mr Inbetween—which aired the first two episodes of its six-episode season Tuesday night—my first thought was that the series was essentially Australian Barry. After all, Aussie hitman Ray Shoesmith (played by creator-writer Scott Ryan) is good at his job, but what he does is corrupting his soul. However, what separates Ray from Bill Hader’s eponymous assassin is that he is blithe about the work, despite it being morally reprehensible. He doesn’t mind beating people up and killing the occasional person on the whims of his boss. The core of Barry’s drama came from the character’s reticence to accept what he was; conversely, Ray’s comfortable looking in the mirror. It’s not that Ray likes what he sees, he just reacts to that side of himself with apathy, and that jarring indifference extends into the show’s universe. (A kidnapper and his hostage have a conversation about why Quinton is a dumb thing to name a baby, seemingly oblivious to the fact one of them is about to be executed.)
Instead, the tension in Mr Inbetween is found in Ray trying to separate his hitman life from his relationships with his 8-year-old daughter, Brittany, and new girlfriend, Ally. Neither of them have the slightest idea about what he does, though he’s not exactly hiding it: When two jerks bump into Brittany on the street and knock down her ice cream, Ray patiently escorts her to the car and excuses himself, before tracking the guys down and kicking one of them in the nuts. It’s the kind of moment that’s, obviously, pretty funny, but it also calls into question how long Ray will be able to exist in this limbo, in between two worlds. (Get it???)
The mundanity with which Ray approaches his work bleeds into Mr Inbetween itself, which veers between entertaining vignettes related to regular assassin tasks like body disposal and chats about baby names with lackadaisical storytelling that doesn’t go anywhere. The good news is that the series, despite some minor narrative flaws, is mercifully short: The episodes are around 25 minutes each. To watch the entire six-episode season would take less time than rewatching James Cameron’s Avatar.
Amid a morass of bloated television, Ryan’s understated performance as Ray is reason alone to make the small commitment. Ryan has such a distinctive look, and every time Ray is about to inflict pain, a knowing, impish grin spills across his face. It’s disarming. He knows the other person is screwed, before they even know what hit them.
Should You Watch It? Wait until the whole season is out in a few weeks, then give yourself two-and a half hours to take in the entire series in one sitting.
Does It Reach the Heights of Barry and Killing Eve? Not quite, but those are about two of the best shows of the year. Mr Inbetween isn’t that good, but it’s more than worth a quick binge.
Is FX Going to Have Other Australian Imports? Probably not, as FX Australia was shuttered before any other shows could even be made. Unfortunately, that doesn’t bode well for Mr Inbetween getting a second season, either.
Are There Other Good Shows About Killers? Yes, quite a few! It’s worth checking out NBC’s dearly departed Hannibal, as well as Showtime’s Emmy winning Dexter. With Dexter, however, just pretend only the first four seasons exist. Trust me, it’s for the best.