SWAT Season 1 Episode 1 Review: Black or Blue?

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At first glance, SWAT Season 1 Episode 1 fails to deliver adrenaline-pumping action or nuanced characters – but is there hope for future episodes?

The long-anticipated premiere of CBS's SWAT is finally here! Although not entirely disappointing, it didn't quite live up to the hype that was created by making us wait this long.

Daniel "Hondo" Harrelson  - SWAT

Shemar Moore is stellar as elite SWAT member Daniel "Hondo" Harrelson, and it's his charisma that carries the hour. After being thrust into a leadership position that he wasn't expecting, Hondo must quickly learn to balance his responsibilities as an officer with his loyalty to the people of LA – and he passes with flying colors.

Hondo to the Rescue - SWAT Season 1 Episode 1

The man is built of steel, with heart of gold.

He's almost too good – in pristine physical shape, the "perfect" boyfriend to Cortez, friendly and compassionate toward the community, and unwilling to bend the rules in his role as an officer of the law. Hondo is so perfect I almost hate him.

Where are his flaws? What is his Achilles heel? Watching Hondo triumph all the time is sure to get boring. I mean, at least make the guy pick his nose or something!

Hondo Takes Charge - SWAT Season 1 Episode 1

SWAT definitely has their finger on the pulse of the racial sensitivities that are plaguing our country. The message of peace that Hondo is trying to spread is admirable, but the divide between "black" and "blue" is unfortunately all too recognizable.

It's clear that this battle of identities will continue to haunt Hondo and drive the future of the series.

What color you supposed to be, brother? Black or blue? You gonna have to pick.

Protester to Hondo

When it comes to following the plot, SWAT's premiere left me a little unsure of how they got from A to Z. 

We hit the gas with a shoot-out between officers and gun-runners, hit a speed bump when a white cop shot an unarmed black boy, flew right past a protest shooting, took a detour around the school threat, and ended with a hard left into bank robbery.

Oh, and apparently the whole thing was political, not racial.

It's not the easiest path to follow when we're also trying to get acquainted with the characters, their relationships, and the general tone of a new show.

On the Move - SWAT Season 1 Episode 1

Speaking of new characters, I have high hopes for SWAT's supporting cast. New member of the team, Jim Street, is a delight with his lead foot and sharp tongue. Chris, the only female, is badass at her job and unapologetic about it. Deacon, quiet and strong, is intriguing.

Meet Street - SWAT Season 1 Episode 1

I only wish I knew more about them. Yes, this was a pilot, and I'm sure more will be revealed, but it seemed all of their interactions were superficial aside from a few pep talks from Buck and Hondo that bordered on corny.

Lesson one, Street. Never be in a hurry to die.


I would've have loved to see more of Chris, Kenny Johnson's Luca, and David Lim as Victor Tan, but maybe there are too many cooks in the kitchen? It seemed like overkill to have six SWAT members roll up to chat with a suspect.

If we don't have the time to get to know them, how will viewers start to care about these guys?

waiting - SWAT Season 1 Episode 1

Jessica Cortez, however, was another bright spot for me. Not only does she get the privilege of sexy times with Hondo, but as she says, she's young, female, and an immigrant in a superior position. She seems in total control of her role and has the utmost respect for her job.

We can never have too many women in charge!

Cortez Rallies - SWAT Season 1 Episode 1

The relationship between Cortez and Hondo seems to be the most promising interpersonal plotline so far.

Who else thought of that iconic Grey's Anatomy episode when Jessica presented H with the "Professional Relationship Disclosure" form? I giggled. 

Sure, it was sad to see the two of them end their romance when Cortez became Hondo's direct supervisor, but it's clear he wasn't totally on board with that plan. I bet the tension of will they or won't they will make for an exciting season.

You disobeyed my order not to see Raymont in the hospital... Everyone who works for me gets one free one. Nobody get's a second.


When it comes to conflict, I much prefer the one-on-one drama rather than the politics of the LA Metro.

The tension between Hondo and Deacon is promising.

Obviously, Deacon was disappointed when he was passed up for the spot as team leader, and I'm looking forward to seeing if the two butt heads. Hondo was obviously apologetic about his promotion (again with the white knight routine!), but I doubt the issue will be dropped so easily.

Head to Head - SWAT Season 1 Episode 1

As for the rivalry between Hondo and Mumford's team, I could do without it. Who is going to be the star here? And I understand Hicks' role as the token asshole boss, but I'm skeptical about the need for another head honcho when we already have Cortez.

Battle of the Blue - SWAT Season 1 Episode 1

Despite all of these reservations, I am truly optimistic about SWAT's future. This show has great potential for a long series run, and I'm confident that if anyone can carry it, it's Shemar Moore.

The relationship between Hondo and his community is charming, and fun to watch. The scenes in the salon when we got to see the clever camaraderie between him and the locals were a delight. If SWAT capitalizes on the charisma that oozes out of Shemar's pores, there's no telling where it could go.

Hondo: It's wrong. Taking the fight to South LA is wrong, it just won't work.
Deacon: Well, those are the orders.
Hondo: And this is my team. Hicks wants to fire me, let him fire me, but we're gonna go a different way.
Deacon: Which way is that?
Hondo: We treat them like family.

Hopefully, future episodes will show a bit more stability as SWAT gets its feet under it and we learn more about these characters.

Comment below who your favorite team member is! Do you think Hondo is too good to be true? What are your hopes for the rest of the season?

Pilot Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.3 / 5.0 (48 Votes)

Kassie King was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in December 2017. Follow her on Twitter.

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S.W.A.T. Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Lesson one, Street. Never be in a hurry to die.


What color you supposed to be, brother? Black or blue? You gonna have to pick.

Protester to Hondo