Today marks the fifth anniversary of the premier of the UK version of Mad Dogs. To celebrate, here are the ten maddest moments of Mad Dogs, which serves as both a refresher if you want to watch the new American remake, just released on Amazon.com, without re-watching the full four-season program, as well as a summary if you haven’t seen it (as long as you don’t mind major spoilers).
“Alvo, correct me if I’m wrong, but you’ve got something floating in your pool.”
Finding a dead goat in Alvo’s idyllic Spanish villa swimming pool is the first surreal scene of the gangster drama/psychological thriller/dark comedy that is Cris Cole’s Mad Dogs. The dead goat, like a fish in the letterbox, is a warning from the gangsters to our four protagonists, but it’s also an otherworldly omen because the next thing to show up in that pool is the body of a dead woman. In season 2, another goat gets slaughtered just before the metaphorical shit hits the fan. Finally, in season 4, a dead goat turns up in Quinn’s idyllic South African villa pool. “It’s a goat in a swimming pool…again!” shouts Rick to Woody’s insistence that it’s just a coincidence. They should have listened to Rick because shortly after, like the woman in season 1, Quinn’s girlfriend is discovered dead in the pool.
Four childhood friends—a school teacher, a financial consultant, an antiques dealer, and their designated driver—reunite with their fifth friend Alvo for the first time in years. As their back stories are revealed throughout episode 1, the tension between characters tighten, peaking when a short man in a Tony Blair mask walks in on their dinner and shoots Alvo. The casting was a happy accident, as the casting sheet misprinted Tony Blair as Tiny Blair and only dwarves showed up to the audition. In the American remake, the mask that hides the gangster is that of a cat.
Season 1 begins with a flash-forward series of found footage of the four “dogs” leaving video messages for their loved ones. For some reason, they are all wearing strange tribal markings on their faces. Later, we learn that they’d donned the barbaric costumes to scare off the gangsters, but they feel like idiots when they arrive screaming on the scene to not a threat in sight.
Afraid of being incarcerated for Alvo’s murder, the dogs hide his body in the freezer while they are interrogated by the police on the villa premises. Unfortunately, Alvo is just slightly too tall to fit, so they have to saw off his feed to hide them. When it comes time to relocate the body to Jesus’ boat, they discover en route that they had dropped the foot back somewhere along the path. Quinn yells at his quibbling friends, “We’re supposed to be looking for a foot!”
When the dogs finally get hold of their attacker, Tiny Blair, they lock him in a closet. Thus begins a series of awkward tortures as the man tries to fight his way to freedom. Ironically, it is he who barks like a mad dog, and they wind up taping him up and lowering him into the well until they can decide what to do with him. But he doesn’t stay down there for long.
In the beginning of season 3, the dogs are shipped off to South Africa to start their new lives separately. They are given the opportunity to change their names. None of them thinks about it very long, resulting in names like Jamie Kirk, a very slight deviation from Captain James Kirk, and Blake Hatch, inspired by the “escape hatch” sign on the airplane. It’s the last light hearted moment for a while because the dogs are about to say goodbye to each other for what they believe will be the last time.
Stanley Townsend excels in his role as CIA agent Lazaro, who gives the dogs some paradise and some hallucinogenic drugs right before he tries to assassinate them. The first-person perspective trip that the dogs experience on the local fruits is one of the maddest moments in all of Mad Dogs. Although it isn’t the widely accepted interpretation, some have theorized that the dogs were actually killed by Lazaro in this scene and spend the rest of the program in hell, due to the unlikely events and clues that don’t add up that come after.
Quinn, Woody, and Rick reunite in London at Baxter’s daughter’s wedding where Rick breaks the news that he’s put the villa that Alvo had willed to them on the market for sale, having forged all of their names. They’re mad at Rick, and Rick is mad at Quinn for sleeping with his ex-wife, and the whole thing culminates with an epic bar room fight with flying pool balls, spraying fire extinguishers, and a gushing fish tank that gets the four of them kicked out of the wedding.
Christine St. John plays the unlikely slushy-slurping CIA agent Swift who arrives on Quinn’s doorstep at the most inconvenient moment possible, when they’re trying to dash off to save Woody’s girlfriend from a new set of two-faced Tony Blairs. After screaming at them for returning to South Africa after implicit orders to stay in England, she finally starts to listen to their plea right before the sharp shooter blows her brains all over the windshield of Quinn’s car. The shock and gore is juxtaposed with the next scene where the windshield wiper is comically squeaking the blood off the window as the dogs take chase. They wind up having to pull over so they can dislodge a disembodied hand from the tire of Quinn’s little blue car.
Some people love the ending of Mad Dogs while others hate it. It is probably better that it doesn’t end happy, as Carmen had said that even if you’re lucky for a while, just wait and see. Carmen herself, who had fallen in love with Baxter, meets her unlucky end in the air of her namesake, the opera Carmen. Not long after Baxter accidentally shoots her, the dogs find themselves on the beach, captured by a whole fleet of Tony Blairs with pre-dug graves. The silence after their supposed deaths gives their afterlife a peaceful feel, as they crawl back into the car, which had run out of gas earlier, and they drive off to the soundtrack of Road to Nowhere, the phrase that had been written in another language on all the signs they passed throughout the series.
Are they definitely dead? Was the moment that they died actually that moment on the beach or was it before that? Quinn talks about how for the first time since college, they have choices, so does that mean that it was their poor choices that led them to this conclusion? Does Baxter seeing his own face behind the Blair mask mean that he was the source of his own destruction? Or, like Rick suggested, was it fate, and they were trapped in this complicated web of events that they could never hope to fully understand—just the universe plotting against them, as Baxter put it? Leave your thoughts in comments.