When last we heard from the characters of NBC’s “Shades of Blue,” Harlee (Jennifer Lopez) was wracked with guilt over her decision to turn informant on Woz (Ray Liotta) — only to have Woz sacrifice himself for her own freedom in last season’s finale. Then, in a perfect storm of criminal drama, Harlee also found herself standing over the dead body of her ex-husband Miguel, having killed him after he attempted to rape her and threaten their daughter.
The Season 2 premiere (Mar. 5) picks up right where we left off: While Lopez disposes of Miguel, Liotta’s getting cuffed for questioning.
As is common for the series, new details immediately shake things up bigtime: In this case, details about the FBI’s investigation into Harlee and Woz’s crew. Woz is forced by the FBI to frame and arrest a Mafia leader he used to ignore — not just a fun way to revisit Liotta’s mob-rat history as Henry Hill in “Goodfellas,” but also an arrangement that quietly shifts the series in a new direction. After newly-introduced Julia Ayres (Anna Gunn) pleads with Woz for leniency on the mobster, we learn that it’s her the FBI really wants — more than either Harlee or Woz.
From here on out, Woz and Harlee still have plenty to cover up, and Ayres’ introduction certainly muddies things — especially given Woz’s complicated relationship, history and bond with Ayres — but more than anything else, the FBI’s interest in Ayres is notable for what it takes away from the story:
With Ayres as the FBI’s larger target, Harlee and Woz may find themselves with a better leverage against Agent Stahl (Warren Kole) — and with better leverage comes the slightest bit more safety from prosecution. But as the veil of danger that hangs over them is lifted and things settle down, they’ll have more time to focus on what got them there in the first place: Harlee’s betrayal.
The two have a long history together, and since neither have exactly had much time to wrap their heads around the sequence of decisions that got us here, that betrayal is still a raw and open wound for them both. We get a glimpse of it when Woz confronts Harlee one-on-one in his garage — the same garage where, in the pilot episode, he confided in her that an informant was among them, unaware that it was her. And when Harlee explains that she hates Agent Stahl for turning her against him, Woz makes his hurt clear: “You hate [Stahl] like you love me: When it’s convenient.”
It’s easily some of the most captivating material of the episode, bringing the complex skills of both actors into sharp relief. On one hand, Harlee holds onto an enthralling feeling of pain and regret over a decision she was essentially forced to make. On the other, Woz copes with a feeling of hurt to which he’s not likely accustomed, being a typically tough, hardened veteran of the force.
Let’s hope “Shades of Blue” keeps the microscope on Woz and Harlee’s betrayal, tackling it head-on and simmering in all the details and emotional subtlety they bring — rather than jumping too quickly to forgiveness, or (gulp) cutting one of their lives short. It’s an area that’s ripe for dissection and revisiting — and with the focus of the FBI’s investigation now shifting to higher powers, Woz and Harlee are going to have plenty of time to hash things out together…
“Shades of Blue” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.