GOLDEN BOY: VICIOUS CYCLE
Our fifth Golden Boy episode has done what I figured would be done in the first episode: basically drop the whole "looking into the future" bit and turn Golden Boy into a more straightforward CBS procedural. We still have the future elements in the story, which as I suspected are being held to the opening and closing of the story, but for all intents and purposes Golden Boy will be more about Detective William Clark (Theo James) and how he handles the politics of the 39th Precinct along with the cases rather than the focus on the future Commissioner Clark. That being the case, Golden Boy has found its comfortable niche with its attention to the characters rather than take too much time with the cases.
Commissioner Clark is not pleased to learn a meeting with a victim's advocacy group has been pushed back to allow a longer lunch with the Mayor (who I figure wouldn't let Clark drink a Big Gulp or chow down on a super-sized burger, but I digress). Now we get to the present. A local youth named Calvin McGee has been murdered, his body found in a suitcase. He just happens to be the brother to Rochelle, the confidential informant of Detective Owen (Chi McBride) who got killed when his then-partner, Detective Arroyo (Kevin Alejandro) inadvertently revealed her identity. Her sister April, unwilling to trust Owen given their history, doesn't want him investigating her brother's murder. Clark, however, talks her into being slightly more cooperative.
As the investigation goes on it's strange that someone with no known enemies or criminal involvement should have been murdered so viciously. However, an immediate lead turns up when Landis Murphy, a disgruntled ex-employee at the airport baggage handling where Calvin was a supervisor, is tied as a suspect. Soon we find that Landis is nothing more than a middle man, who has been using his job to smuggle drugs or cash (I can't recall which) from Jamaica. When Calvin found out about it, he immediately fired him.
However, things get complicated real quickly. First, Clark (and the audience) discover that Rochelle became Owen's mistress for a time prior to her death. We also discover that Dominic Quinlan, April's boyfriend/baby daddy, was the brains in the smuggling operation. In fact, he only started his relationship with April after discovering Calvin worked at the airport. Arroyo coaches Clark to use subterfuge to get April to name names, but things soon come to a dangerous point when April pulls a gun on Dominic to avenge his death. Owen manages to talk her out of it, Dominic's arrested, and case is closed.
In the subplot, Nora (Polly Draper), William and Agnes' alcoholic mother, returns, attempting to make amends. While Clark would rather not have her return to their lives, especially his impressionable younger sister, Owen convinces him that it should be up to Agnes to make that decision. Coming clean, Agnes begs for a reunion. At the end, Mother Clark DOES manage to return, and in the future, we find that April is the advocacy group head Commissioner Clark was meeting.
Again it is not the actual crimes that are the central point of the series. Instead, it is the interplay between the characters, and Vicious Cycle has the benefit of making the noble character flawed and the flawed character noble. All this time Detective Owen has been seen as the straight arrow, the one who plays by the book. Finding out that he, of all people, began an affair with a C.I. (not only cheating on his wife but also violating police codes) is an unexpected twist. On the other hand, finding that Arroyo is a damn good detective even if he has to play tricks on witnesses shows him to be on occasion focused on the job versus focused on getting his own.
It also allows Clark, who has been pulled both ways in his slog to the top, to see that even those who are generally good (like Owen) and generally bad (like Arroyo) have moments where they don't hold up to their images. We also see that Clark, as much as the Dark Side is tempting him and he doesn't object to going there for the good of the case, has also turned to Owen's example. He is now trusting almost everything to his senior partner: he is now quick to apologize for things and more open with personal matters (such as his mother), and he is adopting a more 'honesty is the best policy' manner when dealing with his sister.
I think this is Draper's first appearance as the troubled mother, and her performance was excellent. She had the mix of sympathy and frustration a recovering addict who has not been the best of mothers would elicited. I actually was rooting for her to overcome her troubles and hopefully begin a real relationship with both her children. Given she wasn't the focus of Vicious Cycle, that I thought more of her small screen time than of some of the regular cast is a credit to her performance.
The regular cast is also still in top form, from McBride's weariness as Owen to Alejandro's good cop but questionable man Arroyo (personally, I'm finding him to be my favorite character. I figure the fact that he's more gray than black-and-white helps).
Vicious Cycle has a straightforward, logical crime which ties together well while the dynamics of the precinct continue to be the main story. I keep thinking that eventually the little clues we're being left (like at another episode, we learn that Owen is no longer with us by the time Clark becomes Commissioner) will be almost to a minimum. I personally don't mind when we have flash-forwards (which are always bathed in grey) but as a series about a young man on the rise, struggling between being a good cop and a good man, Golden Boy is starting to build up steam...even if on occasion the future is not bright and I figure will soon become almost forgotten.
Next Episode: Just Say No