by Joshua Alston | via Vulture
Sometimes, the most powerful thing a television show can do is to let the audience know they aren’t losing their minds. Shots Fired does that in its seventh episode by establishing a growing consensus that Preston and Ashe might not be doing the best job in Gate Station.
The people of Gate Station have long been suspicious of their investigation, owing to the perception that the Department of Justice is only making a big deal out of the Jesse Carr case because he was white. (They’re only half-wrong, since it’s more about Officer Beck’s race than Jesse’s, but still.) But now the lack of movement on either case has Preston and Ashe’s superiors feeling anxious, so the DOJ wants to send in a new team to replace them. It isn’t the worst idea.
At the same time, there’s something wistful and utopian about the Shots Fired universe given recent developments in real-life police shootings of unarmed citizens. Former South Carolina officer Michael Slager pleaded guilty to the murder of Walter Scott after initially claiming that Scott reached for a weapon when he shot him eight times in the back. There will be no such justice for the family of Alton Sterling, whose tragic and needless shooting resulted in no federal charges against the officers in question. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has notified police departments nationwide that they needn’t worry about increased oversight, and President Trump has made clear he thinks the problem is that police officers are undeservedly scrutinized.
The DOJ in Shots Fired is a remnant of the Obama administration, which unlike the current administration, believed that a pattern of abusive policing is more likely than a pattern of black men reaching for nonexistent firearms despite such obvious and grave consequences. Have Preston and Ashe mounted a flawless investigation into the murders of Jesse and Joey? They certainly have not, as their agenda includes more sex and sightseeing than the average expat who retired to Panama. But dammit, they care. They are furious about the violence that has erupted in Gate Station, but they are just as furious about the unanswered police violence that has stoked frustration in this community for such a long time. Preston and Ashe’s bumbling doesn’t always make for the best storytelling, but on a week like this, their empathy and good intentions feel like a balm.
I realize that’s a long way of saying that Shots Fired is still a show that works better in theory than in practice. “Content of Their Character” is a weirdly paced episode, even for a show that tends to struggle with pacing in general. The seventh episode of a ten-part murder mystery is bound to emphasize table setting, since the biggest reveals have to be saved for the final push. But it’s still a bit of a slog, and it only serves to set up the show’s latest obvious red herring. After weeks of being the loudest voice in the local Justice for Joey movement, Pastor Janae is now the No. 1 suspect in Joey Campbell’s murder.
The Pastor Janae reveal should be a huge moment, but it doesn’t feel like one despite being executed as a shocking cliffhanger. For one thing, while Janae’s motives have always been a bit sketchy, to go from being Joey’s biggest advocate to a suspect in his murder is a huge leap. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to actually consider Janae as a potential suspect, or be shocked by the desperation and dishonesty of the sheriff’s department. But it’s the kind of cliffhanger that feels more bewildering than thrilling.
To read the rest of the recap, “Content of Their Character,” click HERE!!!