Shades of Blue s1 ep 7

Yup, it’s finally time for us to review the long-awaited (by Jed and I, anyway), much-anticipated (ditto) but now-it’s-actually-on-we’re-kind-of-bored-with-it corrupt cop procedural, Shades of Blue.

Or #DetectiveJLo, as it’s formally known at Unpopcult HQ.

Showbiz icon Jennifer Lopez herself plays Det. Harlee Santos, right-hand woman to boss Ray Liotta’s Lt Wozniak; their tight-knit unit uses “extra-curriculars” to keep order on the streets – a protection racket for local businesses, safe zone arrangements with local drug dealers, that type of thing – which turns out to be a very effective, and lucrative form of team-building. Till Harlee’s caught by the Feds and forced to turn “rat” by the obsessive, difficult Agent Stahl (Det Trent from Stalker!!!) or risk going to jail and losing her blessed daughter Christina, that is.

A relatively simple choice for Harlee, you might think, except that a) she loves her buddies and doesn’t want to be a rat; b) Woz already suspects there’s one on the team and is ready to, er, exterminate them; and c) there’s a Terrible Secret (of the Guilt, rather than the Pain variety) in her past which means that, if he goes down, he’s very probably taking her and the house of cards she’s built for the precious Christina with him.

It’s all trying very hard to be dark and murky – as far as it can be within Network TV constraints, anyway – so there are some clever ideas, and plenty of sleazy, satisfyingly nasty shocks every week. A lot of care has been taken with characterisation as well, with considerable effort put into giving every single character a distinct personality, rather than just the leads. The difficulty, however, is almost all these personalities suck.

JLo and the most impressive hairdo on tv – this is not just big hair, it’s big hair with such purpose and intent that it’s practically a character in its own right – are terrific, but I find myself getting less sympathetic and more irritated with the conflicted Harlee as the weeks roll on and the lies trip off her tongue. Be a rat, or don’t be a rat, girlfriend, but decide one way or the other. And stop crying about it.

Ray Liotta, meanwhile, is terrifying as the unexpectedly complicated Woz, and Warren Kole as Agent Stahl switches from sympathetic (there’s the Secret Pain!) to psychotic a lot more successfully and believably than his one-time love rival Stalker Jack did. It’s a brave decision on the part of the writers to make his crush on Harlee incredibly creepy and unnerving – he gropes her, secretly films her and names prostitutes after her – rather than cute or noble, but it’s very confusing when I’m looking for someone, anyone, to like or ship or even feel remotely good about.

The rest of the characters aren’t exactly sun time fun time, either. The huge amount of screen time given to Loman, the rookie, in the first few eps is an exercise in endurance more than anything else, since he’s an idiot. Tess, the other woman in the team, forever whining about her failing marriage and thumping everyone except her cheating husband because of it, is both exceptionally dull and a useless police officer. Her partner Escada’s too busy being in love with her to do anything else, including his job. The Princess Christina exists solely so that Harlee and Woz can wring their hands and say everything they do, they do it for her. Self-styled love machine Tufo is ok, yes, if you ignore the sexist jerk side of his personality, but that’s a medium-sized if. Which means the only really likeable characters are the aptly-named Sap, who’s not only called that but is one (so he obviously isn’t making it to the end of the season), and the sweet, decent ADA James Nava who tries to hide his hotness under a beard, but can’t hide it from me. I see you, James Nava! I see you. Not as much as I’d like to, though. Could you not have some of Loman’s screen time instead?

Having said all that, though, while #DetJLo isn’t exactly an unqualified success, the combination of impressive performances, interesting ideas and magnificent hair has kept me watching this long. And fear of missing out – I mean, what if James Nava shaves?! – may well keep me watching, if not necessarily reviewing, till the end of this season at least. Will it bring me back for season 2, though? Hmm. We shall see.

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5 thoughts on “Shades of Blue s1 ep 7

  1. Jed Bartlet September 1, 2016 / 11:38 pm

    I want to like this more than I actually do, because I admire its ambition and its seriousness of purpose. Unfortunately, though, I think those are the main problems. It’s a network show which isn’t quite gritty and complex enough to be a cable show, but nowhere near silly enough to be a fun cop show. I’ll keep watching until the end of this season, but I don’t expect to come back.

    Jennifer Lopez is really good, I think: she’s a good-looking woman and there’s no need for the show to pretend otherwise, but she’s a proper screen presence as well, and the show hasn’t decided that she’s undercover in Vice or some other reason to have her strut around in crop-tops. I’m not as sold as you on the hipster DA, mind you.

    And I agree about Stahl’s fixation on Harlee. It would have been easy to have him “fall in love with her” while “protecting her”, but they’ve made it something much nastier than that. The bit where he got the sex worker to pretend to be called Harlee – ew.

    The best bit, of course, was when Stahl got Harlee to wear that piece of jewellery with a concealed camera in order to record Woz without him knowing. And so, in a very real sense, he was being fooled by the rocks that she’s got.

    • CJ Cregg September 1, 2016 / 11:44 pm

      “… he was being fooled by the rocks that she’s got”

      *Stands up and applauds*

  2. Kay20 September 2, 2016 / 12:23 am

    CJ, this is exactly how I feel about this show. And I don’t know what to do with Stahl either!!!!

    • CJ Cregg September 6, 2016 / 8:15 pm

      Have you reached the ep after this one yet Kay? Without wanting to spoil it, it’s the one where the team go after cops who beat up the precious Christina’s boyfriend. That was the least interesting thing in it, but the rest of the ep (8) was the best so far to my mind – I thought it was very compelling, whereas a few of the previous ones have been something of a slog.

      • Kay20 September 6, 2016 / 9:28 pm

        I have CJ! I’m almost done with the season, only one episode left. The last few episodes IMO are MUCH better and have way more action as you’ve noted. Even Loman’s plot comes back around in the form of something that happens to his character.

        Basically the stakes get racheted up and the show is better for it.

        And Stahl continues to be creepy.

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