Detroit 1-8-7: A Character Investigation

A few weeks ago, I praised Detroit 1-8-7 for giving the “other cops”—Sgt. Jesse Longford (James McDaniel) and Det. Vikram Mahajan (Shaun Majumder)—their time in the spotlight. It’s a difficult balancing act, especially for a new cop show with a charismatic main character like Det. Louis Fitch (Michael Imperioli), but Detroit 187 has done it with grace and subtlety so far. And the show is getting even better.

In last night’s episode, “Murder in Greektown/High School Confidential,” the light, playful relationship between Longford and Mahajan got heavier. For the past few episodes (and, presumably, the past several months), Longford has been obsessed with his upcoming retirement in Tuscany. He recites Italian phrases, he listens to Italian lessons on tape, and he daydreams about his villa, all while Mahajan humors his constant musings. But last night, Mahajan admitted to a colleague that he was frustrated with Longford. While Mahajan is far from hitting his breaking point, this tiny complaint could build over the next few episodes and lead to something fascinating—a laugh, a change in retirement plans, an explosive fight, even a partner switch. It’s hard to say what will come next, because we still don’t know the characters too well, but personal conflicts like this—between partners that actually like each other—are often overlooked on cop shows. I’m looking forward to seeing how the two characters handle it.

Meanwhile, Fitch is slowly, steadily, and realistically emerging from what seems like years of social hibernation. He began the show as a mysterious introvert, so it was easy to label him as a freak when he phoned his partner, Washington (Jon Michael Hill) from the next desk over or stared creepy at precinct hottie Sanchez (Natalie Martinez) in the pilot. But the new, drama-filled partnership has worked wonders on Fitch’s personality. Fitch has demonstrated how much he cares about his co-workers, making it a little easier to see that he's not weird, just shy. Fitch has also been observing them and learning from their well-adjusted interactions; in “Greektown,” he overheard Washington compliment Martinez on her new haircut, so he decided to phone her from across the room and tell her himself how nice she looked. He’s probably been wanting to do that for years, but just worked up the courage to make the move.

Detroit 1-8-7 also recognizes that not every character has to have a storyline in every episode. Det. John Stone (D.J. Cotrona), for example, took a backseat in “Greektown” to Lt. Maureen Mason (Aisha Hinds), whose daughter was an integral part of the episode’s plot. As a result, we learned more about the loving but pressure-filled relationship she has with her daughter.

Think of Detroit 1-8-7 as one of those time-release capsule. As we watch, we’ll continue to be rewarded with interesting background information about the characters, delicate details about Detroit, and quietly brilliant musical references. I just wish more people were popping the pills.

What did you think of “Murder in Greektown/High School Confidential”?

Follow writer Stefanie Lee on Twitter: @StefAtTVDotCom

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