Summary: A drama that zeros in on two disparate gal-pal crimefighters from Boston–assertive detective Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) and steady medical examiner Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander). First up: the grim slaying of a wealthy couple appears to be the handiwork of a copycat killer.
Review: Easily my most highly anticipated show of the summer, following season premieres of old favorites, like Lie to Me and White Collar. And, I’m happy to say, it didn’t disappoint.
The idea behind Rizzoli & Isles is similar to Angie Harmon’s previous show, Women’s Murder Club–a show that focuses on women in what is traditionally a man’s profession. In this show, it’s just two women, played by crime veterans Harmon and Sasha Alexander, both of whom have starred in crime shows that I love. As actresses, I respect them both. As characters, I find their mix of tough, smart and socially awkward to be a slightly trite but still compelling combination.
Harmon plays Rizzoli, a strong detective whose traumatic past comes into focus in the first episode. This is where Rizzoli & Isles seems a formulaic. Obviously, the audience uses the first episode to learn about the characters, their dynamics and what will ultimately be the overarching plot of the show, so it’s important that this story not be trivial. However, so many shows use the first episode to introduce what will be the multi-season personal case for the main character (Jane and Red John in The Mentalist, Callen and his unknown past in NCIS: Los Angeles, Neal and Kate in White Collar). This show fell into a similar trap, though only time will tell if the effects of this will linger for Rizzoli. Hopefully, it was just a plot device to tell us more about her and the dynamics of the Boston Police Department, rather than a set up for the eventual series finale.
Rizzoli is a fairly predictable character right now. She’s smart and tough on the job, but awkward off it. It’s been done before, by Harmon herself actually. In Women’s Murder Club (which I’ll probably compare to this show for awhile, until it begins to distinguish itself), Lindsay was the exact same thing–strong at work, but unable to deal with relationships outside the job (aside from the girls). However, Rizzoli & Isles does offer some potential for her character. Her relationship with her family, which was only teased briefly in this first episode, could be a lot of fun in the future. Harmon has great chemistry with Lorraine Bracco (her mother) and Jordan Bridges (her brother), and I look forward to seeing them in scenes in the future.
Alexander plays a far more interesting character, at least to me. She’s the medical examiner, Isles, who’s a quirky combination of too smart, too literal, too fashion-conscious, and too flirty. Unlike Rizzoli, she seems to have no problem dealing with men and relationships outside of work, though she occasionally has problems with her people skills. There’s a bit of Brennan (from Bones) in her, but she’s far more socially capable. Right now, she’s easily the more three-dimensional and enjoyable character of the pair.
The supporting characters have the potential to turn into strong characters as well, especially Rizzoli’s partner Frost (Lee Thompson Young), who’s struggling to balance a loyal, overprotective side with a cop who still throws up at a gruesome crime scene. Rizzoli’s former partner, Korsak (Bruce McGill), will probably be the grizzly but soft character, who looks at Rizzoli like a daughter/sister. And the FBI Agent Lewis (Jayson Blair) could be Rizzoli’s love interest if he returns for more of the season (which I’m not necessarily in favor of, unless they seriously up the chemistry between him and Harmon).
Like I said, the show followed a formula, and there were times when I couldn’t believe anyone would have made Rizzoli a detective, but I enjoyed this episode quite a bit anyway. I think it was the first episode it needed to be to introduce the characters, and this show will get better as it matures. At some point, it will be less about the cases and more about the women, and that’s the kind of show it should be. At its root, it’s a basic cop show, but the hook will be the characters. So the four-star rating I’m giving it is based more on its potential than this first episode, which probably only deserved three stars. But it’s definitely worth a watch, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it will grow over time.
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