Television Review: Dark Blue, "Pilot"
by R.J. Carter
Published: July 13, 2009
TNT's latest drama series, Dark Blue, is a curious blend of NYPD Blue meets The Unit. The Practice's Dylan McDermott stars as Lt. Carter Shaw, a cop with a tragic past that drives him in his revenge-fueled crusade against the underworld as he leads a tiny, undercover task force that's so off the radar that even the FBI has to hunt for their connection to being an actual police entity.
The pilot episode sets into motion the suspicion that one of Shaw's deep cover officers has gone so deep undercover that he may actually have crossed over. When FBI agents review video footage of one of their own left for dead by the mob, the tape includes a shot of officer Dean Bendis (The O.C.'s Logan Marshall-Green) on the scene. Dean has recently ceased all transmissions back to Shaw, including turning off his GPS tracking transponder, forcing Shaw to send out newlywed Ty Curtis (Saved's Omari Hardwick) back into the field, using a previously burned cover identity. Shaw also finds an opportunity to expand the ranks by recruiting a rookie patrol cop, Jaimie Allen (Supernatural's Nicki Aycox), based on her ability to so completely cover up her personal history.
The main bad guy in this episode is played by James Russo ("Public Enemies"), and -- like Dean -- we sit by and watch as he tortures an FBI undercover agent as well as shoots one of his own men. As the story progresses, the audience is led to believe that Dean has, indeed, gone to the dark side, then made to believe he's always been a good guy, and finally left wondering just where his allegiance lies. As the show says, "How long can you pretend to be something before you become it?"
With movie producer and CSI bigwig Jerry Bruckheimer on board as an executive producer and a peach premiere spot right after the caper series Leverage, TNT has sunk a lot of capital into getting this series off the ground, including a pre-debut marathon of classic noir undercover cop films like "Bullets or Ballots," "White Heat," "The Undecover Man," and "The Mob." Dark Blue has the distinction of having edgier action than most cop dramas on television these days, but it also has made the questionable choice of going yet again with the "man with a grudge" as character development in the form of Carter Shaw, which has simply been used to death. Making up for that, however, is that the FBI agents who drive the subplot of the pilot are more than mere cardboard cutouts of ineptitude as too often happens in police procedurals, but are actually fully-realized and exceptionally bright, making them a very believable foil for Shaw and his crew.
Dark Blue premieres Wednesday, July 15, 10|9c on TNT.