Satellite provider DirectTV’s first foray into original programming for their Audience Network comes in the form of the lucrative crime drama Rogue, where a suspended San Jose detective re-assumes her undercover identity, and with the aide of the mob boss she’s supposed to bring down, find her son’s killer.
Brit Thandie Newton assumes a tough American accent for Det. Grace Travis, as does New Zealander Marton Csokas as crime lord Jimmy Laszlo and British actor Joshua Sasse as elder son Alex Laszlo, jealous of his father’s unwavering preference for younger brother Max (Matthew Beard).
While Rogue doesn’t offer nothing new to the crime genre, it distinguishes itself by frequently allotting time to secondary and tertiary characters, making them more humane, and elevating them from fairly standard archetypes. Alec may be a monster – to fix a strategic blunder he murders two punks and literally delivers their freshly severed heads to a rival gang to stop a potential blood war – but the writers and series creator Matthew Parkhill (Dot the I) provide more than enough material to show the Laszlo family's alpha dog as a deeply troubled soul wanting so badly the attention, respect, and trust of his father. When Max is released from a year’s stint in jail, the drama really kicks into gear, and it becomes clear Jimmy’s youngest son is hardly a soft-spoken, wide-eyed innocent.
Parkhill repeatedly returns to Grace’s mental state after a major incident, and Newton uses everything in her toolbox to chronicle Grace’s mounting exhaustion as her marriage collapses, her relationship with teen daughter Evie (Sarah Jeffery) disintegrates, and she becomes a pariah among her coworkers at the department; her survival becomes wholly dependent on alliances with Jimmy Laszlo and two burn-out cops with grey moralities – Mitch (Ian Tracey) and Buddy (Brit Ian Hart).
Rogue’s first three episodes are a little wobbly: the dialogue is highly clichéd, and the performance styles and hidden Brit / NZ accents of the cast is a bit uneven, especially nuanced Csokas; the direction in those early efforts is also a bit heavy-handed, especially the long-held close-ups that infer Great Drama when it’s merely pedestrian, but pretty much everything that follows is quite solid, and viewers are rewarded with some exceptional writing in the last two episodes. The finale clearly sets up the show for another season (Grace’s career survival is a little impossible to grasp), and it’ll be interesting to see whether Parkhill is able to keep things interesting and plausible in the second season.
Because DirectTV wanted to launch their show with a bang (and compete in the saturated market of risqué TV), there’s a sense the network mandated an F-bomb appear every three sentences, and directors freely engage in displays of sometimes graphic gore and blatant softcore sex scenes (with which both main and supporting actors were apparently comfortable, showing off their naughty bits in frank or fleeting details).
Most of the B.C. locations manage to pass for San Jose, and the second unit shots of San Jose – beautiful aerial wide shots of dock cranes and sprawling highways and suburbs – make each 49 min. episode feel like a feature film. Jeff Toyne’s music is appropriately low-key, and his rhythmic patterns give the show a grim, gloomy edge in spite of the often sunny scenes and beautiful architecture.
A home video release is expected this fall from EOne.
An interview with series composer Jeff Toyne is also available.
© 2013 Mark R. Hasan