Created by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball) who also directed the first episode and Reggie Rock Bythewood (Gun Hill), the series opens with the shooting death of a white teenager by an African American police officer Joshua Beck (The Wire’s Tristan Wilds) in North Carolina. Washington D.C. officials are concerned with appearances and possible racial tension, dispatch greenhorn prosecutor Preston Terry (Race’s Stephan James) and veteran investigator Ashe Akino (Love & Basketball Sanaa Lathan) to take charge of the investigation and prevent another political issue from erupting in the small town. The whole investigation becomes even more complicated with the the involvement of NC Governor Patricia Eamons (The Sessions’ Helen Hunt), egotistical Officer Breeland (True Blood’s Stephen Moyer) and a larger than life local pastor named Janae James (All the Way’s Aisha Hinds).
Race is far from ignored in “SHOTS FIRED”, given the number of high-profile deaths of black men and women in police custody in recent years. Their commitment to showcasing broad perspectives comes with a small downside taking on more storylines and characters than it can actually handle in one episode. Diving into the constant family issues while balancing a career such as this has been seen many times over but what really gets the juices flowing is the fact that Akino is battling her ex regarding custody of their young daughter.
Not to carry the only brunt of having a family while being a working parent Terry has family issues of his own, but those subplots are almost never the strongest elements of the drama and hopefully this will become apparent soon so we can move on to the other layers of this drama. One of the most gripping moments for me that I couldn’t get out of my head was the video of Wilds’ the video of Deputy Beck (The Wire’s Tristan Wilds) declaring to kill “crackers” shows another layer to the drama that I never saw coming as well as completely different side of him. It’s becomes even more real that he’s one of few of color in his department and calls back to the angry cop trope so commonly depicted in Television and Film as of late. I however have never seen a person of color able to balance the ability to be remorseful and naive while confronting a life changing moment such as this one. I look forward to more character development and clearer storylines while unraveling the hour-long drama.
Overall, Shots Fired feels has a very strong “ripped from the headlines” feel, frequently referencing things like Ferguson and Black Lives Matter throughout the episode lend to strong detective TV tropes. However I did the find the mystery to be more than distracting from what could of prime soul conscious TV. There were some sharp takes on how race affects our perception of justice layered throughout the pilot. It’s clear that Gina Prince-Bythewood wanted to create something with a high social conscious to tackle police brutality and justice in America. Fox’s newest “event series” seeks to explore of systemic racism and racially motivated shootings as they’ve become even more of a serious issue facing the US right now. Shots Fired seems to have a strong cast to work with as Lathan really shines through giving me hope for the rest of the season.
Season 1, Episode 1 (S01E01)
Shots Fired airs Wednesday at 8PM on FOX
Jerrica Long | Contributor