SHADES OF BLUE REVIEW: “Pilot”

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Airtime: Thursdays at 10PM on NBC

Tweetable Takeaway: [email protected] delivers compelling police drama about justice, loyalty, and ethics. 


Jennifer Lopez and Ray Liotta lead . A team of successful cops operates under the scrutiny of an aggressive FBI Anti-Corruption Task Force investigation. Lopez plays Detective Harlee Santos, a veteran police officer and single mother. She is a valued member and protégée to Liotta’s Detective “Woz” Wozniak who leads a team responsible for a significant reduction in drug related crime in their area of operations. An FBI Agent, Robert Stahl, is hot to bring down Team Woz. He must get someone inside to inform and build his case. This episode is all about character and relationships. The good guys make mistakes. The bad guys make mistakes. The man from the Anti-Corruption Task Force doesn’t seem to have any constitutional issues invading privacy.

Even heroes make mistakes.

Santos and her younger, lesser experienced partner, Detective Loman respond to a tip about suspicious activity on the fourth floor of an apartment building in a neighborhood where illegal drug activity is almost a thing of the past. This pilot isn’t about clever criminals or one-in-a-billion savantish crime fighters as much as the frailty of people in a less than perfect justice system.

Santos stops to clear a young girl from the hallway. Loman hears shots fired inside the apartment. He kicks in the door, rushes in and shoots Jamarr, a young man armed only with a video game controller. Loman is crushed when he realizes he shot a guy playing a game. Santos finds a bag of drugs next to Jamarr with a gun inside. She quickly creates an alternate scenario to make it look like Jamarr opened fire on Loman first. Loman wants to tell the truth and take his chances with the imminent Internal Affairs investigation, but Santos convinces him to accept her story, for the sake of the team. Going through the door, that was the stuff of heroes. She tells Loman, “Truth is in the paper work.”

There is one white-male loose end that jets out the window before he can be captured, or identified. Lt. Woz, Santos’ boss, is happy to hear the perp was killed instead of wounded and he senses that something may have gone wrong with the take-down, but he isn’t concerned if Santos has planned an out.  Santos and Loman work out a story and rehearse it for the meeting with IA.

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Santos has a daughter and she is a great kid.

Santos drops by daughter Christina’s school to tell her she’ll be home late. Christina attends some sort of advanced high school. She’s a talented musician and earns a solo in an upcoming recital. Christina’s no boilerplate resentful brat. She has an advanced emotional intelligence and supports her mother as much as her mother supports her. In short, this is the girl worth fighting for. Santos will do just about anything to see Christina has opportunity in this world.

Santos also has a hunky boyfriend. They box; work up a sweat doing a couple rounds in the ring, and then a few more on the canvas. Yep, that’s as nasty as it sounds. After her ring excitement, she meets with Woz and the rest of their team in a local icebox. This is where they divide up their recent takes, loot, and tributes; call it what you will.  Their constituents pay them.

No one is getting a new car here. A boutique pays in dresses and blouses. For Santos, her cut isn’t enough to pay for Christina’s tuition. She’s currently two months behind to the tune of $10K (and it’s the cops that are supposed to be out of bounds).

A man in an ugly tie hits on Santos at the bar. She shoots him down, but he’ll be back. He watches her leave and set Loman straight about sticking to their story during his IA interview. Yes, the ugly tie dude is FBI Agent Stahl. The next day, when Christina goes off to school and Santos to her IA interview, Stahl picks his way onto their apartment and goes through their things.

It’s everyone’s lucky day.

Santos reports to IA ready and delivers her well-crafted tale. IA trips her up a little on a detail, but he’s really just playing with her. Loman also does his bit to support their story and just like that, IA rules a clean shooting. Meanwhile, Detective Saperstein, another team member, gets a lead on their loose-end runner. A local drug heavy, Raul Mendez, has just beaten up, Earl, the runner’s girlfriend.

Woz puts Loman back on duty and sends Santos off to meet with a new “legit” bookie operating out of a food truck. Woz heads over to meet with Raul personally about his street justice. Mendez owns a mortuary business and has some sort of peaceful arrangement with Woz. As far as Woz is concerned, Mendez is the right kind of drug dealer. They operate under some sort of street treaty to contain the quality and spread of local narcotics. It’s win-win.

Santos gets caught.

Haim, the new food-truck bookie, is an undercover FBI agent and Santos is arrested shortly after accepting a bag of money from him. Agent Stahl is the guy running the sting on Santos. He has a nifty little file on her and she’s already looking at jail time, but he doesn’t want her. Stahl wants Woz and Santos is his number one pick to inform for him. He uses Christina as leverage, Santos would do anything for her, and now she’ll have to.

Stahl lets Santos go to Christina’s recital. Santos doesn’t cave right away, but it doesn’t take long for her to choose; between Woz and her child, her child wins.

And then Woz gets a lead on Earl.

Earl is fast on his feet and he outruns a few cops, but they’re all over him. Santos takes him down and Woz takes him for a ride. Earl shows Woz where the rest of the tainted drugs are but he can’t stop talking about wanting to talk to his lawyer. Earl says he saw the real shooting of Jamarr and he wants to tell his lawyer about it. Woz isn’t going to let that happen. He delivers Earl to Mendez who disposes of him for selling bad drugs on his route.

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Woz pays Christina’s tuition.

Santos receives a $10k check form Woz, enough to cover her daughter’s tuition. Stahl also has a gift for her. He has a necklace he took form their apartment outfitted with a camera/audio-transmitting device so he can start recording Santos’ actions.

First place Santos takes her little spy charm – the team’s cook out. At first it’s all happy end of day stuff until Woz receives a text on his phone. He pulls Santos into the garage for a private discussion; he’s all pissed off. He knows he has a rat on his team. He needs to identify and kill this traitor and the only person he really trusts to help him is Santos.

A look ahead.

If Woz trusts Santos to help him root out the disloyal party, we can look forward to learning more about the rest of her team. Some of them must be up to some interesting suspect behavior. Another interesting wrinkle is the investigator from IA. He has some secret side deal with Woz no one knows about and Woz wants to bring Santos in on it. He trusts her and the pay off could be significant.

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Eric lives in a world where the television is great, the smiles are warm, the pizza is hot, the puppies are playful, and the zombies are slow and meander while he reloads.

Twitter: @etom2012

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