is a drama about Brooklyn detectives who work together and operate as a big dysfunctional family. These cops are different from the typical police officers portrayed on television. They are not heroes, and they don’t just flirt with the line between right and wrong — they plow over it. The squad members have different, and compelling, reasons for making the decisions that they do.
The Plots Are Crazy
The plot twists will keep you dangling on the edge of your seat. Yes, they may be far-fetched but they will always keep you guessing. When single mother Harlee Santos (played by Jennifer Lopez) is set up for taking some protection money, FBI agent Robert Stahl wastes no time in forcing Harlee to snitch on her crew. The team’s leader, Matt Wozniak, has some secrets of his own. He is having an affair with a male internal affairs detective, without his wife’s knowledge. Wozniak also knows that someone on his team is a rat, and he kills the detective that he suspects is talking to the FBI. So long, Detective Saperstein!
When the crew becomes involved with an armored car heist at the behest of Wozniak’s lover, Harlee has a friend and ex-cop ram the car that she and Wozniak were riding in. This money is a way for Harlee to keep her daughter safe from Cristina’s abusive father. Harlee’s friend steals the millions of dollars while she and Wozniak are unconscious. Her friend brings the money to a safe house while Harlee joins Wozniak in a frenzied search for the money.
Stahl’s endgame isn’t locking up the dirty detectives — he uses Harlee to get to Wozniak, and demands that the duo get him incriminating information on a woman who used to be in the crew, Julia Ayres. Ayres is running for mayor, and Stahl thinks that she is responsible for his partner’s death. Oh, and did I mention that Stahl is so obsessed with Harlee that he pays prostitutes to answer to her name and wear a wig during steamy romps? Nothing creepy there, right?
There Are No Angels
Shades of Blue is never black or white, and it doesn’t deal with good versus evil. All the characters are richly drawn and all have flaws. Harlee is adept at lying to protect her family of fellow cops, and her 16-year-old daughter. Harlee eventually kills her abusive ex when he threatens their daughter Cristina, and disposes of his body by hiding it in Detective Saperstein’s coffin. She tells her daughter, and everyone else, that she paid Miguel to go away for good.
Marcus Tufo planned to use his money from the armored car heist to help his mother with her mortgage, yet has no problem doing whatever Wozniak says needs to be done. All the members of the unit are excellent liars, which I am sure is a bonus with their off-the-book activities.
Michael Loman, who is new to the squad, discovers quickly that being a cop doesn’t always mean adhering to the truth. When Loman and Harlee go to a suspected drug dealer’s apartment, Loman sees the man with a gaming controller playing a game with the audio sound of gunshots. Loman reacts and shoots and kills the man. Harlee covers it up and protects Loman, thereby creating a situation where Loman is in debt to her. She tells him that she has his back, and now he owes her one. Loman starts out feeling guilty about the situation, but he gradually discovers that there is no such thing as right and wrong.
Ray Liotta Kills It
Ray Liotta plays Wozniak as a man standing on a wire. One moment, he is sweet and emotional. The next, he sways to the other side, attempting to strangle Stahl or stabbing a knife into a plate of smiley-faced pancakes.
Wozniak loves his wife Linda, but he also enjoys drinking and is having an affair with another male detective. Wozniak even cheated on his wife with Julia Ayres.
When Wozniak breaks down sobbing in a confessional, talking about the details of his daughter’s suicide by prescription pills, his pain is palpable. Later, after finding two teenaged girls dead from drug overdoses, Wozniak locates the dealer. In interrogation, Wozniak forces the man to ingest several of the pills that he has been selling, and he stonily watches the man overdose.
Ray Liotta’s performance is mesmerizing. He is a man who can justify taking money from drug dealers to turn a blind eye, if the dealer stays in a certain zone. Wozniak thinks that his actions are justified because they somehow benefit the greater good, even if it is just the greater good of his squad’s bank accounts. Liotta makes you empathize with Wozniak because of all his demons and the death of his daughter, even though he is a calculated murderer.
A Window into a Cop’s Life
This series pulls no punches when it comes to showing the gritty lives of cops scraping to get by. No one is speeding around in a sports car, and even Jennifer Lopez is dressed down. The characters don’t live in mansions or well-appointed apartments. This squad happily takes in collections to help them get by financially. They are always worried about making their bills and providing for their families.
In Shades of Blue, nothing is quite what it seems. These cops are willing to do whatever it takes to protect their families, and their police family. It is raw, tough and seldom pretty — but it is the best cop drama on TV right now.
What do you think of Shades of Blue? Do you think that Stahl will give up on Harlee? Will anyone find out that Harlee killed Miguel? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
(Image courtesy of NBC)