Rogue: S1, E1/E2: “Aquarium/Fireball”

Rogue features that time-honored premise.

1. A good cop-turned-cynic who plays by his own rules accidentally brings his work home.

2. Dead daughter.

3. VENGEANCE!!!!

4. Mayhem, boundary-blurring between good and bad guys, cop earns reluctant admiration of by-the-rules superiors, etc etc.

Normally, this formula is deeply tied up into narratives masculinity and statehood. The cop (perhaps played by Bruce Willis!) frequently mourns his daughter, fridged to provide him with motivation and grit. HOWEVER, in this case, the cop-turned-cynic is played by Thandie Newton, the narratives of masculinity get co-opted into stories about parenthood, professionalism, and psychological wellbeing, and it feels as though the show is trying to challenge some of that gritty manliness so taken for granted in series like this.

As Grace, Newton channels a dedicated cop, someone who has no idea what to do with her teenaged daughter, who blames her mother for her brother’s death. As Jackie, she’s a saucy, hardened drug dealer, capable of negotiating with mobsters for a fair cut. It’s cool to see how the standard parental dynamics in genre shows like this get tweaked by swapping gender roles: a dead son for a dead daughter; a mother-as-cop instead of mother-as-civilian-symbol-for-the-home; a female surviving child, bristling with rage and frustration, instead of an angry living son. These shifts are so well-handled that when the show slips, and offers up gratuitous sexiness, like a shot of Newton’s nipples as she showers, it’s actively jarring. At the same time, when Grace/Jackie “buys [herself] some time” by making out with a mobster, it feels less exploitative and more believable for her as a character. Plus, this passed the Bechdel test, more than once. Grace talks to her daughter about her grades and pot-smoking; Grace’s lieutenant is a woman, and they talk about work; Grace’s union-assigned lawyer is a woman and they talk about Grace’s return to work; and, as Jackie, Grace begins to befriend Nancy, the handicapped wife of one of the mobsters. While these asides seem minor, so often in this genre, there’s just one “girl cop” who exists in an all-male world as an honorary man. It’s nice to see these kinds of minor and secondary characters cast with women, and to see them interacting.

Anywho, Grace/Jackie is an undercover cop, her son gets killed because of the gang with which she’s involved, but there’s a mole in the police department, and she gets found out. The main mobster guy is all, I’M GOING TO KILL YOU AND YOUR FAMILY, and then Jackie is all NOOOOOOO! and then he lets her go and she goes home and has some weird angry sex with her husband, where there’s a nipple close up-shot. There’s also a full frontal scene with an Asian sex worker, who smokes up while talking with an incompetent cop who’s both her client and her contact.

Right now, I’m intrigued because of the gender-flipping of standard genre tropes. Plus, I really like that Grace is in a mixed-race relationship, and that the children were cast to reflect that. At the same time, the writing is INCREDIBLY slow, and there are LOTS of gratuitous nipple shots. I’m probably going to stick with show, though, because either it’ll be cool or snarkable… or both!

 

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