The premise is a unique one, I’ll give them that. Loosely based on a similar story out of New Orleans, a tech billionaire who loses a friend in a liquor store robbery takes over a funds-deprived precinct in order to catch the killer himself, using his own patented technology. This set-up definitely caught my attention. I’ve also been a fan of Justin Kirk since his “Weeds” days and he’s certainly not the typical police procedural show star, so I was doubly intrigued.
Unfortunately beyond the charismatic Kirk and the initial conceit, APB is pretty much business as usual for cop dramas. Kirk stars as Gideon Reeves – a Tony Stark-esque rich engineer who we first meet selling drones to help oil companies put out well fires with an over the top display. Back in Chicago, we see Gideon’s lifelong best friend and lawyer Sully is upset with him for scaring the hell out of the potential customers. He’s always having to clean up after Gideon. In a limo on their way through the city, Gideon out of the blue says he needs a smoke. “In this area?” Sully asks. “I’m punishing myself for being a bad person,” Gideon jests. He buys a pack, vastly overpays, tells the clerk to keep the change, and to keep all the cigarettes but one. Sadly this small score will cost Gideon his best friend’s life.
Gideon soon finds himself hiding as an armed robbery takes place in the store. When he dials 9-1-1 he’s put on hold. When the robber notices him, Gideon is pistol whipped in the face. That’s when Sully comes running in and immediately takes three or four of the robber’s bullets to the chest (which was, I have to say, not heroic at all and just plain stupid). As Sully lay dying on the liquor store floor, Gideon screams into his phone “Where the hell are you people?” At the precinct, Gideon’s told there’s not much the police can do. The precinct’s been effected by vast budge cuts and downsized.
And so Gideon makes a point to hold council with the Mayor and ask for full control of the 13th Precinct. When the Mayor points out a private citizen can’t take over a police district, Gideon says if the mayor turns him down he’ll finance all his opponents in the next election, and leave him to explain to the city why he turned down $100 million dollars for police pensions. And the rest is history.
Officer Amelia Murphy (Natalie Martinez, who also played a cop, albeit a small-town one, on CBS’s god-awful “Under the Dome”) is wary about Gideon’s takeover, as are most of the officers in the 13th District. I was delighted to see Ernie Hudson in the mix at the police department, but he mostly just stands around and gawks at Gideon’s new technology for most of the episode. As do many of the principal characters, besides Gideon and Murphy. Gideon enlists Murphy to help him find Sully’s killer, promoting her to detective until that case is settled.
Gideon also introduces to the department a new mobile app called “APB” (hey, that’s the name of the show!) that allows citizens to call in crimes in real time, that are already geo-tagged, anywhere in the district. No more of this being put on hold, no more of this waiting for officers to be dispatched. You text a crime and officers are on their way within seconds. Gideon also brings a few other new toys, like special armor, drones, and taser guns.
Over the course of the episode, the officers, including Murphy, are slowly won over by what Gideon has brought to the table. They stop a man from attacking his wife with a knife, thanks to a child texting in after seeing a billboard for APB. They also are able to narrow down the suspects of Sully’s murder. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the show is that they solve this within the first hour of the series. I thought for sure it would be left dangling and MAYBE solved in the season one finale. But, alas, Gideon and Murphy are just too good of a team!
Using statistics about how many people who fit the description of Sully’s killer AND have a white sedan in Chicago, Gideon slowly wittles down the possibility of suspects, narrowing it to a small area where similar cars were stolen. Assuming that robbers typically steal cars all of similar make and color, and that they do it close to where they live (both of which seem likely to be untrue to me, but what do I know, Gideon then proposes the use his drones to monitor the area where similar cars to Sully’s murder’s getaway one have been stolen recently. Murphy has a better idea. Guess what, guys! Turns out as smart as engineer Gideon Reeves is, this old school Chicago cop has a few things to teach HIM. She narrows it down to about five suspects using old files sitting in a basement. That was easy.
Unfortunately in the pursuit of one of the suspects an officer gets shot in the line of duty. Not good. Cops are turning in their taser guns, requesting transfers. On top of it, the Mayor has Gideon driven out to a scary Chicago side street and demands he walk away from the 13th District, or he’ll come at him with everything he’s got. “You have one police district. I have twenty-one,” he says. And Gideon is set on following orders UNTIL…
Men are dispatched in pursuit of the prime suspect. He’s spotted (with a drone camera) in a high rise apartment in the middle of beating a man senseless and threatening to kill his wife if he isn’t given the money he’s owed. This all leads to a fairly humdrum chase sequence, in which the bad guy takes an innocent woman hostage, and Officer Murphy is forced to pull a “Speed” and shoot the hostage–only this time with one of Gideon’s taser guns. Sending the hostage and the baddie to the ground, Sully’s murderer is cuffed and caught. This is a huge win for Reeves, and the media picks up the story right away. Murphy has finally come around, telling him she thinks he has a lot to offer there. But Gideon’s made up his mind. He has to leave.
Or does he? Because of the media coverage, the APB app has seen a spike in downloads. Not just in the 13th district, but for the entire city of Chicago. As the episode ends, we see Gideon staring at the map of his city, hundreds of incidents popping up as people are reporting them from the app.
Overall, the story had a solid window that pulled me at the start, only to collapse on itself with boring old cop show run-and-catch-em tropes. I’m also concerned with the longevity of such a set-up, imagining Gideon producing more and more ridiculously far-fetched technology to help catch bad guys. But I could be wrong. I always like to give at least a few episodes of any new series before I truly condemn it, so hopefully next week’s episode will right the course.
Season 1, Episode 1 (S01E01)
APB airs Monday at 9PM on Fox
Paul is a notorious tech billionaire who is using technology he created to write and review TV shows more efficiently, in order to avenge a friend who wasted weeks of his life watching shows that were inaccurately reviewed.
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Paul Gulyas | Contributor