Previously on Shades of Blue, bad boy cop Matt Wozniak will do anything to protect his corrupt fiefdom. He’s suspected most everyone in his outfit, including Harlee, of being a snitch for FBI Special Agent Robert Stahl. Stahl is getting close to bagging someone and has an inside asset with Saperstein. Unfortunately, Woz eventually finds out the snitch is Saperstein and pushes him off a tall building. Saperstein survives, only to be snuffed out later by a crafty Wozniak who has vacated the hospital through a bomb threat.

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Shades of Blue Good Cop Bad Cop (s1e8)

Shades of Blue Good Cop Bad Cop opens with Wozniak at home, brooding over his drink with shaking hands. His wife notices the desperate look on her husband’s face, asks him to explain. It’s a good bit of acting, and funny in a perverse sort of way, to hear how Wozniak justifies killing a member of his own crew.

His success depends upon going beyond the “boundaries of what’s acceptable” and “that’s how we are able to live the life we lead.” The slow and deliberate way Liotta delivers the lines, the sweat pouring off his tired face, tells you exactly how far beyond the “boundaries of what’s acceptable” he is willing to go. Answer: There are no boundaries.

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Other problems are afoot with Cristina, who emerges from the background of the story line with a boyfriend covered in blood. She wants to take him home to meet mom but tonight’s not the night. Cristina believes that her mom’s ‘family’ in the police department will make things right for the people who beat up her boyfriend Manny. The skeptical Manny allows Cristina to call in Wozniak for help because the two men who beat up Manny were cops on patrol in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood where the beating took place. Wozniak and Tess run down the two cops, offering Wozniak the chance to impart one of the omnipresent sexual references.

“Which one’s Hollister?” the bosomy Tess asks.

“The one staring at your rack,” Wozniak says.

Okay, no sense being prudish about it. These little innuendoes are funny, inappropriate, non-PC but people say such things. When Wozniak asks about the beating Manny sustained, the two cops try to blow it off as a matter between drug dealers and gangbangers. The two officers say they didn’t have anything to do with Manny’s bruises, that they were sustained in a fight with the other thugs.

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The truth emerges later when Cristina tells Wozniak that she was a witness to Manny’s beating. Not only does he have her say-so, she shows him the video she shot. It’s a clear case of police brutality, angering Wozniak all the more when one of the officers makes a disgusting sexual remark to Cristina. The subplot offers the distrusted Loman to become a regular member of the crew when Wozniak asks him for help in dispensing a little street justice.

Meanwhile, Baker and Stahl are together in a meeting trying to figure out how Detective Saperstein, their number one asset, ended up dead. Baker suggests that Stahl should be able to match up the explosives found at the hospital with the explosives Wozniak put in the police evidence locker. Can’t do it, Stahl says, the bomb material has no identifying trademark signature. Now Baker and Stahl must rely on Harlee to get Wozniak to admit to killing Saperstein but Wozniak is cagey and always covering his bases. It won’t be easy to get him on record to a murder.

An angry Harlee Santos confronts Wozniak about killing Saperstein but he tells her he had no choice. Saperstein was immune from prosecution – Wozniak had seen the immunity papers himself. Convincing though that is, Woz must convince the other detectives in his unit that there was a method to his madness. It’s a bit chilling when he convenes a meetup in a storage room to hash things about with Tufo, Tess, Carlos, and Harlee. Hardass Detective Tess helps him out with that; it’s sufficient justification to kill a “rat,” but Harlee is still angry.

In her meeting with Agent Stahl, Harlee is filled with guilt, feeling that Saperstein’s death is all her fault. The dialogue is campy on occasion but meant to reinforce a central idea:

“Why did Wozniak frame Miguel Zepeda for murder?”

While Harlee knows the answer to this, she won’t share it with Stahl, not at first anyway. To provoke her, Stahl tells Harlee there was an eyewitness who has come forth to say she knows Miguel Zepeda was not the person who killed Rita Martin. She does share that information with Wozniak, however, who tells Harlee he takes care of the witness like he takes care of everything else. The surprising twist occurs when Wozniak tells Harlee he’s been paying the witness $1,000 a month for ten years for her silence.

“Okay, so here it is,” Wozniak says, “Now she’s your problem.”

While some of the dialogue seems stagey, the show hits some high points in its striving for edgy. There’s a scene where Harlee and Loman are packing up Saperstein’s personal effects at the precinct, putting the stuff in boxes for shipment to his mother. It’s touching – Saperstein’s Yankee Baseball doll goes in the box. The unsentimental and street-hardened Tess happens by and mocks the teary-eyed reminiscences of Harlee and Loman.

“Packing Saperstein’s stuff is just a waste of time. You should just light a match to it,” Tess Nazario says flippantly.

Harlee tries to defend Saperstein: “He was our friend.”

“Yeah, well the minute he starts talking to the feds I just put him into the rear view (mirror),” Tess counters.

This show has taken quite a while to sort itself out and settle in, but Episode 8 is one of the best I’ve seen. The seeming arbitrariness of earlier episodes have jelled into a coherent though crazy mixed up porridge. Festering wounds need treating as the crew arrives at Saperstein’s funeral to comfort his mother. Tess has a remorseful epiphany when she reads a touching letter Saperstein had written to her out of compassion with her own struggles.

Stahl also reaches a higher level of understanding when he finally learns why Harlee fears for Cristina. It’s to protect her daughter from the violent and abusive Miguel Zepeda that Harlee and Wozniak joined to frame Zepeda for the murder of Rita Martin.

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At the end, Harlee signals a drastic change in the show’s story arc when she goes to Agent Stahl’s apartment to tell him he will have her full cooperation in bringing Wozniak down.

Other episodes of Shades of Blue reviewed on TV Eskimo include:

s1e1 – Pilots1e2 – Original Sins1e3 – False Face False Hearts1e4 – Who Can Tell Me Who I Am?s1e5 – Equal and Opposites1e6 – Fall of Mans1e7 – Undiscovered Country

Characters and cast of Shades of Blue Good Cop Bad Cop (s1e8) include:

Harlee Santos – Jennifer Lopez (Out of Sight, Maid in Manhattan, Monster-in-Law, The Cell, Enough, Selena)Matt Wozniak – Ray Liotta (Identity, Hannibal, Goodfellas, Texas Rising, Kill the Messenger, The Place Beyond the Pines, Killing Them Softly, Blow, Cop Land, Control)Tess Nazario – Drea de Matteo (Sons of Anarchy, Swordfish, Assault on Precinct 13, The Sopranos)Robert Stahl – Warren Kole (The Avengers, Mother’s Day, A Love Story for Bobby Long)Michael Loman – Dayo Okeniyi (The Hunger Games, Terminator Genisys, The Spectacular Now, Endless Love)Marcus Tufo – Hampton Fluker (The Blind Side, Whitney, The Depths)Carlos Espada – Vincent Laresca (Romeo + Juliet, The Amazing Spider-Man, K-PAX, The Aviator, Before Night Falls)Christina Santos – Sarah Jeffrey (Descendants, Rogue, Wayward Pines)Stuart Saperstein – Santino Fontana (Frozen, Sisters, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit)Donnie Pomp – Michael Esper (A Beautiful Mind, Frances Ha, The Drop, Runner Runner, Nurse Jackie)