I'm surprised how much I liked Dark Blue, given that it's a thriller (not my favorite genre) with a brooding lead actor (Dylan McDermott) and supporting cast who get into scrapes that viewers know they're going to get out of. Plus, it's from Jerry Bruckheimer (the CSIs, Cold Case, Without a Trace), and he holds the patent on cop shows where every case wraps up neatly in an hour.
But Dark Blue works -- and works well -- because its intensity level is relentless and unyielding. Right out of the gate, the premiere gives you a jolt (you'll see what I mean) and never stops. In fact, the entire first episode feels like an intelligent, fast-paced summer movie.
McDermott plays the leader of an ultra-clandestine squad of Los Angeles detectives who go deep undercover for weeks or months at a time. When we meet them, one of his men, Dean Bendis (Logan Marshall-Green), has gotten close to a vicious mobster for whom torture and murder are a way of life.
But as we all know from years of watching cop shows and movies, when detectives go undercover, the possibility exists that they'll flip and join the life they're supposed to expose. That's what McDermott's Lt. Carter Shaw and his partner, Ty Curtis (Omari Hardwick), fear as this series opens.
For the next 40 minutes or so, it's a race to see whether they and new recruit Jaimie Allen (Nicki Aycox) can extricate him and crack the case before they go home to tend to their secret sorrows. (It's in the Cop Show Manual: All detectives must have a secret sorrow.) So look for lots of guns held to temples, multiple shootouts and plenty of bad-ass attitude. "L.A. is a big place with lots of bad people, and contrary to popular belief, I don't know 'em all," Shaw tells FBI investigators.
Now, having watched cop shows and movies all these years, the viewer should know what will happen in the end of every episode. Yet Dark Blue never feels formulaic because this crew all seems just a little crazy. Throughout the show, it feels like they'll do and say anything -- even shoot a fellow officer -- to keep their cover.
So viewers feel the fear and uncertainty that undercover cops must experience.
Can Dark Blue deliver this kind of action week after week? Apparently, yes. The second episode involves Ty working to bust an arms smuggler and nearly blowing his cover in the process. You know how it'll end, but from the first minute till the last, they do an excellent job ramping up the tension.
I didn't have to watch. I wanted to.