Written by Christine Yankelunas
If the troubled marriage of The Wire and End of Watch were to have a child – Gang Related would be born.
This new Fox series examines the dichotomy of a gang member turned police officer, and the world he lives in. We are introduced to Detective Ryan Lopez (Ramon Rodriguez) in the beginning of the episode where we see him as a vulnerable child with a fatherly figure, Javier Acosta (Cliff Curtis), who we later learn has masterminded Lopez’s entry into an elite Gang Task Force. Set in Los Angeles, we quickly dive into an action packed scene where Detective Ryan Lopez and his partner, James Tanner (Ross Thomas), are in a high speed car chase (the show’s creator, Chris Morgan, perhaps nodding to his Fast and Furious films) where they face off with the bad guys and take them down. The scene cuts back to the office where the partners are celebratory, but their captain, Sam Chapel (Terry O’Quinn), keeps them focused on the real goal: taking down mob boss, Javier Acosta.
In the scenes to follow, we see Lopez’s partner senselessly killed by one of Javier’s guys— when Lopez refers to him as Carlos (Reynaldo Gallegos), we connect the dots and assume their connection through Javier. Carlos is Javier’s son, and with one gunshot fire at Lopez’s shoulder – it becomes evident that their relationship is strained, to say the least. Devastated by this loss, Lopez begins to question his loyalties to the gang he is providing intel to—and to the only man he could call his father. Lopez and teammates, Cassius (RZA) and Veronica (Inbar Lavi), continue the hunt for whoever took down Tanner. All the while, we see Lopez begrudgingly trying to cover Carlos’ sloppy tracks.
The partnership between Tanner and Lopez lacked chemistry and felt like a forced storyline which ultimately leads to Lopez’s inner-struggle of who he is and where his loyalties lie. We briefly encounter a potential love interest for Lopez, Jessica Chapel (Shantel VanSanten), who is Captain Chapel’s estranged daughter. Later, we meet Lopez’s ex-girlfriend, Sophia, when Lopez’s long time friend and brother-figure, Daniel Acosta, proposes to her. Lopez’s teammates, Cassius and Veronica, fall flat in their debut performances—at one point Veronica displays her ‘hard as nails’ demeanor when she seduces then tasers a witness for information; harsh, but all too cliché.
Seeds are planted in this first episode for conflict to come, jealousy inevitably will inhibit Lopez’s devotion to the gang that raised and ‘supported’ him. Sam Chapel, Lopez’s other father figure, continues to dote on Lopez throughout the episode—piling on more and more weight to Lopez’s guilty conscience.
While the gang member/cop double persona is an original idea, I felt like I was watching a watered down episode of The Wire. This series aims to evoke empathy for Lopez and others like him who have been cornered into a bad lifestyle, where few other options seem available and circumstances cannot be changed. So, can the scattered storyline and forced relationships can be overlooked because of the exciting ‘foot in both worlds’ theme? I guess we’ll find out.