Thursday, March 14, 2013

Golden Boy: Young Guns Review


Rookie Justice And Mercy...

As we enter our third Golden Boy episode, I figure that the flash-forwards are slowly disappearing from view.  If that is the case, then Golden Boy will eventually find its way into a straightforward CBS police procedural, which I don't object to.   Already the only real hints of the future come from twice.  The first are the opening titles, where we are informed that Detective William Clark will become the youngest Police Commissioner in New York City history and this is his story.  The second come at the opening and closing of Young Guns, where in the grey-tones that Golden Boy indicates to be the future we see the older Commissioner Clark (Theo James) speak to a group of rookies.

Everything else in Young Guns could easily come from any other cop show about a rookie's first year battling such things as rival officers and his own ego and judgment.  In its favor, Young Guns takes a greater focus on the crime being investigated and comes up with a solid resolution.  However, we have the extra element of having the interplay between and within the characters being given equal treatment, making Young Guns both a plus and a minus to Golden Boy's overall premise.

Commissioner Clark makes an unannounced midnight appearance at his old precinct, where he addresses the officers.  From there, he tells his story of a case that had him balance what the law says and what justice is.   There is a shooting at the projects: two young men lie in an apartment.  One is dead, the other clinging to life, with the distraught mother of the barely alive one almost in hysterics.  Detective Arroyo (Kevin Alejandro) wants to continue the investigation if it means keeping the victim here, Detective Clark wants the victim moved to hospital.  Eventually Clark's partner Detective Owen (Chi McBride) gets them to go and move him to stop the tenants from becoming too hostile.

Back at the precinct, Detective Arroyo is angry to see his old friend Deputy Mayor Ellsworth (Eric Morris) takes a shine to Clark, giving him free tickets to a Yankees game at the Mayor's skybox rather than to Arroyo.  Arroyo's jealousy and rage get the better of him, and he tells Clark that he has a recording of him giving evidence money to Natasha, an informant from their last case.  He won't tell, and he won't drag Owen into this, if Clark just remembers his place and becomes deferential to Arroyo.  Even though Clark won't confide in Owen, the senior partner is too shrewd to not think something is not up.  He tells Clark that Owen is now 'investigating' him.

Meanwhile, the case goes on.  Arroyo and his partner McKenzie (Bonnie Summerville) zero in on Evander, a local drug kingpin, especially after learning there will be a shipment of weapons coming in for him.  A slight mix-up in location causes them trouble: rather than wait for more officers Arroyo orders that everyone raid the warehouse that wasn't targeted.  McKenzie is almost killed but Clark comes in and saves her.  While the weapons are confiscated, Clark learns with a little more investigating that Evander is not the actual killer.

Now Clark's dilemma: should he serve the law and arrest the actual killer, or serve justice to keep an admittedly bad man in prison.  Clark opts to do the right thing, which doesn't sit too well with the antagonistic Arroyo, but we end Young Guns with two curious moments: a.) Detective Clark has stumbled upon Arroyo and McKenzie in a compromising position, and b.) Commissioner Clark greets a rookie, one Officer Arroyo, Jr. (Blaze Mancillas).

Young Guns did something that Golden Boy has not done in the preceding two episode: put the crime as a major part of the story.  Granted, the actual mystery ended up being less than a mystery and the conflict between the detectives is what people tune into for the majority of the time in CBS police procedurals.  However, one thing that was dropped was the flash-forwards that dominated both the pilot and The Price of Revenge.   In fact, minus the opening and closing, Young Guns might have come straight from a Blue Bloods spin-off (if there was a cocky, smouldering kid on that show).  I don't know if this is how Golden Boy will keep the flash-forwards to a minimum, but I suspect they will.

Again we see that what is becoming the central question of Golden Boy (will Detective Clark follow Owen's example of doing good or Arroyo's example of winning at all costs as he climbs to Commissioner?) is not given a definitive answer one way or another.  Certainly we have flashes that he could take either route.  For example, the closing moment of the present-day story, where he observes that McKenzie and Arroyo are lovers, now give him some leverage against his rival.  Will he use it against Arroyo, and if so, how?  If he doesn't, how will he escape Arroyo's grasp?

We can see that Young Guns has parallel stories of the shooting victim and the ambitious cop.  When Clark is questioning the mother about the shooting, she made the comment that one of the victims said to her son that Evander "owns" Michael.  Clark's reaction is obvious since earlier Arroyo had used the exact same phrase.  "I own you," the detective tells Clark, one golden boy to another.  Both are caught in situations of their own making against antagonists that while technically clean are also ruthless and determined to show their underlings that they are in charge. 

Michael's choice nearly cost him his life.  It's clear that Clark's career survived whatever plans Arroyo had for him, but now the real mystery of Golden Boy grows: not only how does Clark get out of his predicament, but at what cost?

If anything, we have the basic structure to the series (the rise of this young man to see what exactly he turns into) as well as the characters whose motives are easy to understand.  Arroyo is used to being the big man on campus, and this kid comes in.  At first considering him a nuisance, Arroyo now sees him as someone who could eclipse him, and his ego will not allow that (at least without a fight).  Under normal circumstances he would be 'the bad guy', but Alejandro shows him to be an effective and basically professional cop who knows what he is doing (most of the time). 

McBride is also bringing the traditional 'wise elder' character something that we don't see with mentor/student relationships: a genuine shrewdness.  Clark and Arroyo both think they are successfully keeping Owen out of the loop, but neither appreciates that he hasn't been on the force 22 years without knowing how to read people.  When he asks Clark, "When did you become Arroyo's bitch?", it is not only funny (I admit to laughing out loud) but also as clear an indication to Clark that Owen is aware something is going on.  Still, McBride plays Owen as someone who unlike the equally hot-headed Clark and Arroyo, is willing to bide his time until he finds the truth.

As a digression, Arroyo, Clark, and Owen remind me of a story about three samurai who battled each other to become Shogun.  There once was a bird who would not sing.  One of them said, "Little Bird, if you do not sing, I will kill you."  The second said, "Little Bird, if you do not sing, I will make you sing."  The third said, "Little Bird, if you do not sing, I will wait for you to sing."  It was the third samurai who came out triumphant.  Arroyo would be the first: cold, ruthless, unwilling to let others get either the best of him or in his way.  Clark would be the second: determined to force situations to his favor.  Owen is the third: waiting to see how things work out and then make his move.  

Summerville is being set up to be caught in the Clark/Arroyo crossfire, though I keep wondering what exactly McKenzie sees in Arroyo (beyond the physical) to be romantically involved with him.  She, unlike her partner (in every way) sees Clark has capabilities and doesn't let her ego get the better of her (unlike Arroyo, who can't see straight when it comes to Clark).

One minor character, Detective Joe Diaco (Holt McCallany) appears to be getting lost in the shuffle.  He brings a lightness to the show and in Young Guns appears to be a competent, solid detective.  He even handles a bit of the investigation himself, but so far he seems to be there to be likable, provide tickets for all sorts of things ranging from Broadway to Jets games.   I hope to be wrong, but I keep thinking Detective Diaco is destined not to remain long with us...

Something that I wasn't too sure of was in regards to Officer Arroyo, Jr.  I can't remember if Detective McKenzie is now Arroyo's mistress or secret girlfriend because I can't recall if he is married or not.  I think the pilot established he was indeed a married man when he is involved with McKenzie, but I wonder if Commissioner Clark would tell this story of finding Arroyo and McKenzie in locked lips with his son to hear.  One hopes all these things will be answered in due course.

So far Golden Boy is keeping the cards close to the vest, unwilling to tip its hand as to whether Detective Clark becomes corrupted on his rise to power or not.   Young Guns put more emphasis on the present than on the future (which is a plus) but in doing so it also might be acknowledging that it can only keep going back to the future so much before that becomes too distracting.  It's building its story slowly, methodically, patiently.  On the whole, I think it is worth investigating to see whether the youngest Police Commissioner in New York City's history is worth finding that room at the top.      


Next Episode: Role Models

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