FOX’s Shots Fired (Wednesdays, 8/7C) is a statement series that wants nothing less to be a premium cable quality show that says stuff.
When a black cop shots a white college kid in a black neighborhood in Virginia, the governor asks the Department of Justice to conduct an outside investigation.
The premiere, Hour One – Pilot, opens with a garbage truck passing two cars – the one at the rear is a police car – and a police officer talking with the other car’s driver. After the truck has passed the two, several shots ring out.
Deputy Joshua Beck (Tristan Mack Wilds) has shot a white kid four times. In no time there’s a crowd of rubberneckers – some shooting video and take pictures with their cell phones.
Governor Patricia Eamons (Helen Hunt) requests that the DoJ conduct an unbiased investigation and young, black, up-and-coming attorney Preston Terry (Stephan James) is given the assignment – partly because he’s good and partly because, being black, he provides good ‘optics.’
His assigned investigator is Ashe Akino (Sanaa Lathen) – an ex-cop who’s been where Deputy Beck is.
In the course of a few days, Terry is mugged trying to interview someone and Akino is served papers notifying her that her ex-husband is applying for full custody of their daughter – and that she not be allowed visitation.
From the witness (DeWanda Wise) that the two finally interview they learn of the death of a black kid and the extremely suspicious circumstances surrounding his death. Akino is served those papers while chatting with some cops – including Lt. Breeland (Stephen Moyer) – in the local bar, trying to get a read on the situation on that line.
While the premiere is well executed, it really drops far too much into the first hour – and the timing of some events (like Akino’s being served) just feel too much like a soap opera contrivance.
On the other hand, sometimes coincidences do happen…
In terms of the actual execution of the script – the series was created by Reggie Rock Bythewood and Gina Prince-Bythewood, who also wrote it, with Prince-Bythewood directing – the pacing is fairly deliberate. Prince-Bythewood takes her time in order to really settle us into the feel of the town and the racially charged situation.
James is fine as the eager, yet by the book, DoJ attorney – he has the proper mix of enthusiasm, intelligence, compassion and idealism for a guy still in his first few years on the job.
Lathen’s Akino is far more worldly and pragmatic but she, too, is compassionate – perhaps too much. While both she and Terry see the connection between the two deaths, the second one takes her focus off the case she’s working on – even though it should be apparent that if they do their job properly on their assigned case, the connection to the other one will, eventually lead to a full investigation to the other.
Helen Hunt makes Gov. Eamons a no-nonsense – ‘I don’t like surprises – woman who wants to be kept in the loop. She seems earnest enough – she did request the DoJ to step in, after all.
We don’t learn too much about any of the other characters – though Jill Hennessy is heart-wrenching as the mother of the slain college kid.
So far, Will Patton’s Sheriff Platt and Moyer’s Lt. Breeland come across as a couple of guys who only slightly more than the usual good ole boys. They only have enough screen time to allow for the broadest character strokes.
Aside from some slightly exasperating plot overload, Hour One is a solid entertaining hour that does actually begin to say stuff – potentially important stuff.
Final Grade: B-