DirecTV is about to enter the world of provider-creating original programming pioneered by Netflix. Its debut series is Rogue, a psychological cop drama that will launch on DirecTV’s Audience channel beginning tonight at 9 pm eastern.
Thandie Newton stars as Grace Travis,
“a morally and emotionally-conflicted undercover detective, is tormented by the possibility that her own actions contributed to her son’s mysterious death. In her quest for the truth, Grace finds herself striking out on her own and falling deeper into the city’s most powerful and dangerous crime family. As Grace struggles to become the wife and mother her family now needs, her life is further complicated by a forbidden relationship with crime boss Jimmy Laszlo. In order to stay alive, Grace needs to help Jimmy find the traitor in his midst, while knowing he may have played a part in her tragedy.”
That’s what the publicity campaign says about the show’s central character and driving plot. Unfortunately, that’s about as good as the writing gets across the show’s two debut episodes. The whole production looks stylish but has a lazy heart.
Early in the first episode, Grace does turns as an undercover cop trying to get inside gangster Jimmy Lazlo’s (Marton Csokas) empire, and mom who never sees her kids. Her husband (Kavan Smith) is a tattooed, muscular Mr. Mom whose outward appearance hides a big softie. In real life it’s hard to see how a police investigator as tough and courageous as Grace could put up with such a whiny man. By the end of the second episode, that problem seems well on its way to being solved. Body builder husband and bad boy Lazlo are equally implausible cardboard characters. Why Grace would bother tearing herself up over either one is never answered. Mobster or marshmallow: Why bother making that call?
Thandie Newton’s performance starts off uneven in all her roles — the fake mobster, the real undercover cop and the absent mom and wife — but she does get better and by the midpoint of episode two I found her more believable if still not very sympathetic. By the end of episode two she owns her dual character. Unfortunately for Newton, the writers and her supporting cast let her down everywhere. The writers choose swearing and B-grade lines to make up for the lack of compelling characters and plot. Claudia Ferri is simply awful as the Oakland police lieutenant who seems more interested in protecting her turf than going after criminals. The other characters offer different shades of forgettable. One cop has a beard, another wears a fedora, the mobster’s son may or may not be so one-dimensional that he defies physics.
Still, some viewers may find Rogue enjoyable. If you like f-bombing cops living and spouting nothing but cop show cliches, Rogue may be the show for you. If you like watching the shady and incompetent police officer who gathers intel on street gangs while enjoying the services of their hot Chinese hookers, this is your show. If you like watching the stereotypical angry police lieutenant who gets what she wants by threatening every other police officer in her town and the next town over, Rogue is the show for you. If you like the weakling sidekick cop who can’t seem to justify his existence except to feed the main character information she couldn’t plausibly obtain without him, this show is for you. If you like the cliche of the pot smoking teenage cop’s daughter who shows her mom not an ounce of sympathy when her own baby brother is killed in a mysterious shooting, this is your show. If you like watching the only decent police officer and actor on screen constantly face threats from bureaucrats (“I’ll have your badge!”) and gangsters who come all off about as real as the non-playable characters in a video game, why then, Rogue is the show for you!
Rogue goes for gritty, but just comes up goofy. I give it 1.5 stars out of 5.