Shades of Blue: Unforgiven – Game Changer (Review)

 Shades of Blue - Season 2

Season two of Shades of Blue starts off with a refresher on the events at the tail end of last season. Miguel, with that dramatic neck break courtesy of his ex, is now out of the picture and buried in the cemetery. Woz has settled into the role of Stahl’s dirty cop and Harlee is definitely unforgiven by her former boss and friend.

With Wozniak on the FBI agent’s side, he makes Harlee understand that there will be no forgiveness from his side ever. Woz explains that there will never be any level of trust between them again. Meanwhile he begins doing Stahl’s bidding in order to find out who the target really is.

Harlee burns the money she paid Miguel and tries to play both sides against the middle when learning that Stahl has no intention of letting her go. The FBI agent with the unhealthy fixation on Detective Santos goes after Gina the escort when he learns, from Woz, that his secret is out.

One theme that continues in this game changer season, where Woz is now the puppet on a string, is Harlee’s lying to Cristina about Miguel. Granted, the lie is a necessity since Santos snapped the ex-con’s neck like a brittle twig.

(It has to be said that this was one of the most satisfying moments in the first season and the recap, where they showed Miguel getting his just desserts once again was still a highpoint.)

Woz blames Harlee for his murder of Saperstein and turns everything around as he tries to make himself into the victim in this scenario.

Shades of Blue starts out of the gate without any of the errors apparent in season one. There are no continuity gaffes and the storyline manages to keep up the tension started in the series’ first outing.

Liotta continues to be spellbinding as the head of the dirty cop gang and Lopez may still be the best dressed detective on the NYPD’s rolls but the shift from stealing millions to setting up Julia Ayres as a target for Stahl loses nothing.

Warren Cole still manages to make Stahl disturbing, annoying and creepy as hell. This actor has tapped into something that makes his fixated FBI agent just this side of scary.  When the character handcuffs Gina to the radiator pipe in the room and tells the woman she will disappear, we feel her fear is justified.

When the local mobster is framed and arrested, he kills an underling right in front of Anna Gunn’s character. This seems to be a clear signal that death and murder will be just as prominent in the second season of the series.

It remains to be seen whether the show can maintain the tension and dance the same fine line as season one. Liotta’s character is, apparently, on a mission to punish Harlee while simultaneously going after Stahl. He may well wrest the show from Lopez this time around.

Shades of Blue airs Sundays on NBC.

Cast:

Guest starring Anna Gunn as Julia Ayres

Shades of Blue: One Last Lie – Miguel Makes an Exit (Review)

The season finale of Shades of Blue (One Last Lie) was a fitting end to the ongoing events, and an end to two characters.; Miguel and Donny Pomp.

 Shades of Blue - Season 1

The season finale of Shades of Blue (One Last Lie)  was a fitting end to the ongoing events, and an end to two characters.; Miguel and Donny Pomp.  Santos finally proved just how far she would go to protect Cristina, Woz showed how far he would go to take care of his honorary daughter Harlee and Loman has become part of the team at last.

While this episode could be said to be all about resolutions. it also showed just how far the boundaries of law can be stretched by those who enforce it.  James Nava (Gino Anthony Pesi) standing by as Harlee points a gun in Miguel’s face, Loman’s killing of Donny and then getting Woz to help cover it up, and Harlee taking out the abusive animal Miguel as he starts to orally rape her. 

Of course the ultimate rule-bender (and total arsehole) Stahl continued his misogynistic behavior by turning in Agent Chen after sleeping with her. Not for the sex act, but for exhibiting grief over the death of the kidnap victim.  (Hopefully Baker will see through the douchebag’s actions.)

Sidenote: It is a little difficult to feel too much sympathy for Chen (Annie Chang). She was, after all, the one who got Zepeda (Antonio Jaramillo) out of prison and back into Harlee’s life.  

Jennifer Lopez’s character was busier than a one-armed piccolo player as she struggled to bring everything together for one last attempt at protecting her crew.  Using the money as bait, along with offering up  Donny and Linklater in place of Woz, Harlee moved at a frantic pace.  Sadly, Donny dies at the hand of Loman (Dayo Okeniyi) and the DEA agent (whose name is not Linklater at all) has left the  country. 

Woz meets with Stahl and cuts his own deal. Unsurprisingly it turns out that Stahl (Warren Kole) rats on his mole to Wozniak.  Cristina (Sarah Jeffery) hears the truth from her mom finally and is distraught at being sent away for her own safety. 

It was surprising to see Loman be the one who took out Pomp. Woz clearly wanted to, but just as the newest member to the team was in the wrong place at the wrong time in the season open, Loman’s catching Donny at Woz’s house was like deja vu.

Shades of Blue - Season 1
The beginning of the end for Miguel

Standout Moments:

Santos breaking Miguel’s neck was a moment of supreme satisfaction.

Woz’s decision to take the fall for his “daughter” was one of those “tissue box moments” that was ultimately saved by Harlee’s realization of the CCTV footage of Stahl.

The fight between Loman and Donny.

Ray Liotta.

Final Thoughts:

That footage of Stahl had been shoved to the back burner after Miguel found the tablet in Harlee’s closet.  Now that she has finally remembered the evidence (we think) there is a firm memory of Zepeda’s gloating face as he watched Stahl misbehave.  When the next season starts, it is a sure thing that the CCTV footage will be nigh-on impossible to find.

It is interesting that the one person who managed to lie to everyone, Harlee Santos,  has managed to have apparently gotten off.  Woz has offered himself up as sacrificial lamb to save Harlee, and provides for Cristina’s college education. Cristina tells Miguel how scary good her mother is at lying, and the teenager is right.

Not only is Santos good at manipulating people;  Stahl, Woz, Neva and Loman, for example, but the woman can think on her feet. Witness the story she told Loman about the heist.  This gift, however, could be a result of cause and effect.

Harlee, as an abused partner, would have learned to lie quickly and convincingly for a number of reasons. Whether to keep Miguel from “speed-bagging” her or to keep friends and family from learning of the abuse, it would have become a survival mechanism.  It would also be a difficult habit to break.

So Shades of Blue ends on a cliff-hanger times two. Miguel lies dead at Harlee’s feet and Woz is about to be arrested by Stahl.  However…

Shades of Blue - Season 1
Desperate fight between Donny and Loman.

This is a show that runs on lies and subterfuge.  Loman, whose entire new career is built on a colossal lie, made an appointment with Captain McManus.  Later he apparently becomes a full-fledged member of Woz’s bent cops.

Or has he.

Great performances all around here. Liotta, a veritable powerhouse has ruled this show, but Lopez has delivered above and beyond, considering that glam appearance and catwalk wardrobe she sported. It is a cinch the come Emmy time, somebody should be getting a gong or two.

NBC have a winner on its hands and Shades of Blue will be back.

 

Shades of Blue: For I Have Sinned – Harlee Does the Twist (Review)

Shades of Blue: For I Have Sinned picks up where last week’s episode ended. Loman stumbling onto the rest of “his team” robbing an armored truck and sparking off a shoot-out. Before the episode ends, Harlee is revealed to have done a twist that would make Chubby Checker proud and Woz explains his backstory.

Shades of Blue - Season 1

Shades of Blue: For I Have Sinned picks up where last week’s episode ended. Loman stumbling onto the rest of “his team” robbing an armored truck and sparking off a shoot-out. Before this episode ends, Harlee is revealed to have done a twist that would make Chubby Checker proud and Woz explains his backstory.

Stahl is not pleased to arrive after the NYPD and find the crime scene empty except for Loman (Dayo Okeniyi), a dead body and the empty truck. The FBI agent arrests Loman to make him talk but the detective will not budge from his story.

Tess and Joaquin are taken to be treated by Saperstein’s old friend Dr. Isaiah (Peter Jay Fernandezby Tufo and Carlos while Woz and Harlee take the money in the car.  Stahl can feel his sting getting away from him and Chen is upset at the death of the kidnapped husband.

Woz is concerned that Loman will give them up and Santos tells him that Michael will not break.  In mid argument the car is hit and the vehicle rolls landing on its roof. The money is taken  and Woz misses the tracker busily beeping next to the car.

As Isaiah prepares to work on the two wounded in the church, Woz and Harlee head to a local pharmacy to get patched up and rent the pharmacist’s vehicle.  Wozniak believes Donnie took the money and Linklater phones to pass on some threats.

The DEA agent arranges a meet at a local Chinese restaurant.  Dr. Isaiah works on Joaquin while Carlos digs for the bullet in Tess’s shoulder.

Tess: “Just stop poking around at everything except the bullet!”

At the meeting Linklater and Wozniak exchange threats and the agent shows he has pictures of Harlee and Woz with the kidnap victim.  Stahl tries to push Loman to tell the truth that the FBI agent needs to hear.

Shades of Blue - Season 1
Harlee and Woz at the pharmacy.

Baker is not pleased with Stahl but Chen (Annie Chang) relates that Linklater went back to work.  Linda and Cristina flee to a hotel and Stahl stops by the murdered club owners business and verifies Loman’s story. Harlee turns up as Baker is talking to Stahl and says she needs to see her handler.

Stahl is angry with Harlee about the wire not recording anything. Woz questions Joaquin, with a knife, and the wounded man gives answers.  He reveals that Royce was not supposed to kill the old man and Donnie set up the former marine. Pomp then ordered Joaquin to kill Royce.

Santos learns that Donnie slit the kidnapped man’s throat.  She also learns that Stahl lied about immunity for her crew as “Linklater” is brought into the bureau. She tells Baker and Stahl that the man they have is not Linklater.

Joaquin has to be taken to the hospital. Harlee explains that the real Linklater gave them 24 hours to get the missing money. Saving her crew from immediate arrest.  Woz asks Santos to check in on Linda and Crista.  Woz comforts Joaquin on the way to the hospital. The wounded man dies as they arrive.

Cristina asks her mother for the truth and catches her in another lie about Miguel and reveals to Harlee that she knows her father was exonerated.  Harlee explains that she cannot tell Crista anything and that she loves her “more than my life.”

Loman replays what Harlee told him at the crime scene, that Donnie Pomp ordered them to rob the truck and they did it to protect  Michael. Donnie, she says, knows that Loman shot the drug dealer in cold blood. The detective then calls the precinct and asks to talk to the captain.

A tearful Harlee leaves a message to Crista on her laptop and Woz talks about his daughter’s suicide after they had an  argument.  As he reveals what triggered her death and why he began his drug operations, Tufo and Carlos bury Joaquin.

Harlee’s message to Cristina ends with her saying that everything she did was for her and Cristina calls Miguel.  Woz stops his confession early because, ” I have a couple more people I need to hurt.”

Santos meets with Caddie, who has the money, and she tells her accomplice that now they can call the shots.

Shades of Blue has delivered one heck of a twist in its penultimate episode.  Harlee’s taking of the money follows on from her idea of skimming earlier but that was to pay off Miguel.  Now she has the full amount Santos can stop being the victim of Stahl.  It is uncertain where this will go now that she is in charge and with only one episode left in the season, it may next season  before her plans are revealed.

Ray Liotta killed it in this episode as Woz moved between tough as nails cop to broken hearted father.  In between his character emoted enough compassion to guarantee a nod at the next Emmys.  Lopez was no slouch either although her range of emotions was not quite so impressive.

Shades of Blue - Season 1
Stahl and Harlee

Performances aside, the plot has  moved in a completely unexpected direction and it looks like Harlee may make Stahl sweat for a change.  It is interesting to note that the feds seem to be far more upset about the money than the murder of the kidnap victim.

Sidenote: The scene in the Chinese restaurant where both Liotta and Stephen Lang beat their chests and roar at one another was brilliant.  There was enough machismo and testosterone in the air to make a bullfight seem tame in comparison. Although one would have assumed that the extras in the background might have reacted a little to the ire-filled atmosphere and loud posturing….

Shades of Blue finishes its  first season next Thursday on NBC. It will be interesting to see where Harlee goes next with her Chubby Checker impression.

 

Shades of Blue: The Breach – All Fall Down (Review)

Shades of Blue: The Breach brings all the build up to a head and the robbery goes down but is interrupted by a shocked and angry Loman. Harlee discovers the depth of Stahl’s deception and depravity and Miguel starts working at Cristina in earnest causing a rift between mother and daughter.

Shades of Blue - Season 1

Shades of Blue: The Breach brings all the build up to a head and the robbery goes down but is interrupted by a shocked and angry Loman. Harlee discovers the depth of Stahl’s deception and depravity and Miguel starts working at Cristina in earnest causing a rift between mother and daughter.

As the countdown to the armored car heist begins, Harlee and Woz both are caught up in last minute issues. Wozniak (Ray Liotta) spots a woman that he believes is Santos coming out of Stahl’s apartment with the FBI agent escorting her out of the building. Woz rushes up to the car and sees that the woman just resembles Harlee. Alarm bells go off in the cop’s head.

Santos tracks down Miguel and offers to pay him off to leave her and Cristina alone.  The armor car robbery is ready to start. Tufo and Carlos learn that Joaquin (Michael Drayer) was one of two men who wanted to buy Royce’s club and that he was there when the club owner  was murdered. 

Tufo starts finding pieces that do not fit in reference to the backstory on Sap’s death.  He mentions the immunity document was signed two weeks previously. Harlee is not happy, as that was not the deal.

Woz tracks down the escort who looks like Santos and learns of Stahl using the woman as  a Harlee substitute. Loman is sent to question Joaquin solo as the rest of the team are ready to start the job.

Woz reveals Stahl’s little sex games with the escort, who he calls Harlee, to Santos. She returns home and watches the rest of the hidden camera footage and learns that Woz did not exaggerate. She also finds that Stahl  never called Baker to get the rest of her crew immunity.

Shades of Blue - Season 1
Harlee catching Stahl in the act.

Stahl (Warren Kole) arrives to plant the wire on Harlee. She tells the agent that he murdered Saperstein by changing the date on the paperwork. Miguel is in the house listening to the entire exchange. Stahl reveals that he never asked for immunity for her crew either.

The robbery plan proceeds and after Santos leaves her apartment Miguel grabs the tablet with the Stahl footage. Loman goes to question Joaquin and learns he is on a route. The cop decides to follow.  Harlee goes to Caddie (Michael Laurence) for help.

Caddie goes above and beyond and teaches Santos how to disable  a van. Chen is antsy about picking up the kidnap victims. The crew meet for the job and Loman is following the truck they intend to rob.

The sabotaged van breaks down and Harlee urges the team to stand down, allowing her the chance to skim off the shipment of cash.  When the van stops Baker calls for Chen to rescue the kidnap victim. She moves in with her team and finds the man dead; his throat has been cut by Pomp.

Woz and Harlee have a heart-to-heart about Miguel and he promises to sort Zepeda out if the money does not work.  They talk about Santos lying to Cristina and he tells her to confess and beg for forgiveness, “I won’t get it,” Harlee says sadly. Is she talking about Crista or Woz?  It seems her response   could apply to both.

Tufo, Carlos and Tess manage to arrive at the drop-off in a rented car.

Loman (Dayo Okeniyi) arrives just after Woz and Harlee start the “pretend” robbery. The cop calls for immediate back up “robbery in progress.” 

Tufo recognizes Joaquin from the club and the guard grasps the handle of his gun. The cop tells Woz that the guard was at the club when Randy Royce was murdered, things escalate and Loman shows up; badge and gun showing.

Shades of Blue - Season 1
Loman steps in.

Joaquin takes advantage of the interruption to pull his weapon and fire. Woz shoots him and his driver.

Tess is shot and Harlee rushes to her side leaving Loman and Woz who knows it has all fallen down, the job and his sideline. Looking off camera he mutters, “Ah sh*t.”

This episode of Shades of Blue managed to crack along at a incredible pace. If there were any continuity or editing gaffes this week they were missed due to the tension and the suspense of the episode.

At long last Santos knows about Stahl’s unhealthy obsession with her but it looks as though, when the dust settles, that the footage may be with Miguel.  There are two episodes left in this season. Plenty of time for Cristina to start siding with her father and for the FBI deal to fall apart for everyone.

Shades of Blue airs Thursdays on NBC.

Shades of Blue: What Devil Do – Miguel Makes a Move (Review)

Last week in Shades of Blue Woz got caught in a steamy kiss with Donnie Pomp, his lover and in What Devil Do, Harlee is still struggling to deal with the reveal.

Shades of Blue - Season 1

Last week in Shades of Blue Woz got caught in a steamy kiss with Donnie Pomp, his lover and in What Devil Do, Harlee is still struggling to deal with the reveal. Miguel was released last week by Agent Chen, who may or may not have a hidden agenda for that move, and Miguel starts making his presence known to Santos and Cristina.

Shortly after the kiss, Harlee and Wozniak head to a laundromat, the owner pays for protection, to roust a homeless guy. The two arrive to find a man in a BDU jacket attacking a dryer with a bent mop handle. As he shouts at the machine, the cops call for backup and move in.

The man is a former marine and Woz, also being Simper Fi, puts the dryer attacker in the drunk tank to dry out. The Vet  believes he killed someone the night before during his blackout as he has on new shoes.  Another precinct’s cops  arrive to pick up the marine and arrest him for murder.

Santos takes an evidence bag out to the other detective and talks to the accused man.

Harlee: “You seem more and more sure that you killed that man…”

Marine: “I’ve been to war…We’re all capable of just about anything.”

As the suspect is put in the police car, Harlee spots Miguel across the street reading a paper. A bus passes by and he disappears. Santos follows him but loses him in the subway.  Nava finally gets in touch with Harlee and confirms that her old boyfriend Zepeda (Antonio Jaramillois out of prison.

Santos calls Cristina (Sarah Jefferyto tell her that Miguel is out. The girl still believes that Zepeda is not her father and this will later come back to bite Harlee in the butt. After he call to Cristina, Miguel shows up and also confirms he is out and that he wants to see his daughter.

Woz follows up on the marine accused of murder and he, Loman and Tufo question people in the area. Loman is told to speak to a dancing homeless man, as a joke. Harlee confronts Nava only to learn he had nothing to do with Miguel’s release and Donnie sets up a meet for his lover with the guy in charge of the heist.

The old man Loman questions, Moses, actually saw the murder and he tells Woz  and Harlee that the dead man “Father Time” was killed by the devil who hit him with a whacking stick. The old man reveals that he sees the devil everyday on the bus, number B-1-2.

Stahl figures out that Chen got Miguel released. He confronts her and the two argue, Stahl is not happy and he leaves Molly on stakeout.  Woz explains that the job Donnie is proposing is not what was initially on the table.  He also puts Tess and Espada on the bus with Moses to find the devil.

Shades of Blue - Season 1
Antonio Jaramillo as Miguel Zepeda…Got that Benicio del Toro thing going on.

Santos meets with Stahl and accuses him or his partner of turning Miguel loose. Stahl lies about Chen saying she is afraid of her own shadow. Harlee asks for another wire.  She suggests going to Stahl’s place for a replacement. He agrees and leaves instructions for her to call him if the meet happens before she gets the new wire.

After the FBI agent leaves Woz calls and tells Harlee to go to the address he is texting her. It is about the “face-to-face” meeting .

Moses spots the devil and after Tess and Carlos hop off the bus, guns drawn, they learn it is the owner of The Kink Club a model named Royce. Tufo and Loman learn that the man on the poster owns the club and had beef with another building owner on the street; the dead guy.

Donnie is at the meet and he is not pleased to see Santos tagging along. He threatens to cancel the face-to-face.  Woz closes him down by reminding Donnie that he is not in charge. Harlee is amused:

“Feed a monster…better hope he doesn’t get bigger than you…”

She moves after Woz to attend the meeting.  They see a familiar face, Joaquin; the delivery guy who dropped off the kidnap victim, who turns out to be Donnie’s nephew.  The man in charge is Linklater (Stephen Lang); a DEA agent whose father was friends with Pomp’s father.

Linklater explains that the money in the security van belongs to the DEA as evidence and the amount  is $12 million.  Woz pushes for equal shares and gets it. $3 million for each member of his crew. After the meeting  Harlee speaks with Cristina who complains about over protection and Santos promises to ease up when the Miguel thing is sorted. 

Woz puts the job to the vote and all his crew agree to take part. He tells Donnie that the crew is in and Pomp reveals the the Vet has confessed to the dumpster murder. Woz is not happy. Miguel stops by Harlee’s apartment to see Cristina. Zepeda tells the girl that he was let go because he is innocent.

Zepeda learns that Harlee has told Cristina that he is not her father. Tufo and Loman go to The Kink Club to arrest Royce. As they head to the back office Joaquin passes them. The two cops kick in the door and find the murderer dead; hanging with a bag around his head.

Santos tells Stahl about the heist that is happening the next day and that it’s worth $12 million. She then tells Stahl to change the plea deal to include her crew. The agent goes in the next room to “talk” to his boss, Baker.

Miguel tricks Harlee, over the phone, into revealing the lie about his not being Cristina’s father. At the end of the episode, Cristina is standing in front of her father and Harlee faces Stahl in his apartment. The title’s meaning becomes clear, “What devil do you choose.”

The two Santos women are in the same predicament, it is not just about Harlee’s decision to “surrender” to Stahl, but Cristina’s choice to approach her dad.

Shades of Blue follows through with a number of storylines in this episode.  Stahl’s displeasure at Chen’s actions and Woz’s tightrope act, as well as the heist hovering around in the background and of course the lie about Cristina’s parentage.

Things look likely to heat up quickly with the robbery to take place “tomorrow.”  Warren Kole continues to be the creepiest “good guy” ever and one wonders if he is in league with the cold as ice Linklater.  It is also apparent that Pomp and Linklater have their own agenda and the murder of Royce is puzzling.

Shades of Blue airs Thursdays on NBC. This procedural thriller has taken on wings.  Tune in and soar a little.