First Impressions: Why FOX’s “Gang Related” is Worth Investigating
What’s this? A series advertised as ‘gritty and fast-paced’ that is actually both? Surprisingly, Gang Related from creator/writer Chris Morgan (Wanted, Fast Five), and executive producers Brian Grazer (24, A Beautiful Mind) and Scott Rosenbaum (The Shield) managed to exceed our expectations of what this mid-season cop drama should be.
ScreenSpy screened the pilot episode, along with a slew of other pilots earlier this year, and again more recently once the series landed a firm slot on FOX’s mid-season schedule. (FYI, it premieres Thursday May 22 at 98/c on FOX.)
The series follows Ryan Lopez (Ramon Rodriguez), a rising star in the Los Angeles Gang Task Force. Lopez’ team, led by Sam Chapel (Lost alum Terry O’Quinn), is tasked with taking on the city’s most dangerous gangs. However Lopez is hiding a secret which, if discovered, could get both he and his team killed. His true allegiance is not to his team leader Chapel, but Carlos Acosta, a crime lord who ‘adopted’ him as a child following the death of his father. Golden boy Lopez hasn’t joined the force to tackle gang crime, but to act as a pair of inside eyes for Acosta and his ever expanding criminal organization.
The premise is actually less black and white than it first appears. Lopez is largely a pretty decent guy whose core values of loyalty and diligence are still intact – despite his shady connections and violent past. He is also initially unaware of some of Acosta’s less savory behavior (torture and murder for instance), and genuinely wants to do right by Chapel – the other father figure in his life. However it doesn’t take long before Lopez is squeezed between the conflicting duties of both men, each of whom threatens to destroy the other.
The pilot episode wastes very little time in establishing characters, relationships, work hierarchies or motivations, choosing instead to plunge the audience straight into the thick of the action, following a five minute flashback that sets up the three main protagonists with pretty broad brush strokes.
The pace serves to propel proceedings at a break neck pace. With little time to dwell on the intricacies of the relationships between our main characters, the audience is left to make some assumptions. Lopez and his partner probably have a long-standing relationship built on trust. Terry O’Quinn’s Chapel is a firm but fair boss. Lopez’s nemesis Carlos has no saving graces etc. The sketch is an approximation, but it’s ok, because largely what we assume to be true, turns out to be true.
These by the book characters and situations might create the potential for a very run of the mill procedural format if not for three things. O’Quinn’s presence as Chapel lends weight to proceedings, grounding his scenes with a sense of purpose and gravitas. Secondly, Rodriguez with his movie star pedigree is perfectly cast as a little boy lost – a capable cop who is nevertheless caught in an impossible situation. Lastly, the pilot squeezes in several twists that escalate the stakes – not to mention the tension – every ten minutes or so, delivering several ‘where to from here?’ thrills.
Clever writing, gritty realism, spot on casting and mile a minute action elevate Gang Related from the realm of weekly procedural to something superior. We’re looking forward to seeing where some of the stakes raised in the pilot we screened will go in episodes to come.
Gang Related premieres Thursday May 22 at 98/c on FOX. Catch the latest teaser trailer below.
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