#byNWR: Too Old to Die Young - Episode 7: The Magician

In what quickly becomes apparent as the show’s grisliest and most gruesome episode yet, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Too Old to Die Young right out of the gate right through the finale takes a sharp turn into levels of violence not seen in the previous six entries.  In the aptly named The Magician, things start coming to a head for our antihero Martin Jones (Miles Teller) as his past consequences of underage sexing and prior efforts to take out his crimelord boss Damian (Babs Olusanmokun) result in some unexpected bouts of raw brutality.  If you recall the Danish writer-director’s 2011 Cannes favorite Drive, this is around the time in which Christina Hendricks’ double-crossing gangster Blanche gets her head blown off.

For the most part the seventh episode however is about Martin’s troubled relationship with Janey Carter (Nell Tiger Free) who is in the midst of celebrating her eighteenth birthday.  Her father Theo Carter (William Baldwin), who was mostly absent from the show but left one Hell of an impression on the show’s pilot, is predictably unhinged with some perverse surprises ahead for Martin.  The episode also brings Viggo Larsen (John Hawkes) back into the picture as he and Martin embark on more assassinations of evildoers and abusers. 

What’s striking about The Magician aside from the foray into what could in fact be the most horrific imagery the Danish provocateur has ever conjured up from the dark recesses of his cinematic mind is how it gradually starts introducing distance from our protagonist Martin.  

While the show made his murderous tendencies and barely legal girlfriend known in the pilot, giving viewers time to decide whether or not they were ready to commit to a thirteen hour television series involving a character like this, the seventh episode all but lets him walk through a red door into out and out psychosexual sociopathy.  Although we think we know this character by now, all of that goes out the window as he himself freely admits he doesn’t really know why he has to kill.

Needless to say, for those who thought Nicolas Winding Refn’s penchant for ultraviolence filtered through his own neon-fluorescent kaleidoscopic cinematographic prism had reached its peak, it’s time for you to tighten your already buckled seatbelt.  But that’s not to say its all dark red curtains drenched in crimson, as the episode does occasionally leave room for some of the bizarre and goofy antics regarding Martin’s police associates.  Still, even this far into Refn’s Los Angeles crime saga, I was not ready for where it took me with some images permanently seared into my psyche and by this point it is unclear just what will happen next.

- Andrew Kotwicki