Gang Related Series Premiere Review: Muck the Police

By Tim Surette

May 23, 2014

Gang Related S01E01: "Pilot"

When a network orders a cop drama in May 2013 but doesn't air it until late May 2014, does that make the show part of the new year-round scheduling strategy that lots of networks seem to be adopting? Or is it a dump-off because the network knows the show isn't going to succeed? In the case of Gang Related, it's kind of both. 

The new Fox drama combines flashy camera-shaking foot sprints through back alleys on gang turf, cops shouting at tattooed thugs while bending their fingers backward or tazing their testicles, and clichés, lots and lots and lots of clichés. It's the same formula that ensures action movies will become blockbusters while receiving lukewarm reviews from stuffy film critics. Gang Related will never win an Emmy—but it doesn't appear to be trying to. It just wants to shoot off a thousand rounds and say things like, "You're right, you don't know me, where I'm from, or what I'm capable of," while holding a red-hot bolt that's part of some silly gang initiation. There's plenty of room on television for this kind of mindless entertainment (see: 24), and Gang Related fits well within that groove.

Set in a hyper-real, near-apocalyptic version of present-day Los Angeles that's infested with gangs armed to their hairnets with high-powered automatic rifles—and where epic shootouts between cops and street soldiers are as common as traffic on the 110—Gang Related tells the story of one Ryan Lopez (Charlie's Angels' Roman Rodriguez). Ryan is a member of the LAPD's Gang Task Force, and he's got a dirty little secret: He's actually a plant for the Latino gang Los Angelicos! See, he was raised by Javier Acosta, the leader of the gang, and Javier asked him to climb the LAPD ladder as an inside man. But, as the pilot's opening chase sequence revealed, he's also a good cop who busts gang members? There's your internal conflict, folks. Ryan must balance doing the right thing for the po-po while also doing right by his familia. "It's a dangerous tightrope I'm walking here, Javier," Ryan said, as if we hadn't already picked up on that. Or maybe he was just spelling things out for viewers who'd just came back from the bathroom? (Although that's probably not the case, as this is the kind of show that isn't too diminished by multiple trips to take a whiz.) 

Preferring the rat-a-tat-tat of bullets bursting forth from gun barrels to the calculated steps of actual police work, Gang Related's pilot was rife with fortunate happenstances that allowed Ryan (and whoever his new partner ended up being) to avoid boring detective work and skip right to the next chase sequence or showdown. Ryan and his drunk partner Tanner (R.I.P. dude, you never stood a chance) went after a tagger who just so happened to be outside of a warehouse where an important gang meet-up was taking place? Okay. Ryan and fellow cop Cassius (the RZA) found gay porn on a computer owned by one of Cassius's criminal informants and used it as leverage so the guy would spill the beans? Sure. On Gang Related, case details are secondary to creeping around a dark corridor with a gun drawn or shoving a gang member's face into a chain-link fence. And I'm okay with that!

Though it was almost entirely predictable, the pilot's closest thing to a shocker was the scene where, immediately after saving Javier's pit bull of a son Carlos from the cops, Ryan signed Carlos's death certificate by ratting him out to a rival gang as payback for killing Ryan's partner. Several members of the Long Beach Lords rode up on Carlos and shredded him to pieces while Ryan looked on, and we were left wondering exactly who this Ryan fella is. Is he a good cop who's been forced into working for a gang, or is he a gang plant who's working as a dirty cop? That's the big question Gang Related wants us to ponder. Unfortunately for the show, the question of Ryan's potentially complicated character is reduced to a simple answer: He's both! Whichever fits the writers' needs. 

But who cares, right? As long as there are car chases and shootouts, stock characters, and terrible dialogue, Gang Related is delivering on its promise to provide silly entertainment and nothing more. Muzzled by the confines of network television, Gang Related will never reach the heights of The Shield or Southland. But it comes at a time when television is polluted with serial killers and CIA agents, so I'd still rather watch a whole season of Gang Related than a single episode of The Following.   


– Nice reference to the Wu-Tang Clan by naming the high-grade cocaine "Fishscale," which, though it was already a nickname for cocaine, was also the name of Ghostface Killah's popular album.

– What kind of drug deal goes down in the middle of a racetrack? That doesn't look suspicious at all, guys.

– How many times throughout the series do you think we'll see Ryan be the first man on the scene or the first guy to catch an escaping crook so that he can play the gang side before his cop friends show up?

– I've already screened the next two episodes of Gang Related and I can tell you that it's more of the same, but with some extra side stories that are intended give supporting characters something to do. Hot cop Vee's plot in particular is a real groaner.

– Speaking of Vee, what did you think of the scene where she tazed that guy's nuts and then he peed his pants?

– I love how Ryan literally spelled out a screenwriting device after the Gang Task Force figured out when the coke deal was going down: "Which means we have a ticking clock."

– With the line, "Thanks to these two jokers, we took eight chino-skins off the chessboard today," Terry O'Quinn has officially neutralized the potency of his famous Lost line, "Don't tell me what I can't do."

  • Comments (24)
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  • wheezell May 26, 2014

    – What kind of drug deal goes down in the middle of a racetrack?


  • ll-essy May 24, 2014

    It makes me miss SouthLAnd.

  • marlonjones May 24, 2014

    Still gotta watch, but props to you Tim for mentioning Ghostface's Fishscale album!!

  • dolphin_intern May 23, 2014

    Couldn't get even get halfway through the pilot before deleting and removing it form my DVR.

  • MarlboroMagpi May 23, 2014

    I do like the pilot and will be watching it till the end. Its not the wire or the shield but its good pop corn fun and its the genre I liked.

    Vee is hot and I liked her.

  • Sal_Doomhammer May 23, 2014

    last night's episode was not good. The writing was pretty horrible. I knew it would stink when the cop referred to his car as his "whip." Don't try so hard writers. The best scene was Cliff Curtis taking off the facade and getting loco. More of that, less of, well, everything else.

  • antmorris3511 May 23, 2014

    I ain't watching this til it gets a few episodes, because I'm tired of wu-tang failures. I know its not an album, but most everything associated with wu-tang has failed for the last decade. Wu pwned the 90s but its a new day. Rza was ok in American Gangster, I didnt much care for "Iron Fists", only watched about 35 mins. Rza is in Paul Walker's last movie (the promo doesnt look bad), but even the promo for Gang Related looks ''labored''.

    Wu needs a win, so I hope the show is well-received..

  • Silver_Sword_14 May 24, 2014

    FOX is just burning off all 13 episodes throughout the summer.

  • antmorris3511 May 25, 2014

    I'm not sure what you mean?

  • Silver_Sword_14 May 25, 2014

    A second season won't happen. It was originally supposed to premiere in midseason, but FOX lost confidence in the show and is now letting all the episodes air in the summer. Ratings are already alarmingly low (0.9 -- 2.93 million viewers).

  • antmorris3511 May 26, 2014

    Funny how a group of guys with so much talent in the music industry, just can't seem to do anything else, Meth can't act, Rza can't act. Raekwon is the same character in every role. His return to the music industry was a fail. At one time Rza was worth 22 million dollars.

    It would be a nice surprise if things turned around, but i'd sooner expect to see Giant Michelin Man destroying Neo Tokyo.

  • Silver_Sword_14 May 25, 2014

    This comment has been removed.

  • NicholasCampb May 23, 2014

    Convenience is going to be this show's energy source. Ryan is going to have to always be in a position to spirit away his gang brothers or stuff evidence down his bra in order for the series to continue since no one knowing his secret identity is key to the tension in the show. In order to swallow this series, it's something we'll have to understand we'll be tasting every episode. That we establish that up front is key or else the story world would be a farce. Well, more of a farce.

    You also apparently can't live in Los Angeles and enjoy the show, either, because their geography is messed up. I get locations and permits and whatever and some locations are going to have to sub for others (just like DTLA is Washington, DC in Scandal and New York in just about everything you've seen that's not about Law or Order), but don't wander into an abandoned warehouse in what looks like a deserted and seedy part of town then namecheck an intersection (8th and Western) that's two blocks south of the Wiltern and a Ralph's. Is it too much to ask that the writers of a show understand the city they're writing about (and the things that actually happen in it)? It can be the melodramatic, action-stuffed, exposion-y version of what happens. I'm cool with that. Just get the city right. YOU LIVE RIGHT THERE, WRITERS.

  • smithinjapan May 23, 2014

    This show has a very small window with which to work on in a good way, and that as proven with the ending when Carlos was given up, which is about the only thing I did not expect. Nice action shots, but this show has a WHOLE lot more establishing to do (and please, not through such horrible exposition!) before it can be really established. Good potential... just change writers, please.

  • edshrinker May 23, 2014

    so I'd still rather watch a whole season of Gang Related than a single episode of The Following.

    You could have saved a lot of words and just left it at that. Sums this (and The Following) up perfectly. You sit through it because your options are limited.

    I know I sat there and wondered if I had ever watched a more "Tell me, don't show me", exposition filled

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