Parish Review: Giancarlo Esposito Is Fantastic in High-Octane Crime Drama

Giancarlo Esposito returns to AMC in a high-octane crime drama loaded with riveting supporting characters and an edge-of-your-seat narrative. Parish, a distinctly American version of the hit British series The Driver, races through six compelling episodes at a shotgun pace. The premise has a retired Big Easy wheelman in serious trouble after money woes and an old friend convinces him to take a straightforward job with no strings attached. The resulting debacle puts his beloved family at risk as they struggle to recover from a tragic loss. Slick production values, vibrant costume design, and a multicultural embrace accentuate a well-acted show with twists aplenty.

The pilot opens in bustling New Orleans. Gracián “Gray” Parish (Esposito) is a heavily burdened man. He's drowning in debt as the owner of an upscale taxi and black car service. Gray feverishly works out with a punching bag, shaves using a straight razor, and dresses meticulously after quietly climbing out of bed. He's careful not to wake Rose (Paula Malcomson) or their teenage daughter Michaela (Arica Himmel). Gray lingers briefly at the door of his son (Caleb Baumann) with a heavy heart before going outside to his prized Cadillac. His hands tracing its contours for even the smallest speck of dirt.

The day proceeds with no positive developments. Banks refuse to loan him money. His business partner (Ned Yousef) warns that they don't have much time left. A defeated Gray comes home to further unwelcome news. He doesn't want to hear Rose's solution to their financial problems. Gray's listless sleep is interrupted later that night. A visitor is hiding in the one place he knew Gray would look.

Parish

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3.5/5

 

Release Date

March 31, 2024

Cast

Giancarlo Esposit , Zackary Momoh , Arica Himmel , Ivan Mbakop , Dax Rey

Seasons

1

Writers

Daniel Brocklehurst , Sunu Gonera , Jim Poyser

Directors

Sunu Gonera

Pros

  • Fun, twisty plot
  • Compelling central performance
  • Well choreographed fight scenes and car chases

Cons

  • Timeline doesn't hold up under inspection

Skeet Ulrich as Colin

 

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Colin (Skeet Ulrich) sports a black eye and a nervous demeanor. Gray's best friend and former accomplice was recently released from a seventeen-year stint in Louisiana's notorious Angola prison. He survived by becoming a lackey to Zimbabwean gangsters operating from South Africa. They've now set up shop in New Orleans and aren't happy with Colin's contribution. He's been given a second chance on a simple operation that needs a dependable getaway driver. A wary Parish turned his back on a dangerous former life, but the lure of easy money is too tempting. He reluctantly agrees to accompany Colin for a meeting with "Horse" Tongai (Zackary Momo).

Parish immerses the viewer into different worlds with fascinating, often strained relationships. Gray has worked hard to provide for his family, but everything they hold dear is threatened by the potential collapse of his business. The economic hardship widens an emotional rift between Gray, Rose, and Michaela. They're desperate to move on from a heartbreak that he staunchly refuses to address. His son's absence has left a hole that cannot be filled. Gray's inability to handle grief takes him down an obsessive path with disastrous consequences. Malcomson compliments Esposito's performance as a worried wife who senses something has gone wrong.

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Strained Relationships

 

Parish Review: Giancarlo Esposito Is Fantastic in High-Octane Crime Drama

Gray's unwavering loyalty to Colin is tested as their situation dramatically devolves into a crisis. Ulrich nearly steals the show in a hard-luck subplot that explains both of their motivations. Colin can't help himself as an unintentional train wreck — everything he touches turns to dirt. He battles self-doubt and the gnawing belief that he's snakebit. His genuine efforts to help Gray get out of debt while crawling back into his employer's good graces highlight this critical personal flaw.

Parish shifts into second gear with a deep dive into the machinations of the intriguing antagonists. They're unwelcome black foreigners making waves in a corrupt city entrenched with established criminals. Horse's careful approach contradicts his sledgehammer older brother and wily sister. Zenzo (Ivan Mbakop) isn't happy playing second fiddle, but he has a begrudging respect for Horse and love for Luke (Dax Rey), his young nephew.

Meanwhile, Shamiso (Bonnie Mbuli) instills fear like a tiger stalking in the brush. The Tongai siblings fuel their mysterious father's ambitions with an unabashedly Zimbabwean presence. Their luxurious dress, jewelry, and refusal to be underestimated shield a simmering rivalry against deadly enemies. The Tongai family dynamics ensnare Gray and Colin in ways they could never have imagined as the plot thickens.

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Showrunners and writers Eduardo Javier Canto and Ryan Maldonado, known for Chicago P.D. and Tell Me a Story, do a fantastic job with measured reveals. The scope of the series isn't known until the halfway point. Multiple threads linger until a finale where all the chess pieces are finally on the board. Gray doesn't have a clue what the initial crime entails or its true purpose. He's forced to uncover the nefarious details when the hope of simply driving from A to B becomes something vastly more intricate. Nothing is as it seems.

Visceral Violence

 

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Every episode ends on a cliffhanger with visceral violence and stunning car chase scenes. There are no lame Fast & Furious CGI effects here. However, there are some inconsistencies with the overall timeline. The entire series takes place within an action-packed week. That aspect isn't entirely convincing as days and nights blur together, but that's a minor quibble. The sublime Esposito will certainly have you hooked.

Parish is a production of AMC Studios, A+E Studios, and Thruline Entertainment. The series premieres March 31st on AMC and AMC+.

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