Rookie Blue: Season 1, episode 1

The first day on a new job is always awkward, but what would you do if you were a rookie police officer and other people’s lives – and potentially your own – hinged on your ability to put all your academic learning into practice immediately on the mean city streets? Welcome to Rookie Blue, a new Canadian police drama which focuses on the professional and personal lives of five newly graduated uniformed cops.

A good first day

Please don’t make me shoot you. This is my first day.

I’ll make no bones about it: I like Rookie Blue. It isn’t a vastly ambitious, ground-breaking show like, say, The Sopranos or 24. It doesn’t have the crash-bang-wallop of a Hawaii Five-O, or the geeky procedural detail of a CSI. It’s not even a particularly original idea. More than one commentator has noted a resemblance to Grey’s Anatomy in terms of basing a show around newly qualified professionals, leading it to being dubbed ‘Blue’s Anatomy’. (And the equally new Blue Bloods also features a just-qualified beat cop learning the ropes.)

Nonetheless this pilot episode, which follows the rookies on their first day as officers, lays the groundwork nicely for an engaging series which portrays something other than the fearless, lantern-jawed and utterly driven heroes that Hollywood would like us to believe all police officers are. Here, the experienced officers of 15 Division bemoan the humdrum nature of the majority of their work and bend the rules to keep things running smoothly. This contrasts with the five rookies who are all eager to get into action, naive to the way real policing works and consequently trip themselves up as they discover the real world is a different place to what they were taught at the academy.

Andy McNally (Missy Peregrym) has a tough first day on the job (image courtesy of abc.com)

Andy McNally (Missy Peregrym) is the rookies’ natural leader. Idealistic, empathetic and desperate to shine, she is the daughter of Tommy McNally, a retired cop who left the force under a cloud and has now turned to drink. (Aha! I know a ‘deep, dark secret’ season arc when I see one.) Her best friend Traci Nash (Enuka Okuma) is streetwise, instinctive, impatient and already in a relationship with detective Jerry BarberGail Peck (Charlotte Sullivan) comes from a long line of officers, and is fiercely ambitious, politically adept and sometimes selfish. Dov Epstein (Gregory Smith) is a wise-cracking thrill-seeker who is desperate to get into the thick of things. And Chris Diaz (Travis Milne) is the walking rule book, a small-town boy in the big city who has yet to appreciate shades of grey.

The case underpinning this first episode is fairly low-key, allowing all the characters to introduce themselves to us while focussing primarily on Andy and Traci. Andy unwittingly blows Sam Swarek‘s cover while investigating the shooting of a drug-dealer, and a young boy is found abandoned in the same apartment block. Mortified, she goes to great lengths to rectify her mistake, resulting in a face-to-face confrontation with the terrified shooter. Meanwhile, Traci’s street smarts help her identify the abandoned boy’s father as a drug user.

In addition to introducing us to the rest of the show’s sizeable cast, Gail, Dov and Chris all receive lesser moments in the spotlight – enough to give us some insight into their characters, but without swamping the main story. Their turn will come.

What’s to come?

Like its close relation Blue Bloods, the template for Rookie Blue appears to be character-driven rather than focussed on its procedural or action aspects. The story zooms in more on the rookies’ nervous and bumbling reaction to their new environment than on any intricacies in what is an extremely straightforward plot. And the resolution to Andy’s final confrontation with the shooter is nicely understated, layering lots of insight into her personality as she talks rather than fights her way out of a difficult situation. Missy Peregrym is excellent in her lead role, as Andy veers between fear and determination, and humiliation and pride as she makes her first arrest.

Working from a start point where the five new officers are naive to reality offers plenty of scope for development. It’s easy to empathise with their very real struggles as they fumble and stumble and make mistakes, and generally discover that there is a world of difference between following rules and procedures and actually being a police officer.

With such a large ensemble cast of rookies, training officers and other characters, there is potential for rich, relationship-driven story-telling. Already we know about Traci and Jerry’s affair, and there are enough suggestions in the pilot to suggest that the sparky personal and professional relationship between Andy and Sam will feature heavily on an ongoing basis.

Overall, the signs for the series are good. Broadcast simultaneously in Canada and the US last summer, it achieved strong initial ratings and audience retention despite lukewarm critical reviews, and was renewed for a second season after only three episodes.

This first episode represents a solid start, and if the series can maintain its momentum and direction throughout this first season run of 13 episodes it will occupy a healthy niche alongside its more cerebral or action-based contemporaries.

Rookie Blue continues on the Universal Channel, Sundays at 10pm.

Rating; 1.01 Fresh Paint – 7/10

Links: Rookie Blue website (abc.com), Universal channel (UK) websiteIMDb, TV.com, Wikipedia