Thursday, January 2, 2020

REVIEW: 'Deputy' - Bill Hollister Is Sworn in as the New Sheriff of Los Angeles and Immediately Makes Waves in 'Graduation Day'

FOX's Deputy - Episode 1.01 "Graduation Day"

When Los Angeles' newly elected Sheriff dies, Bill Hollister is suddenly propelled into the role leading one of the largest police forces in the world. Only interested in justice, Bill commands a county-wide crew of LA's finest.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of FOX's Deputy.

"Graduation Day" was written by Will Beall and directed by David Ayer

This drama essentially wants to appease to everyone along the ideological spectrum of politics. In doing so though, it has the potential to alienate everyone because it focuses too intensely on whatever situations make its characters seem badass without really thinking through any potential consequences for their actions. Everyone in this ensemble is unlikable or dependent on such awfully cliche writing. It's so peculiar. It actually feels like the script was first written 15 years ago. It was dusted off for this recent development cycle with some immigration elements thrown in to make it seem more topical. That was apparently all that it took to get it on the air and even attract someone like Stephen Dorff to play the lead role. A year ago he did such a commanding job playing a law enforcement officer in the third season of HBO's True Detective. That show was perfectly able to reflect on the horrors of past actions as done by detectives in the name of finding justice in a case that grew more complex across several decades. Here, Deputy Bill Hollister just wants everyone to kick some ass and enforce the laws on the streets of Los Angeles. It seems to be completely ignorant of the numerous issues informing police brutality and the fear of a police state targeting communities of color with a sense of vengeance. Instead, it just wants to be cool to see Bill continue to perform in the field even though he is promoted to sheriff. That's not effective in the slightest. Right at the beginning, the show makes it clear that he has the potential to be an ideological hero because he doesn't believe local law enforcement should be helping the federal government target people for deportation. He is proud to make that stand. He will take action to ensure his community is prepared with all the information they need to best protect themselves. That's really the only ideological stance he takes here. The rest of the time he is more than proud to empower the officers now under his command. Sure, he fires a deputy who was once critical of him and fights with a colleague who is worried about grant funding following these actions. But Bill is just solely focused on seeing his case to its conclusion. He has the power to change so many lives. He is reluctant to embrace it. That can be a good thing though because he seems like a corrosive individual who won't actually make things better. Again, the show embodies a cynical perspective despite its best efforts to prop up Bill as the only guy who can do something good in this job. His wife has to continually offer him reassurance that he is right to serve in this position. He suggests he is a noble lawman. But that feels like such an outdated concept. Justified proved that a modern-day western is a genre that can be done quite effectively. This show is a far cry from that though. In fact, it's all over the place with no real consistency whatsoever. It's not just boring and forgettable though. It embraces tropes that can be very harmful. Bill openly attacks the press. He believes they are nothing but vultures sent in to attack him. He has no idea how to do this job. He's not interested in learning about the responsibilities he now has. Instead, he thinks it's more than fine for his friend to foster two newly orphaned kids after they saw him kill their father. That's messed up and basically ensures that even more tragedy is bound to occur. The show acts as if that isn't happening though. It addresses that through an earnest speech Walker gives these children. But he mostly props himself up as a good parent even though he and his wife just got the approval to foster children. They know what not to do. That doesn't make them a good household for children who have endured this tragedy as a result of his actions though. That's just setting up more problems with the fear that none of it is going to be taken seriously. It's all about ensuring that the main characters are presented as heroic. The show would work better if it accepted their antihero tendencies. Sure, it would run into more cliches that way as well. However, it would better understand the current relationship that law enforcement has with the world at large. As it currently exists, Deputy seems like a rallying cry for a specific audience that wants to see epic gun fights, cars driving off of bridges and no one questioning their ability to embrace such actions in the first place. That unquestioned power is incredibly problematic and insists that this show has absolutely nothing of substance to truly offer.