The summer hasn’t been kind for new TV shows. To honest, I haven’t really liked anything that has premiered this summer. The only new show I have kept up with is Gang Related. A Undercover detective drama. Gang Related follows the Detective Lopez, portrayed by Ramon Rodriguez. Ryan is a member of an elite Los Angeles gang task force, but Ryan has ties to one of the most notorious gangs. Ryan’s parents died when he was young, and this gang raised him as one of these own. To protect the family he was go undercover in the LAPD. Ryan has to walk the fine line between doing his job and making sure his surrogate family stays out of harms way.
The premise isn’t new and the setting isn’t unique, but it did seem to have a chip on it’s shoulder. Gang Related is still two episodes shy of completing it’s first season, don’t worry this outlook will be spoiler free. Hit the jump to learn more.
Gang Related starts off with a pretty good pilot episode. If you’ve seen enough cop dramas, you know this is not a new plot line. Undercover dramas tend to be more big screens affairs, but none the less you are familiar. So the show definitely needed to hit the ground running, and the pilot episode successful does that. All the major players get good enough introductions, and somethings happen that I honestly didn’t expect. At least not so early. The action sequences are probably the only universally good thing about the show. So far they’ve always managed to get some unique elements involved in these scenes: Flame throwers, Submarines, Sledgehammers and even tacos.
Most of the dramatic tension comes from Ryan. It’s apparent Ryan actually enjoys being a cop, this makes it interesting. He isn’t just strictly undercover for the sake of his gang affiliation. He served two tours in Iraq, and is apart of the elite gang task force because well… he is elite. He doesn’t seem to be fueled by greed or power. He just wants to make the streets safer, and look out for the people who raised him when he was down and out. The family has a desire to eventually quit the drug life and go “legitimate”. It’s a lofty goal that Ryan really gets behind. At times he can be uncompromising, the family would need him to do something, and he’ll refuse on the basis that it’ll do the community or his fellow officers more harm than good. Normally characters like this are perfect example of Anti-Heros, but Ryan’s character still remains a hero, he just happens to look the other way from time to time.
While I think the take on the main character is refreshing. He doesn’t achieve this alone. He is surrounded by a very excellent cast. Lost alumni Terry O’Quinn plays Sam Chapel head of the task force, and Cliff Curtis plays Javier Acosta the head of gang Ryan protects “Los Angelicos”. Some other good names round out the cast: Fast & Furious Alumni Sung Kang, Jay Hernandez, Emilo Rivera and even the RZA, who isn’t great but he isn’t bad. Side Note…why does RZA’s IMDB profile picture look like something you put up on Instagram or Facebook? Just thought I’d mention that, I digress.
The show took a bit for it to grow on me. Ramon Rodriguez does a fine and believable job as the undercover detective. Switching between the motivations of being an officer and looking out for the family, provide some early dramatic thrills. It felt like it was going to get stale just as early as well. I dunno if it was planned, or the producers made some changes with some early feedback. They knew just focusing on Ryan wasn’t going to cut it, and with such great talent on your table would have been a waste. Mid way through the season the supporting cast start getting alot more attention. The tension between Quinn’s Chapel and Curtis Javier is done pretty well. The task force success becomes a bigger and bigger concern for Ryan and family. Ryan eventually gets to the point that he needs to directly impede the progress of his team. This gets almost gets him caught a few times, and exposes some cracks in his armor. Ryan is not delusional, he knows the game he is playing is dirty. Like any dirty cop, self preservation is always going to rear it’s ugly head. While Javier pretty much has unshakable faith in Ryan, other members of the family not so much.
The show still has some issues, some more forgivable than others. It’s still alittle hard to believe that no one realizes Ryan is so close to the Acosta Family. Ryan grew up in the same neighborhood as the Acosta’s. Considers Javier like a father figure and his son like a brother. Was the LAPD really not able to find a single piece of anything that link him to the Acostas? When the inevitable hunt for a mole is under way, I didn’t quite get how Lopez didn’t have a huge target on his back. Only one guy suspects him of anything, and people kind of make him out to be crazy. I just kept wondering why people didn’t think he was making at least alittle sense. As we learn about the task force members more, we learn that pretty much all of them have some checkered history, and maybe there own “gang relations”. This isn’t bad by itself, but I think its setting up some story lines where some of them find out what Ryan is and let it rock.
So whats the verdict? I really don’t know. I don’t dislike the show but I’m not in love with it. I will say it has been interesting enough for me to want to catch it every week. The last few episodes have been very entertaining, which gives me hope that it could finish strong and be something memorable. What I can kind of dig about a show like this, it feels like Breaking Bad in the way that you know “This cannot end well”. If Gang Related last long enough to end on the directors/producers terms. I would expect we’ll get a very grounded and somber ending. I feel like I have a curse with Fox shows, the moment I get invested.. they get cancelled. So who knows if this show will make it that far.