Shades of Blue Season 1 Episode 1 Review: Pilot

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To put it bluntly, Jennifer Lopez kicks ass as Detective Harlee Santos in Shades of Blue Season 1 Episode 1, both as a detective, a mom, and a boxer.

With only one episode, this series already reminds me of a less graphic but no less compelling version of the FX hit The Shield.

The good news is that Harlee looks as though she’ll be a little easier to root for than The Shield’s Det. Vic Mackey; however the verdict on Ray Liotta’s Lt. Matt Wozniak, aka Woz, is still out, and that’s going to be part of the fun of Shades of Blue. 

We have yet to find out just how far will these characters go to protect their city, each other, and themselves.

As Harlee herself says in this Shades of Blue quote…

It happened so slowly I didn't realize and so quickly I never saw it coming.


The story begins with Harlee and her rookie partner, Detective Loman, who just shot a guy for playing a video game. Of course, Loman did hear shots fired when he broke down the door, and there was a duffel bag full of drugs and a gun, but it was only a video controller in the game player's hand. 

Seeing Loman’s career in jeopardy over a guy who probably would have shot them both given the opportunity, Harlee takes control and saves her partner’s ass – by shooting him. 

The moment Loman asked about the second shot I knew it was coming, and it still made me jump. Thankfully, Loman is wearing his vests, but the rookie is waffling on the story. So Harlee explains things to him…

I have a daughter, okay, which means you have a daughter because that badge you've got in your pocket, that makes us family.


In other words, there's a lot more on the line here than just the future of their careers. Loman is definitely a liability but I’m guessing there will be a lot of liabilities along the way. 

Woz’s crew keeps the streets clean by playing dirty. They’ve made a deal with the devil, local drug lord Raoul Mendez, to keep drugs out of the parks and schools. But that’s not all they do. The team also takes money from dealers and bookies. If they keep pay up and keep crime out of specific areas, they get certain perks, like a heads up when Vice is taking a look at them. 

Do the ends justify the means? Depends whose side you’re on. 

When Harlee went to make the deal with the bookie, I was so focused on the chicken shawarma that I never expected the FBI to show up. Damn if I wasn’t impressed with how quickly Harlee shifted gears to arrest the bookie for trying to bribe an officer. Too bad he was part of the sting. 

Despite being a corrupt cop, I find it really difficult not to root for Harlee, and that’s what makes this show work. 

Jennifer Lopez adeptly walks a line that makes Harlee believable, hard core, and human. She loves her daughter and is willing to do anything for her, which is probably how she started down this slippery slope. She is loyal to her team. They are her family, and they all look out for each other. I can see how they’d be willing to put their lives on the line for one another. 

I can also comprehend how they can justify their actions. What there doing isn’t right, but it is understandable.

But what happens when it all starts closing in? Woz hardly hesitated in turning Earl over to Raoul for some street justice. It both got rid of his liability and earned him some good will with the drug lord. There’s very little Woz wouldn’t do to protect his family. 

What will happen when he finds out that it’s his own family that turned against him? That question is where all of this is headed. 

One slip at the wrong time and we all go tumbling down and I don't tumble well.


Not only does Shades of Blue have the incredible talents of Jennifer Lopez and Ray Liotta, but Drea de Matteo from The Sopranos and Sons of Anarchy is also co-starring. We don’t see nearly enough of her in the pilot, and I’m definitely looking forward to more.

So, how did Woz find out about the rat on his team? If he does have someone in the FBI, how long until they find out it’s Harlee? Will Agent Stahl be able to protect her? Does he want to? And will the story about her daughter’s car crash come back to bite Harlee?

We're only one episode in, and I’m already intrigued and ready for more. What did you think? Hit the comments with your thoughts on the newest addition to NBC's lineup!

Pilot Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (53 Votes)

C. Orlando is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow her on Twitter.

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Shades of Blue Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Harlee: How much do you want to know?
Woz: How much do I need to know?

It happened so slowly I didn't realize and so quickly I never saw it coming.