The latest in a long, long line of broadcast cop shows, Blue Bloods has earned its fair share of fans by combining tried and true detective stories with a hearty dose of family drama. Does the first season finale “The Blue Templar” deliver the goods?
Those who’ve kept up with Blue Bloods throughout its first season will be familiar with the central plot running through both the series and the finale: the underground crime gang called the Blue Templar made up entirely of NYPD officers. The Reagan family must band together to bring down the shadow fraternity, clean out the rank and file, as well as avenge the death of lost family member Joe.
At the conclusion of Blue Bloods‘ last episode, rookie cop Jaime Reagan (Will Estes) told his detective brother Danny (Donny Wahlberg) that he’d been working with the FBI to root out the Templars and find justice for Joe. Danny brings it to the brass, who just happens to be their father Police Commissioner Magnum Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck).
Along with district attorney sister Erin (Bridget Moynahan) and retired grandfather Lou (Len Cariou) the Reagans establish a surveillance ring to finally bust the Templars, while avoiding the official side of the NYPD for fear of being compromised. Meanwhile Jaime must protect a sexy kidnapping target (guest star Natalie Knepp).
When making a police procedural, there’s a fine line to walk between focusing on the cases (Law & Order) and the characters (The Shield). Blue Bloods falls squarely into the latter category, but has evened things up considerably with the season-long Templar arc. The story, and the better part of the show’s central conflict, concludes with the finale.
The question that viewers (and to some extent, CBS) must answer is not whether or not Blue Bloods is good – it is – but whether it’s good enough. The genre is filled to bursting across almost every network; does Blue Bloods rise above the rank to serve with distinction?
The characters feel real enough, and a multi-generational family of died-in-the-wool cops is a novel TV scenario. Tom Selleck’s Commissioner might be the headliner, but Jaime and Danny drive the story forward. Estes and Wahlberg are serviceable without being remarkable, and I wish that there was more time to flesh out some secondary characters like Grandpa Lou or Danny’s partner Jackie (Jennifer Esposito).
In stark contrast to the pilot, Blue Bloods seems to have gradually shifted to a much more conservative style of shooting and lighting. With the exception of a few short sequences following the dirty cops, cameras are static and lighting is standard. It’s not bad, but it is a little jarring to see old-fashioned techniques in a field crowded with modernity.
Unlike the season-long Templar story, the kidnapping sub plot that Jaime follows seems tacked-on. It serves well enough as a counter-point to the main thread, but there’s a few narrative gaps that will bother keen observers. Other concessions, made for the sake of drama, include a detective walking out of a bone-crunching car crash and the Commissioner waltzing into a potential powder-keg in street clothes while surrounded by SWAT-equipped underlings.
The dynamic between the Reagans has evolved to become a believable and admirable familial bond. The first family of the NYPD is squeaky clean (for the most part) without being cheesy – an admirable accomplishment. One surprising point is Selleck himself – those hoping for an homage to his earlier roles may be put off by the gruff, no-nonsense portrayal.
One of the most satisfying things about Blue Bloods is the dialogue – or rather, the lack of expository dialogue. The writers respect the audience enough to assume we’re familiar with the genre, and can fill in the blanks ourselves, allowing for more moments with natural and effective progression. The technique is reminiscent of Southland, and one that I wish more shows would employ.
So, is Blue Bloods good enough? For the most part, yes. While certainly not the best procedural out there, it’s better than the lions share, and certainly the best on CBS at the moment. Between the New York-based Blue Bloods and the tired, formulaic CSI: NY (both of which are wobbling between renewal and cancellation) I’d choose the former in a heartbeat.
Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelCrider