Shades of Blue: Equal & Opposite – Woz, Sex and Huge Appetites (Review)

Shades of Blue: Equal & Opposite begins with the Woz’s crew participating in warrant day and one of the outstanding fugitives chased down has a car trunk full of heroin.

Shades of Blue - Season 1

Shades of Blue: Equal & Opposite begins with  Woz’s crew participating in warrant day and one of the outstanding fugitives chased down has a car trunk full of heroin. Before the end of the episode, sex becomes a factor for more than one character and Matt reveals to Raul Mendez that he has huge appetites and no hangups concerning his bisexuality.

At the end of the episode Woz is still looking for his rat, but Raul Mendez is sorted.  Matt uses the drug dealer’s homophobia against him removing any power that the funeral director felt he had over Woz.  Mendez is also removed from the city and placed in Philly by the new dealer in the neighborhood.

Tufo  spots a tail while waiting for his partner Saperstein; who is getting language lessons from a Brazilian hooker.  Donny Pomp has members of Internal Affairs watching Woz’s crew in an attempt to find the rat. Harlee informs Stahl who steps in and tells Pomp to back off.

Harlee keeps stringing Stahl along with partial information and complains to her handler’s boss about what she sees (rightly) as stalker type behavior.   In the meantime, Santos discovers her daughter’s secret boyfriend and loses the plot a little.  The detective also calls in a favor from her old trainer, Caddie who she springs from jail a week early.

Shades of Blue - Season 1
Harlee aggressively questions the “boyfriend.”

The former cop/trainer sets up surveillance at Stahl’s place before shooting up again and Harlee just misses learning just how inappropriate her handler’s interest is in her.

Woz, on top of his issues with Raul pushing boundaries,  catches Trish in bed with Espada.  Matt is understandably upset, but at least he realizes that this is why Nazario has been acting “sketchy” and not because she is the rat.  Woz tells Trish that:

“Men are dogs.”

After his little talk to Nazario, he tells her to stop the affair with her partner. Harlee gives her daughter a chance to come clean about the boyfriend and Cristina opts to continue the lie.  Trish and Espada talk after Woz caught them together and she tells her partner that Woz was right, men are dogs.

Santos believes that Stahl has placed a bug in her house and after checking does not find any evidence to support her suspicions.  She misses the FBI agent telling a $500 an hour escort that he will be calling her “Harlee,” during their “date.”

This episode opens things up with many of the characters. Ray Liotta as Woz reveals layers and his   crooked bisexual cop shows that he is not afraid to use sex to destroy the opposition. When Raul Mendez attempts to use Matt’s sexual preferences against him, Woz turns the tables and destroys the drug dealer.

Jennifer Lopez, as Harlee Santos, continues to work through that “glamour” issue and Warren Kole is spot on as the stalker-y douche who really does have an  inappropriate interest in his mole.

Shades of Blue - Season 1
Warren Kole as FBI Agent Stahl…

Shades of Blue has gotten darker with the reveal that Stahl rehearses in front of a mirror before his hooker arrives in order to sound “natural” and Woz has his drug dealer forcibly”sodomized” by his replacement (and video-taped)  as punishment for his homophobic attack on the crooked cop.

This series has tightened up a good deal since starting and while Lopez may still be too gorgeous to convince visually as a cop, she plays her part with a truth that takes away from the glamour factor. The question of just how much the crew instigate for the “greater good” is too far outside the law.

Mad props to the other crew members of Woz’s little gang. Drea de Matteo, as Trish, has managed to bring her character back from the edge of “crazy” that threatened to destroy the woman desperate to save her marriage and Hampton Fluker is spot on as Marcus Tofu, the jokey cop who never knows when to leave it alone. 

Shades of Blue steps into dark sexual territory in this episode. Stahl is seen preparing to feed his appetite (for Harlee via proxy). Woz is seen to be a voracious bisexual and apparently Cristina is active with the secret boyfriend.  Sex is also used as a weapon against Raul.

This drama airs Thursdays on NBC. Tune in and see where this series heads next and just how dark things will turn.

Shades of Blue: Shades of Irony (Review)

For a new series “written on spec” by Adi Hasak, Shades of Blue is not bad. The pilot could be referred to as “Shades of Irony,” as Hasak’s opening salvo ladles the irony on pretty heavily.

Shades of Blue - Season 1

For a new series “written on spec” by Adi Hasak, Shades of Blue is not bad. The pilot could be referred to as “Shades of Irony,” as Hasak’s opening salvo ladles the irony on pretty heavily. Starring Jennifer Lopez and Ray Liotta, “Blue” is about “crooked” cops who do so for the “greater good.”

And the extra money for things like putting your only child through an expensive school.

From the very start we learn that not only does Harlee Santos (Lopez) think fast on her feet, the cop never hesitates to falsify a crime scene. Granted she does this  to protect her rookie partner Michael Loman (Dayo Okeniyi) but Santos never misses a beat in setting up a scenario that will clear her partner of murder.

First Ironic Moment:

As Santos urges a young girl away from the apartment that she and her partner are about to enter, two shots are heard behind the closed door. Loman is heard to kick in the door and fire twice. Harlee comes in and finds a dead man on the sofa, with an Xbox controller slipping from his lifeless hand.

Immediately the senior cop starts explaining “what happened.” As she finds a gun, that was in a bag with heroin on a coffee table, Santos sets up the “scene” and shoots Loman with no warning.

The irony is pretty heavy in this first set up. A lesson to would-be heroin dealers, do not play a First Person Shooter on your Xbox with the volume cranked to top decibels.  As the two cops survey the room, and the newly dead guy on the sofa, the game states:

“You’re dead. You’re dead. You’re dead.”

The script tries to be topical and modern.  Santos is seen at the start doing a video diary entry where she begins the pilot explaining how things went wrong.  Very modern day and this does beat the old fashioned “voice over” narrative of most shows.

As one reviewer mentioned, this is not new territory. Michael Chiklis and his gang of cops broached  similar legal issues  in The Shield (2002 – 2008). More recently, on TNT, Public Morals, a personal project that  Edward Burns created and starred in, was a period cop piece where a lot of 1960s police officers walked that fine line for “the greater good,” aka controlled chaos on the streets.

Granted, neither of the aforementioned cop shows had Jennifer Lopez or Ray Liotta. Both these stars are returning to their television roots for this NBC police drama.  Both Ray and Jennifer started on TV and each have returned occasionally.

Back to the pilot of Shades of Blue,  an enormous amount of irony is evident in the first hour of this new series. Santos gets a guilt-ridden Loman through his first accidental shooting only to be caught out by an FBI sting operation. (Technically this could count as “ironic moment number two, but hey ho.) To further complicate the implications of being “owned” by the FBI,  Santos’ boss, Matt “Woz”  Wozniack (Liotta) takes out the dead man’s partner to save his “family” member Harlee.

Shades of Blue - Season 1
Harlee Santos (Lopez) going for the “save” and failing

Second Ironic Moment:

Once Harlee agrees to set up her boss Woz, he then turns over the “loose end” of Earl, who knows that Michael Loman killed his drug partner, to the drug pusher that he, Wozniack controls. Woz tells Earl, before letting him out to meet his death:

“For the greater good Earl. I protect and serve it.”

Sidenote: It has to be noted that after repeated viewing of the second of the Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg cornetto trilogy; “Hot Fuzz,” the phrase “the greater good” always manages to evoke a chuckle or two.

Once again, irony rears its omnipresent head as we see Woz protecting the woman who is now working as a “rat” for the feds. (A scene later has Harlee’s boss excitedly revealing that he knows there is a rat in his group and he is not happy.)

Third Ironic Moment:

After yelling that he needs to kill the rat, Woz tells Santos that he wants her to help as:

“You’re the only one I trust.”

To be fair to show creator Hasak, and to NBC, this is a storyline that has been around for years. From Joseph Wambaugh’s many tales of cops and their various peccadilloes  to ensemble pieces like Hill Street Blues, television is full of cops who walk that line, some more than others.

In this new series we have a familial type of cop group where all “work” the street to keep drugs away from the schools and to keep juvenile and violent crime stats down.  On top of this “doing good for the community” there are the requisite paybacks and under-the-table bribes that enable the police under Woz’s leadership to improve their lot in life.

Lopez is good in this small screen exercise in irony. Shades of Blue may have the star looking a little too glam, but hey, this is Jenny From the Block.  Even without makeup and a more “realistic” hairdo, Lopez is going to look “high end.”

Shades of Blue - Season 1

Liotta kills it.

The rest of the cast are capable and manage to impress in varying degrees, despite some not having a lot of screen time. Sarah Jeffery (who just recently impressed in ABCs Wayward Pines) plays Harlee’s daughter Cristina and she impresses in this series as well. Warren Kole is the FBI agent who pulls Harlee’s strings and Dayo Okeniyi is Michael Loman, who Harlee helps out and Drea de Matteo is Tess Nazario, a fellow cop who believes her husband is cheating on her. 

This new crime drama looks to be pretty interesting, at least on par with other shows on offer at the moment. Shades of Blue is more focussed on what it wants to be than, say, Quantico and while the storyline may not be overly original, it does have at least one powerhouse actor (Liotta) in the cast.

The series airs Thursdays on NBC and if the pilot is anything to go by, it will be entertaining and chock full of irony.