TV Review - The Red Line (2019)
As such, there might have been a need for the writers and producers to cram as much into this series as they possibly could. They probably decided to put as many intersections in this intersectionality. If handled correctly, this makes for a very dense and rich piece of television. If not handled correctly, it makes for a too stuffed piece of television, a pile up that dilutes or turns the limited episodes into a zero-sum game. The focus in effect keeps getting pulled and as it plays out, the whole Black Lives Matter issue becomes increasingly the least important thing in the narrative.
Netflix's Seven Seconds. Much of that series was about the police investigation and subsequent trial that followed. Not all Black Lives Matter cases go to trial, but Seven Seconds provided a perfect way to really analyze and drill down on the problems with the police and the criminal justice system as it relates to people of color. It also followed on how the family of the victim handle the aftermath of which, centering almost exclusively on the grief and guilt, as well as related feelings. It was a brilliant series that deserved its Emmy and other award considerations.
This series isn't really about Black Lives Matter, as much as it uses Black Lives Matter as a jumping off point to explore other things. One of which is adoption of black children by white persons. Another of which is interracial gay relationships. Another is Chicago politics. Another is school politics. It's a lot and it starts to pile up almost immediately. It bounces back-and-forth in a way that might be engaging to some, but it can also feel like diversions. Those diversions made me lose sight of what it originally started. I became more interested in the adoption and interracial gay storyline that I lost concern for the whole Black Lives Matter thing.
Noah Wyle (Falling Skies and ER) stars as Daniel Calder, a history teacher at a high school in Chicago. He's a white man and a gay man who's married to a black man. They adopted a black girl when she was a baby who is now a teenager attending the same high school where Daniel teaches. Daniel's husband takes the metro train known as the "red line" home every night from work. Daniel also rides the same train to work.
On the way home one night, Daniel's husband, named Harrison Brennan, stops at a convenience store. That convenience store is robbed, which prompts the police to be called. Harrison tries to help the store clerk who is injured and a bit hysterical, but when the cops arrive, one of them, a young white guy, shoots Harrison, killing him instantly. The events of the series then occur six months later in the days and weeks, leading up to whether or not that cop will be indicted by a grand jury and have a trial for what he did.
Recently, the NBC series This Is Us did a storyline involving Sterling K. Brown's Randall Perason running for political office in Philadelphia. There was a far different dynamic happening in that series, but that show was balancing multiple story lines. We hardly ever saw the other candidate, but I still feel like I got more of an understanding of who that candidate was and why Randall was running against him. The other candidate wasn't reduced to simple soundbites. Here, that's not really the case. Tia's opponent is really reduced to simple things like sexism or him being corrupt for using political pressure to help his son. The latter was enough to fill an entire episode, but instead it gets blown by here.
Aliyah Royale also co-stars as Jira Calder-Brennan, the adopted daughter of Daniel. When her other adopted father is shot and killed, she goes into a tailspin, suffering a kind of identity crisis. It's unclear if she wanted to know who her biological mother was prior but since Harrison's death, she's desperate to meet her biological mother. She maintains that since Daniel is white, he won't be able to understand what she's experiencing as a person of color. Harrison is black and so is her biological mother, she assumes.
Vinny Chhibber plays Liam Bhatt, a fellow teacher at the same school as Daniel. Specifically, he runs the class that Jira is in. He's of Indian-descent and gay. He also secretly harbors feelings for Daniel. After a twist is revealed, Liam goes on a date with Daniel. They go to a place in the gay neighborhood of Chicago, known as Boystown. While there, two white gay men approach Liam and ask him what he is in terms of his race or ethnicity. They then make some asinine comments to him.
Running Time: 1 hr. / 8 eps.
Sundays at 8PM on CBS.