Fox’s newest drama, Gang Related, made its intentions loud and clear last night with a solid debut. The premise may sound familiar, and it is, but besides how rushed the pilot feels, the characters and storyline stray far enough from the formula to make you want to know what’s coming next. If you’re looking for something to compare it to, essentially, it’s a grittier version of USA’s hit Graceland.
The network put together a serious cast for this one, which gives this show some added credibility going into things. So many of the series that are coming out lately seem to feature fresh faces in key roles. That’s not necessarily a negative, but it also doesn’t give you much of a built in fanbase, either.
Gang Related has stacked their line up with seasoned actors, many of which are either instantly recognizable or give you an inkling that you’ve seen their face before – Fast and the Furious‘s Sung Kang, RZA, Jay Hernandez. And, if you’re going to make a television show about gangs in/from/around East LA, Sons of Anarchy‘s Emilio Rivera is by far the most authentic casting choice they could have made (bravo!). This doesn’t guarantee that everything will pan out for the series, but it certainly doesn’t hurt matters.
Although Gang Related pulled the focus from its central character in the pilot to show off other members of its expansive cast, the story clearly centers around Ryan Lopez (Ramon Rodriguez). Ryan seamlessly transitions between his role as a member of the inter-agency task force representing the LAPD, and informant for Javier Acosta (Cliff Curtis), leader of Los Angelicos, a power player among the LA gangs.
Over the course of the episode, it becomes alarmingly clear that Ryan’s loyalties lie with Acosta, who serves as both a father-figure and mentor. As the season progresses, this will almost certainly become a point of contention as his dual lives start to conflict. Although Ryan clearly has some reservations about Acosta’s means, he is charged with “protecting the family” and does so with an ease that shows us he’s been at it for a while.