Harlee must make a terrible decision between saving herself, her crew, or her daughter
Credit: Peter Kramer/NBC
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As Shades of Blue’s first season finale begins, we find Harlee Santos showing off a whole new side of herself. There’s no plotting afoot and no deep moral quandaries being puzzled. Instead, we get our first glimpse at triumphant Harlee, counting her dough like a boss and explaining to Caddie how she’s going to use the stolen cash to buy immunity for her whole crew. Well, all except Wozniak. Someone needs to be thrown to the Feds to keep them happy, and she still needs her boss to find Linklater, who will hopefully work as their chum. Woz, unaware of this plan, walks despondently into a diner, where he stumbles upon Stahl, looking equally morose.

Harlee stashes a portion of the money in a bag, then goes to see her old flame Nava. She apologizes for accusing him of freeing Miguel to hurt her and burrows in for a hug. It’s clear she just wants a brief moment of normalcy with someone she loves before she proposes her new deal to the FBI and her world implodes.

On his way home from the diner, Woz calls Donnie, demanding answers — the lieutenant knows his boyfriend set him up. But Donnie has to cut their call short when he opens the door to find Loman waiting for him. Loman is just as surprised: He came to Wozniak’s house to talk to his boss, only to find Donnie there instead. Loman realizes the Internal Affairs agent is wearing gloves, and he quickly figures out what he’s stumbled upon: Donnie is robbing Woz (well, close enough, he’s actually looking for the stolen cash). Whatever he’s doing, it’s certainly not legal. Loman pulls his gun, but Donnie smooth talks him into coming inside for a little chat. Then, the agent distracts Loman long enough to pull a gun. They tussle, and Loman knocks it away, only for Donnie to pivot and grab a knife from the counter. Woz returns home to find Loman shaking on a stool in his kitchen, and a very dead Donnie lying on the floor.

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The next morning, Harlee wakes up in Nava’s bed and calls Woz’s wife, Linda, to check on Cristina at the hotel. (For a mother so concerned about keeping a dangerous man away from her daughter, Harlee could spend a little more time in Cristina’s general vicinity.) Surprise, surprise, Cristina’s gone. Fearing Zepeda’s gotten to her, Harlee rushes out of Nava’s apartment, the assistant DA trailing behind.

Loman and Woz also have business to take care of early that morning: They bring Donnie’s body (wrapped in a rug) to Raul Mendez’s funeral home to dispose of. Deciding to take care of this problem Woz’s way (destroy all evidence, falsify paperwork, claim you were never there) seems to be the tipping point for Loman’s moral compass. Loman is officially a morally compromised cop now (if he wasn’t already). Just like every other member of the 64th, Woz has manipulated his loyalty and turned him into a tool who will work toward his own ends. Just before pushing the body of his lover into the furnace, Woz growls out a fond farewell: “See you in hell.” The detective may just get there sooner than he thinks.

NEXT: These are my confessions

Back on the hunt for Cristina, Harlee practically bangs Zepeda’s door off its hinges. When she asks if he’s taken her, Zepeda laughs in her face, before taunting her by revealing his secret relationship with their daughter. He didn’t have to take Cristina: She called him to come get her. They’re old buddies by now. In fact, she’s out shopping with Zepeda’s mother at the moment, not being held captive against her will. Harlee is stricken to learn how her ex has wormed his way into Cristina’s life without her knowing. She finds Cristina and Zepeda’s mother down the block and forces her protesting daughter into her car.

This episode only puts Harlee more on edge, and she decides it’s time to pull the trigger. She calls Stahl and proposes her plan: She’ll give up Woz, Donnie, and Linklater in exchange for her crew’s immunity. Stahl is out of options, so he reluctantly agrees. Then Harlee puts things in motion: she meets Woz in a cemetery and “confesses”: She tells him the FBI picked her up the night before and tried to get her to rat on her crew. They want to nab three big fish at once, so they told Harlee to make Woz set up an exchange between himself, Donnie, and Linklater. When they’re all in a room together, the Feds will swoop in.

Let’s savor the last 20 minutes of the finale by pausing here to take stock of the Guilt-O-Meter:

Loman: 8 out of 10, Real Guilty

This rating doesn’t just encompass Loman’s actions over the past several hours (killing Donnie, albeit in self-defense; covering up the evidence; burning his body). It is more a verdict on the man’s slow decline into immorality. This gradual metamorphosis from by-the-book cop to an officer who puts protecting his crew from the law above the law itself — it’s the most graceful storytelling Shades of Blue pulled off this season, and Dayo Okeniyi deserves recognition for getting Loman right.

Of course, Harlee says, she still plans to get immunity for Woz and tells him the other two criminals are bigger fish — Stahl will have to be satisfied with that. Unfortunately, Woz is aware of information Harlee isn’t: Donnie’s dead, and Linklater fled the country. That leaves just him to pin it all on. There won’t be any immunity. Blindsided with the sudden reality that Woz might really go down for all this and it’s all her doing, Harlee tearfully tells him to take Linda and flee the country. She and Cristina will join him shortly.

Desperate, Harlee calls Stahl. She tells him Donnie and Linklater are in the wind and Woz isn’t returning her calls. She won’t be able to give him what she promised. Instead, she makes a new deal: her crew’s immunity in exchange for her own. She has the $12 million, and she’ll turn herself in if the rest of the squad can go free. (This decision seems at odds with Harlee’s entire philosophy. She originally agreed to rat on her crew so she could stay out of jail to raise Cristina. Now she’s volunteered to get arrested and leave her daughter, to save her team.)

Harlee sits Cristina down before her arrest. She apologizes to her daughter for lying and for betraying her, but she explains that she did it all to protect Cristina from Miguel’s manipulations. She said he wasn’t Cristina’s father because she knew having him back in their lives would be dangerous, even if Cristina can’t understand that right now. It’s pretty much the same spiel she’s been selling all season. Then, Harlee tells Cristina to be strong because Harlee’s sending her to live with her aunt in Jersey City for awhile. On cue, Harlee sister approaches them. Harlee won’t explain why or where she’s going, but she sobs into her daughter’s hair before walking away.

NEXT: Woz turns over a new leaf

Harlee calls Stahl to demand the immunity contracts before she turns over herself and the loot, but Stahl says their new deal is off. He’s already got the cash and a bigger fish. Behind her back, Woz took all the money, leaving Harlee just enough to pay for Cristina’s college. Harlee calls Woz, who explains that he cut the same deal last night in the diner with Stahl as Harlee did that afternoon; he’s turning himself and the money in, in exchange for Harlee and the rest’s immunity. What Cristina is for Harlee, that’s what Harlee is for Woz. He couldn’t let her get locked up — he couldn’t lose another daughter. I suppose this decision makes internal sense — Woz’s whole criminal career arose out of the grief surrounding his daughter’s death — but it’s not easy for me to believe that the same man who would orchestrate a rival’s rape, kill a member of his own crew in cold blood, frame a man he’s never met for murder, etc., etc., would willingly give up all that money and turn himself in to federal agents all to save his team. I’m not buying Woz’s sudden altruism, even if it is couched in the mantra of loyalty.

Harlee tries to convince Woz to change his mind, but it’s too late. The police already have him. Well, at least that means Harlee won’t be going to prison for the rest of her life (at least not for this particular crime). She runs a bath and calls her sister to let her know she may be able to pick Cristina up in the morning. There are still five minutes of this finale left, though, and they’re playing scary music in the background, so that reunion seems unlikely. Instead, Harlee walks into her kitchen…and finds Zepeda sitting at her table. She reaches into her purse, but Zepeda already has her gun. Paying him off had no effect, it seems. He won’t stop seeing Cristina. In fact, he won’t stop seeing either of them. He wants his old life back, and that means he wants Harlee. She refuses to give in to his demands, so he starts smacking her around. Then he unties her robe. Gun in hand, he starts to assault her, whispering to her the whole time how he’ll punish both her and Cristina for taking control of his life during the decade he was in prison.

Threatening Cristina is the one thing Harlee cannot abide. While Zepeda is on his knees in front of her, Harlee traps his head between her thighs, then grabs his neck and twists until she breaks it. Surely there must be some symbolism in that. Bad bitch Harlee is back!

Final Guilt-O-Meter:

Wozniak: 3 out of 10, Mostly Innocent

Woz always had at least one trick up his sleeve, so leave it to him to end the season with his lowest Guilt-O-Meter score ever. Giving up his own freedom for Harlee’s is a purely selfless act of love — even though there’s no chance he’ll stay behind bars for long, once season 2 begins.

Harlee: 6 out of 10, A Tad Guilty

Harlee set out to give herself up, just like Woz, which counts for an awful lot. However, giving herself up also meant leaving Cristina an orphan, or worse, under Miguel’s influence. Instead, Harlee stayed out of prison long enough to kill her controlling, violent ex. Not a bad day’s work.

Thanks everyone for following along with me on this crazy, murderous journey that was Shades of Blue’s first season. See you all back here for season 2!

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