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Shades of Blue series premiere recap: Pilot

J. Lo’s first outing as compromised cop Harlee Santos features evidence tampering, betrayal, and murder

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Peter Kramer/NBC

Shades of Blue

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Jennifer Lopez, Warren Kole, Dayo Okeniyi
Crime, Drama

“Between good cop and bad cop, there are … Shades of Blue.” That’s the tagline for NBC’s new morally ambiguous police drama, but “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions” would suffice as well. Shades of Blue makes no bones that its protagonist, NYPD Detective Harlee Santos (Jennifer Lopez) did a Very Bad Thing — though that’s not always how she perceives it. What the audience is left to grapple with, then, is whether this sin is worth it in the end. As to that question, Shades of Blue tips its hand in the opening five minutes: we first encounter Harlee as she’s taping a confession in a darkened room, blood and bruises smearing her beautiful face: “I always told myself the end would justify the means,” she says. “But now that I’m at the end … I can’t justify anything.”

We flash back to two weeks earlier, when a very different Harlee Santos confidently struts across the screen. This Harlee is cool, collected, and possesses enough causal knowledge about the sexual habits of flowers to give a short biology lesson to her new partner, Michael Loman (Dayo Okeniyi) on their way to his very first crime scene.

It will likely take us the rest of the season to discover what turned this Harlee, the hot-shot cop, into Harlee the shivering mess we saw at the top of the episode. As plots develop along the way, I’ll be keeping a Guilt-O-Meter tracking every character’s culpability and descent into immorality. It’s gonna be a wild ride.

Harlee and Loman arrive at a seedy apartment building after getting tipped that a drug crime may be going down. As they approach the apartment in question, shots ring out. Loman busts through the door, guns blazing, and shoots their would-be attacker square in the chest. Harlee rushes in after him and spots an accomplice escaping out an open window. She turns to her partner, only to discover what Loman has just realized: The shots they heard were from a video game, and he’s just killed an innocent man for the crime of blasting his Nintendo too loudly.

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Loman looks like he’s ready to pass out, so Harlee swings into action. At least their tip-off was solid: There was a drug deal in progress when the detectives busted in. Harlee snags a glock from the huge duffel bag stuffed with heroin that’s chilling on the coffee table. She uses the deceased’s gun to first put one bullet in the door, then another one in Loman (surprise!)… all evidence to sure up their new story — the dealer shot first. By the time other officers arrive on the scene, Harlee’s back to her serene self, and Loman’s picking lead out of his vest.

Harlee brushes off the medics and drives Loman back to the station, coaching him on their story the whole way. She drops him off, then, after a sparring session/tryst with her boxing coach, she cleans herself up and heads to her unit’s favorite after-hours hangout. Clearly, Harlee is not fazed by her afternoon of wrongful killings, evidence tampering, and police misconduct. But as she exits the bar, she runs into Loman, who is not taking to corruption as well as his mentor. Kids these days, amiright?

NEXT: Harlee gets stung