If Bill Hader’s recent Emmy-winning turn as the HBO hit man Barry was defined by reluctance, Scott Ryan’s Australian assassin, Ray, on the new FX series Mr. Inbetween, is blissfully untroubled by issues of ethical ambiguity. His code is simple. “How many people would you say you’ve assaulted?” an anger-management counselor asks him in the fourth episode. “Heaps,” Ray replies. How does he feel about that? “Fine. They had it coming to them.”
Ryan, who created and wrote Mr. Inbetween, plays Ray as a straight shooter, literally and metaphorically. At home, he’s a diligent weekend father to his daughter, Brittany (Chika Yasumura), and a no-nonsense but supportive carer for his brother (Nicholas Cassim), who has motor neuron disease. He also has a new relationship with Ally (Brooke Satchwell), a paramedic whom he met while out walking his dog.
At work, Ray’s a heavy-for-hire, doing odd jobs that range from debt collection to murder. He’s experienced and savvy enough to know that the threat of violence is often more effective as a bargaining chip than violence itself, although he’s not hesitant about employing the latter.
Mr. Inbetween—which is based on a 2005 film Ryan wrote and starred in called The Magician—plays out over six half-hour episodes, a relatively tight frame for a series to consider the complex psychological negotiations that allow Ray to be so many things at once. The show is named after the gray area between Ray’s roles as a thoughtful and empathetic father and a relentless, frequently terrifying killer. But it doesn’t mine that “inbetween” state as much as it could, relying on Ryan’s deft performance to do most of the work. Ray has an emotionless, sharklike smile in some scenes that signals imminent danger. In most moments, though, he’s nonchalant to the extreme, approaching the tasks of cutting up a corpse and ordering dim sum with the same level of equanimity.