Shades of Blue picks up right where it left off last week: in Woz’s garage, where a terrified Harlee is inches from pulling a gun on her boss/literal partner-in-crime. After realizing Woz doesn’t consider her a potential rat, she’s more than willing to shift suspicion onto their list of suspects: the five other members of the squad. As Woz’s paranoid calculations wind down, his worldview, compounded by decades of police work, becomes clear. Every dirty thing he and his department has done has been justified, has been right — not because these illegal activities protect their city, but because each cover-up, bribe, and off-the-books payout protects or enriches his fellow detectives. Because they’re family, and family looks after its own. You can see why just the whiff of an informant is enough to make him totally lose it.
When Harlee questions his intel, Woz tells her he “has it on good authority” there’s a snitch in their department. Is the FBI compromised as well? Their frenzied strategizing is interrupted by Marcus Tufo (Hampton Fluker), one of the detectives whose loyalties they’ve just been debating. Tufo got a call from a liquor store owner who’s worried about a suspicious vehicle that keeps circling his store. Duty calls, and Woz’s hunches will have to wait.
As the cops drive up to the scene, the same suspicious car drives past again. This time, the driver does more than circle: He shoots out the building’s windows before speeding away. Woz is grazed — it’s only a flesh wound, but it’s enough to have him seeing red. He makes finding the shooter the team’s No. 1 priority. Harlee knows the distraction is only momentary, though, and she’s still spooked by Woz’s mistrust. She wants out of her informant duties, now, so she smashes her wire in the nearest diner bathroom.
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Apparently, that’s not how these things work, however. The FBI now owns Harlee, which Stahl makes very clear when he calls her at the station the next morning and demands a meeting. Meanwhile, New York’s new assistant district attorney, James Nava (Gino Anthony Pesi), makes his debut at the station to deliver some bad news: One of the city’s public defenders has just published a tell-all documenting his drug addiction, and now 92 of his guilty clients are filing motions for new trials. Woz oversaw four of the cases, but only one name strikes an alarm bell: Miguel Zepeda. Could there by chance have been some impropriety regarding his team’s investigation of that case? (Spoiler: Duh.)
While Harlee rushes off to meet with Stahl, Woz commits some more suspicious activity. From a locked safe (which also houses a gun and stacks of cash — all above board, I’m sure) he withdraws Zepeda’s file, including a DVD. On the disc is footage — not of his interview with the suspect but with the arresting officer: Harlee Santos, back when she was a beat cop 10 years ago. The plot thickens. On the video, Woz informs Harlee that Zepeda claims she framed him for murder.
NEXT: Harlee’s original sin
More shots from the interview appear throughout the rest of the episode, but here is the full run down: Six years before the taping, before Harlee was even a police officer, she was in an abusive relationship with Zepeda, who is Cristina’s father. She couldn’t see a way out until he was arrested for grand theft auto. By the time of his release six years later, Harlee was on the force and no longer afraid of him.
But Zepeda didn’t come after her: He came after Cristina. The creep taunted Harlee with the knowledge that he could hurt her daughter at any time. So Harlee did what any terrified mother with access to sealed police evidence would do: She planted a murder weapon from a recent unsolved case in Zepeda’s car, and Zepeda went down for life. At the end of this sorry tale, Woz doesn’t write a report or take young Harlee into custody. Instead, he tells her to erase the paper trail. Shortly thereafter, he handpicked her to join his detective squad. We can only imagine what dirt he has on the other members of his unit.
Let’s take a reading on our characters’ current transgressions:
Harlee: 9 out of 10, Super Guilty
Backing out of her informant duties has momentarily put the kibosh on any redemption she could have earned, and learning that she falsified evidence to put Zepeda away earns Harlee no points with me. This isn’t Minority Report, and cops can’t imprison people for future crimes they might commit. However, considering Zepeda’s history of abuse, I’m interested to hear arguments that she was justified. I’m sure learning about her past made Harlee more sympathetic to some people, so let me know where she now stands with you.
Woz: 10 out of 10, The Guiltiest
So far no redemptive factors here. Woz played Harlee’s vulnerability for his own gain and sanctioned her very first step toward corruption. It’s a slippery slope from there, and he’s the one supplying the grease.
While Woz is reviewing his past misdeeds, Harlee is making new ones. She meets with Stahl and a new special agent, Molly Chen (Annie Chang), and tells them she’s through with being their mole. Woz knows there’s an informant in his unit, and she fears for her life. Stahl is fed up, so he asks Chen to draw her gun and arrests Harlee on the spot. That was their deal, after all: Harlee delivers evidence on her crew, or she goes to jail. When Stahl threatens to bring Harlee to her own precinct for booking, she caves and tells him she’ll continue spying.
Back at work, the cops finds out who their drive-by shooter is. Harlee and Woz raid his apartment, where they find a lithium prescription and a shotgun (America!). While casually pointing the shotgun in her direction, Woz questions Harlee again about their mole. To throw him off, Harlee desperately suggests polygraphing everyone in their crew. That will probably not go well for her.
On the other side of town, Tufo relieves Loman of his surveillance duty. The cops (both African-American) get into a fierce debate over the role of law enforcement in their community. Still feeling guilty, Loman argues it’s the job of the police to think more critically about who commits crimes and why. Tufo, Woz’s man to the core, says cops catch thugs, period. Greater societal ills are not their problem. Shades of Blue paints empathetic portraits of even its most licentious police characters, but the show is also interested in exploring current issues of state-sanctioned violence from multiple perspectives in ways few other broadcast shows are touching.
Earlier, Woz promised Harlee he’d gather the whole crew at his house that night for a casual evening of family bonding and lie detection. But when she shows up, it’s just the two of them. Clearly, Woz’s suspicions are solidifying. Harlee thinks fast and intentionally burns herself on a tea kettle while Woz is setting up. Pain makes the heart rate spike, throwing off the polygraph. She takes the test, and seemingly satisfied with the readout, Woz lets her go. But after she leaves, he flashes back to the tape from 10 years earlier. When he asked her then if she’d planted evidence, she tells him no while tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. Harlee exhibited the same tell when he asked her tonight if she’s an informant. Looks like our girl might have some explaining to do.
Harlee: 9 out of 10, Super Guilty
She’s back to helping the FBI but only because prison was her other option.
Woz: 10 out of 10, The Guiltiest
Is he about to add murdering a fellow officer to his ever-growing list of sins?