Had I seen it before: No.
What IMDb says: Baltimore drug scene, seen through the eyes of drug dealers and law enforcement.
Why I picked it: As someone who lives sorta kinda near Baltimore, I’ve always been like “I should watch that Baltimore-based show that was rather successful.” 30 Pilots in 30 Days offered the perfect kick in the butt to finally try it.
I also have this hunch that the show has taken on some new relevance as the Black Lives Matter movement has gained more steam. I might be able to appreciate it now in a way I never could’ve when it originally aired (I was 8 when this pilot was released, FYI). While I’m not sure the show was explicitly created to explore race relations, it does explore “the system” of detectives and lawyers and cops and I’m intrigued to see if and how race comes into play.
Finally, the notion of HBO tackling a relatively common tv staple, the cop drama, is also intriguing to me. How will it feel different from network cop dramas? Is naked breasts the only change or do more fundamental story structure changes happen as well?
What I liked: I liked that this was a cop drama but didn’t feel like a case-of-the-week procedural. It’s clear that the show is going to be character driven rather than plot driven, and that’s kind of refreshing.
One of the other things I thought was really cool here is that the characters I’m most interested in aren’t necessarily the ones who talked the most or got the most screentime. In one of the earlier scenes, Idris Elba helps acquit someone from murder. We see him drawing a “fuck you detective” comic in his notebook, and we see him say “Have a nice day” to the detective as he leaves the courtroom. I had this epiphany as he was leaving: Idris Elba is the high power defense attorney* that the prosecution hates with a passion. I just knew this was his role in the show even though he had barely any dialog and at this point, relatively little had been said about him.
I also love Kima. This is a bitch who’s in control of the situation. This is a bitch who’s so over her coworkers’ shit. She’s gonna get those motherfuckers thrown in jail, but she’s also not one for violence or brutality, and even makes a disparaging comment about her peers regarding this: “You rogue motherfuckers kill me. Fighting the war on drugs, one brutality case at a time.”
And here’s the clincher: my two favorite characters so far are on opposite sides of the drug war. The show’s ability to humanize both sides of the coin seems like it’s going to be one of its big strengths in coming episodes.
What I didn’t like: While I appreciate that this pilot was character driven, in a lot of ways there were too many characters. Ensemble shows are great, but you can only throw so many brand new characters at your audience before everything just gets kind of jumbled.
Orange is the New Black is an ensemble show, but the pilot is primarily about Piper.
Game of Thrones is an ensemble show, but the pilot invests a bulk of its screentime in the Starks.
The Wire pilot has so many characters that it lacks focus. The fact that some of those characters seem really cool and interesting doesn’t change this.
When there’s this many characters, it’s virtually impossible to make ALL of them really cool and interesting. I don’t think I like McNulty. I’m not thrilled with Kima’s partners. The kid who killed someone but is back to selling drugs? I’m not sure I like him, I mean he did kill someone.
And when you write a pilot in such a way that there’s ONLY minor characters, it’s kind of hard to tell who’s going to be relevant in later episodes and who isn’t. Like the Stranger Things pilot has a ton of characters too but there’s still this feeling that it’s going to revolve around Dustin, Lucas, and Mike. Here, I don’t get that. I don’t know which stories are plots and which ones are subplots, and I don’t like that.
Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Someday. Eventually. It started on my watchlist and it’s still on my watchlist, but I don’t know that it moved up in the order at all.
*Idris Elba actually isn’t a defense attorney. That’s just the interpretation I had from this initial scene. Later scenes make it a little more clear that he isn’t.