Review: Dark Blue – Urban Garden/Liar’s Poker

Dark Blue is a crime drama that airs on TNT. From the big dog himself, Jerry Bruckheimer (his first, and so far only, cable television show). Dark Blue is all about Lt. Carter Shaw, the head of a deep cover unit of the LAPD. But this is no ordinary deep cover. This unit has next to no communication with brass and operates outside of standard operating procedure. His methods may be unorthodox, but you can’t argue with his results.

Season one of Dark Blue was recently released on DVD from Warner Bros. and is available exclusively online. Season two just started airing on TNT, and we take a look at the first couple of episodes after the jump.

Carter’s team gets in deep with a big time gun runner in LA. But things go to hell when they land themselves smack dab into the middle of an FBI investigation. Now the ranking FBI agent and Carter have no choice but to work together to bring the runner down.

Major developments: Dean and Jamie have begun a relationship and FBI Special Agent Alex Rice has been assigned as the head of a new task force between Carter’s team and the Bureau (which makes no sense considering the strained relationship between Carter and the FBI).

What worked: Dark Blue is one of the shows where the first two episodes that start a season and the last episode of the season kinds sucks. But there were some good moments that should be discussed.

First is the new addition of Tricia Helfer. This is her first recurring role since Burn Notice, and I liked what I saw from her this episode. Rice seems to have a real knack for undercover work. Granted, her FBI reveal was cliche, the whole “the show stars are working a case and stumble into an FBI case,” but it’s forgivable if the result is worth watching. So far so good.

I am always a fan of Carter going undercover in various episodes. The fact is, he’s the master, and it’s fun to watch the master do his thing. That is until his blow up, which was also cool. Now, the build up to the blow up sucked (I’ll get to that), but it’s rare to see Carter lose his cool the way he did, so for that, I thank the writers.

What didn’t: For everything thing the episode got right, they also seem to get wrong. Well, wrong is a bit harsh, a bunch of new relationships are introduced that could really blow up in the shows face. The first is a “friends with benefits” relationship between Jamie and Dean. The other is a “on/off” relationship between Carter and Rice. The reason I don’t like either of them is the same.

The tone of Dark Blue is… you guessed it, dark. Very dark for that matter. That is what kept me watching in season one. Every relationship any of the characters has (except for Ty) falls apart. That’s really appealing to me from a dramatic stand point. The second you introduce the possibility of a working relationship, and worse, one with a humor aspect, the entire tone of the show goes out the window. So we’re going to have to wait and see how that plays out.

Another problem was the lead up to Carter’s blow up. The reason Carter went ape shit on the drug dealer was because the dealer shot and killed his friend, whom Carter has kept out of the criminal life for five years. My problem isn’t the fact that Carter’s friend was shot, it’s that I didn’t care about the friend. I spent ten minutes with the guy, Carter got five years. This show isn’t 24, you can’t expect to care about a random side character that you’re just going to kill ten minutes in.


The team go undercover to investigate a drug ring connected to a Mexican drug cartel, were Dean tracks it down to an art gallery owner.

Major developments: Carter and Rice’s relationship gets way more serious.

What worked: I’m always a fan of the episodes where Ty goes undercover. He seems to be the best at it, second only to Carter that is. He reminds me a lot of Jamie Foxx in the Miami Vice movie adaptation. Really cold and calculating. He’s also the only one one of the team that has a stable relationship, so it’s always fun to see how that relationship affects his work.

What didn’t: The Carter/Rice relationship is dying, fast. Carter is not the guy who should be in a relationship. It’s like all the stuff set up in last years season finale with his ex-wife never happened. Carter is a troubled soul who can’t have a stable relationship (think of a more team friendly Jack Bauer), that’s the way it is.

The show is starting to break it’s own rules. The one thing no one did last season was break cover, ever. No matter how bad things go, the one rule is that you never break cover or communication. But half way into this episode, Ty and Carter break cover to turn an asset. That’s not how Dark Blue works. I’ll watch Covert Affairs if that’s what I’m looking for.

Dean getting into a serious relationship makes everything that occurred in the last episode with Jamie completely pointless. That’s all I have to say about that.

Final thoughts: Overall, a lack luster season premiere of Dark Blue. It’s like they threw all of season one out the window. Now, they built a lot of cred last season for me, so I don’t look down upon it, yet. But the pace, writing and characters need to pick up, fast.

Episodes: “Urban Garden” (Season 2, Episode 1) and “’Liar’s Poker” (Season 2, Episode 2)

Airs: TNT, Wednesdays, 10pm

What’s next: Carter goes undercover as a porn king that wants to expand his porn business. Meanwhile Dean gets involved in a complicated relationship with a drug dealer’s daughter.

To read more of Merrill’s television reviews and to listen to his Idiot Boxers podcast with Kevin Carr, head over to Fat Guys at the Movies.

From a young age, TV guru Merrill Barr has been obsessed with the small screen. And one day he decided to put that obsession to good use.

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