This article previously appeared on Crossfader.
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We live in an era where police officers no longer leave us feeling secure. In one of CBS’s newest shows, showrunners Shawn Ryan and Aaron Rashaan Thomas combine their adaptation of the 1975 cop drama S.W.A.T. with a commentary on the polarizing role police have in our society. Yet what prevents S.W.A.T. from being the most relevant and entertaining cop drama in this age is its one dimensional secondary characters, boring plotline, and disingenuous dialogue.
In the beginning of the pilot we are introduced to Sergeant II Daniel “Hondo” Harrelson, a native Angeleno and a proud member of the LAPD. However, everything changes when one of his white team members is fired for accidentally shooting an innocent black civilian. The community acts in an uproar in response to the police brutality, and Hondo, being a person of color, is promoted to team leader as an obvious attempt to ease the tension between the department and the community. The episode then follows Hondo juggling his newfound position and a rally against police brutality that turns into another shooting.
The disappointment in the execution of this concept is an injustice in itself
The show succeeds on reviving a genre of drama that is incredibly relevant to our current events. It has only grown more difficult to sympathize with law enforcement that have often stood in opposition to our current civil rights movements. It is also apparent that the creators of S.W.A.T. aren’t attempting to profit off the Black Lives Matter movement, as the show appears to be a realistic depiction of the current relationship police have with civilians. It is unfortunate that the characters and dialogue fail the premise, with each line a character says more flat than the one before.
After all, it isn’t a true cop drama if there’s no interwork sex!
Hondo is the greatest disappointment of S.W.A.T.’s set of characters, as his character is full of dramatic potential as a result of being a black S.W.A.T. officer and constantly being thrust into the middle of his community’s protests. Yet, his predominantly silent, brooding demeanor is more stoic and boring rather than torn and contemplative. Not even his romantic relationship with his superior commanding officer, Captain Jessica Cortez, initiates him to his most engaging points. After all, their secret forbidden relationship is more stale than it is sexy. This only demotes Jessica’s character even more, as her sole purpose is either to provide exposition to the drama in the SWAT division, have sex, or a mix of the two.
Not all of the Avenger’s like the new Long Beach recruit.
SWAT completes its fall with the lack of development of its secondary characters. The other characters that make up Hondo’s team serve as good decoration for the scenes in which they attempt to track down shooters and pass a ball around in an abandoned warehouse in their downtime. There’s Sergeant Deacon, who was the original officer lined up for Hondo’s promotion before the shooting accident occurred. The tension between him and Hondo is rarely seen, but when it’s apparent, almost makes up for how simple and forgettable the other characters are. Nevertheless, cop dramas have been a timeless staple of American television, and S.W.A.T. brings a well-needed update to the genre. It is unfortunate to see that the premise isn’t all that it lives up to be considering its poor execution.
S.W.A.T. airs on CBS on Thursdays