Friday, March 21, 2014

Rogue: The Complete First Season DVD Review

Reviewed by Allie Schembra
Buckle up for Season One of Rogue – the hit DirecTV original crime series. Thandie Newton stars as Grace Travis, an undercover detective torn between her identity as a loving mother and her cold, calculating persona as an agent for crime boss, Jimmy Lazslo (Martin Csokas). Tormented by her son’s unsolved murder, Grace conducts her own investigation, convinced that the killer lies somewhere within Jimmy’s treacherous ranks. Now, in order to uncover the truth and stay alive, Grace must help Jimmy weed out the traitor in his midst.

Show (3 out of 5 stars)
Rogue is about a San Jose Police Department detective, (Thandie Newton) on loan to Oakland Police, who, while working for crime boss, Jimmy Lazslo, loses her son to what seems to be an accidental shooting. She is convinced her son’s death and the murders of a few of Jimmy’s crew members are connected, and teams up with Jimmy to find out who is responsible for all the killings.

Thandie Newton is not even a little bit believable as an undercover police officer. Her acting is terrible and it’s obvious she’s trying too hard to “act tough.” Her facial expressions are the same, no matter who she is talking to – whether it’s her husband or Jimmy, the crime boss. The woman who plays her captain at Oakland PD is also terrible in her role. To me, it seems like she was given the role just to have a woman in a position of power. Acting by the rest of the cast was adequate, but not great. There are moments of “Oh God, this guy/girl is a terrible actor/actress.” Rogue is 10 almost 50-minute episodes and while the story is good, I do not recommend binge watching. There is only so much terrible, unbelievable acting by Thandie Newton a person can take.

Here is the episode list and a brief summary of each:

  1. Episode 1 – The Aquarium - Undercover detective, Grace Travis (Thandie Newton), is working as a liaison for her boss and his drug connections. While undercover, her son is killed by what seems to be a stray bullet in a drive-by shooting, Grace is not convinced it was an accident. After finding evidence that her son’s death may not have been an accident, Grace goes back undercover, without her boss’s permission or knowledge, and tries to solve the murder. While undercover, she spends time with drug kingpin, Jimmy Laszlo (Marton Csokas), making deals for counterfeit pills for what she calls the “Suburban Moms.” Grace convinces Jimmy of her importance to his syndicate, however, little does she know, someone knows who she really is.
  2. Episode 2 – Fireball - After Grace comes clean to Jimmy, she continues defying her police captain’s order to stay off the case. She tries to stay home with her family, but after Jimmy finds her in the supermarket, she agrees to go back undercover for him in the organization. Later, at a Lazslo family party, Grace agrees to work with Jimmy to find the mole in the organization, which she thinks will lead her to her son’s killer.
  3. Episode 3 – Cathy’s Song - After a firebomb is thrown into a Chinese restaurant full of police officers and owned by the rival gang, Jimmy focuses on figuring out who did it. Meanwhile, Grace ambushes a fellow cop and gets him to tell her what they have on Jimmy. After telling Jimmy the cops have nothing, she dares him to go to Oakland Police headquarters and be interviewed by the Lieutenant. While Jimmy is at the police department, officers raid his headquarters looking for the cell phones he took from his crew. Luckily, in order to make progress on her son’s case, Grace had stolen them. After finding out Alec hired someone to firebomb the restaurant, Jimmy tells him to lay low. Jimmy takes his younger son, Max, to see the head of the Chinese gang they are in competition with. After the meeting, Max says it will take either money or blood in order to make it all right. Jimmy says he will not pay, so Alec takes it upon himself to rectify the situation. In spite of all this, Grace continues to try to be there with her family and to make up for all the time lost with her daughter and husband, who are also still mourning the loss of their brother and son. Unfortunately, Grace can’t rely upon others to help her and once again, leaves her family in order to move the investigation along.
  4. Episode 4 – Sweet and Sour - With the help of another cop, Grace gets closer to finding out who killed her son and Jimmy gets closer to finding out who in his crew is betraying him. After tracking the cell phones of the crew, Grace and Jimmy narrow it down to one member. After subtly threatening by visiting him at home, Grace and Jimmy set him up in order to find out who he is working for. Unfortunately for them, this plan goes horribly wrong.
  5. Episode 5 – Hawala - After a death in the organization… a suspected suicide, Jimmy and Grace continue searching for the missing money. Alec, thinking he is going to be promoted and take over the dead man’s portion of the business, celebrates by buying drinks for the crew at a bar. Little does he know, Jimmy has other plans for that job. Grace gets a lead on who may have been involved in her son’s death and follows the path to the man’s widow. After being rebuffed by the widow, Grace drives back to her safe house. She notices she is being followed and after a short chase, gun fire and a car crash, Grace calls Jimmy for help. Jimmy takes her to her place, where they grow closer. On the home front, after dealing with their daughter’s suspension from school for assaulting a teacher, Grace’s husband grows closer to the teacher involved in the incident. Grace calls home to make sure her husband and daughter are alright, but her husband has sent her daughter to his parents and is spending time with the other teacher.
  6. Episode 6 – The Second Amendment - After the car accident, Grace fearing for her family, asks her husband to take their daughter and go somewhere safe. Meanwhile, Grace and Jimmy continue chasing leads and looking for the mole in his organization. After a trip to Livermore, Grace puts two and two together, and, without telling Jimmy about this lead, asks her co-detective to visit the jail where Max, Jimmy’s son, was incarcerated. Grace, as Jackie, her undercover persona, meets with Max under the pretense of getting to know him and talk business. When Max asks her to go somewhere else, she realizes he knows who she really is.
  7. Episode 7 – Rumpus - Grace gets away from Max and tells Jimmy about what happened. Max goes to Alec and tells him that Grace is a cop and tries to convince him to get rid of her. Alec pays a visit to Jimmy to tell him about Grace and realizes Jimmy already knows. Jimmy talks to Max and gets more of the story. As Jimmy walks away, he doesn’t look back. Grace’s husband and daughter are still staying away from home. After checking out a lead, Grace realizes that some pictures her son had been drawing before he died were related to the building she was checking out. She calls her husband and he asks Evie. Evie confesses that her brother did not tell her anything, but would sometimes sneak into her room at night. Grace gets a phone call telling her the Max’s parole is about to be revoked and afraid of losing him, she goes to the docks, where she correctly assumes it’s a set up. She and Max battle it out at the docks, as Grace tries to get information about her son’s murder.
  8. Episode 8 – A House is not a Home - There’s been a fire on Jimmy’s docks and it there’s a body. Just whose it is, the police aren’t sure, but Jimmy identifies it as someone close to him. Grace attends her probationary hearing for a final decision on her reinstatement. But all is not well. The fight with Max at the docks has caught up to her and the police know she was there. Grace pulls Evie out of school and has a girls day with her. The bond again as mother and daughter and return home just as the police arrive at the house to take her in.
  9. Episode 9 – Chasing the Dragon - Grace is questioned about the murder at the docks and after her arrest, she admits to being at the docks in the capacity of her undercover work, but is sent to general population where she’s outed as a cop and beaten so badly, she’s taken away on a stretcher. Her SJPD partner continues with the investigation and coincidentally meets up with her OPD handler at the docks. They check out Max’s office, which leads her partner to uncover another potential mole in the department. He follows the lead and ends up at Alec and Max’s childhood home where he meets a neighbor.
  10. Episode 10 – Killing Grace - In this climactic season finale, Grace finally finds out the identity of Sam’s killer. While in the hospital, Grace devises a way to escape and tries to contact her partner. When she can’t get a hold of him, she goes to her OPD handler, who tells her what he and her partner found. Grace and her handler try to find her partner and upon arriving at his home, find that all the case information is missing. Grace’s handler sits at Grace’s house watching to make sure no harm comes to her family. However, the mole gets to them first and removes him from the house. Since finding out that Jimmy knew about Grace, Alec makes a move and takes over his father’s business. In retaliation, Jimmy goes to the Chinese for help. After Jimmy regains control, Alec is out for revenge. With Jimmy back in power, the OPD’s mole comes to see him and confesses everything. He tells him where the missing money is and how he can get it. In return, Jimmy offers him money if he brings Grace to him. 

Video (3 out of 5 stars)
Rogue is presented in wide screen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The picture was clear and crisp and all the colors blended well together. Night scenes and other dark scenes were bright enough to be seen and the black coloring was sharp. There are a lot of flyover shots, as if the producers are trying to convince you that the action really does take place in San Francisco and Oakland.
Audio (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital, the audio for Rogue was really well done. I could hear everything without having to rewind or adjust the volume. Loud parts of the show were not overwhelming and whispers and lower volume sections were still intelligible. Captions in English SDH are also available for those who need them.
Extras (2 out of 5 stars)
There are only two special features and the official trailer for the show. Neither feature was too interesting. I’m not a big fan of special features for television shows until they are blooper reels.
  • Script to Screen Featurette – A behind-the-scenes look at how Rogue because a series. Includes interviews with cast and crew. It was strange hearing all of them in their natural accents – be it British, Australian or Irish.
  • Webisodes – 10 different webisodes starring different cast members. These webisodes give a little background into each character featured: Sam, Loretta, Wilson, Mrs. Parker, Billy, Dr. Parsons, Santino, Dash, Mitch and Grace. All boring and added nothing to the show. In my opinion, webisodes in general are a waste of time.

Summary (3 out of 5 stars)
I liked the storyline of Rogue, but it was hard to get beyond the bad acting of Thandie Newton. Most of the supporting cast were good and I enjoy watching any movie or television series that takes place in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since I grew up there, I am familiar with all the locations. What bothered me also is that the scenes that were supposed to have taken place in San Francisco clearly do not, and cast members call San Francisco “San Fran.” Anyone from the immediate area would never call it that, and that’s another one of my pet peeves. If you’re not from the area, then you wouldn’t know the difference. I like crime shows and this one has a really good premise, but like I said earlier, I do not recommend binge watching, watch just one or two episodes at a time. 

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