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The Oath - Series Review - "A Pretty Good Group of Bad Guys"

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There was a time when television drama was simple, the lines between the good guys and the bad guys were clearly drawn. The good guys were the cops, the lawyers, the doctors all standing on the right side of whatever issue was being discussed per episode. Then the lines began to blur. With the advent of such shows as Breaking Bad, Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, The Sopranos, and House of Cards, viewers were drawn to a new type of lead character, the anti-hero – characters of less than stellar moral character, but who were compelling enough to keep viewers tuning in each week. Such is the case of the cops you meet in The Oath, a ten-episode series, executive produced by Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson and G-Unit Film and Television now available for streaming on Crackle. The series explores, in gritty detail, the dark sub-culture of gangs, made up entirely of cops in a large metropolitan setting. They protect and serve but aren't opposed to lining their own pockets when the opportunity presents itself. It's what happens to each of the officers who make up the gang called the Ravens, and what lengths they'll go to in order to survive that makes The Oath a series worth watching.

The series focuses on what the gang does when it is arrested and forced to work for the FBI to help build a RICO case to help bring down the other gangs. Forced to take an undercover agent into their midst, each episode is an intense juggling match of trying to stay one step ahead of the FBI, while competing with and fighting against rival cop gangs, a vicious drug king-pin, Ukranian gangsters and the Colombian cartel. There is a great twist as to who is the real "bad guy" in the series, that surprised even me. Their struggles trying to keep their gang family together is what makes show watchable and the characters a pretty good group of bad guys. Because at their core The Ravens represent the one thing they're all in need of – family. While addressing the immediate problems the Ravens have in Season 1, the show does a good job setting up a potential adversary for a Season 2, which The Oath certainly deserves.

As the series opens the leader of the Ravens is Steve Hammond, perfectly played by Ryan Kwanten (True Blood). This is the character with the weight of the world on his shoulder. He's fighting to keep the respect of the gang while trying to live up to the very big shadow cast by The Ravens' former leader, Tom played by Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones) who is in prison. He's tough, unforgiving, but loyal. When his father returns and takes the gang back, he watches everything he's set in motion fall apart with dire consequences for all involved. If Steve has a soft spot it's for his cancer-ridden mother, Gwenn, played by the incredible Linda Purl (Designated Survivor, Reckless). There's a wonderful tenderness to their scenes together. Kwanten does a masterful job balancing the many emotions Steve is taken through on this journey, he is immensely watchable. Also fighting outside family issues is Steve's partner Pete Ramos, played by J.J. Soria (Animal Kingdom). Ramos is Steve's, right-hand man. Soria plays Ramos as all soldier, loyal to his team to the core, but his greatest strength and his greatest weakness is his love for his wife and daughter. Desperate to save his family, he is forced to chose between his gang family and his family at home. Unfortunately, his choice to ask for help from his father-in-law, who just happens to a lawyer for the Colombian cartel backfires in tragic fashion.

Equally compelling to watch is Katrina Law (Arrow, Training Day) who plays Officer Karen Beach, the only female member of The Ravens. The multi-layered Beach is one of Law's meatiest roles to date and she makes the most of every scene. Beach is not sure of what her role is in the gang as the only woman, so she feels to be the meanest, toughest S.O.B with anger issues. Her forced therapy sessions for those issues gives Law some of her choicest moments, especially when it's revealed that at the core of her issues is the treatment she received from her mother as a child. A key moment in the development of the character of Beach comes when she goes to see the mother she hasn't seen in years (the nearly unrecognizable Kim Delaney (Chicago Fire, Army Wives)) to get closure. When that meeting goes badly Beach confesses, in later sessions that she'd like nothing more than to slap her mother. The two have another meeting at a critical time in the story and Karen's mother does something so despicable that I wanted nothing more than to reach through the screen and slap her myself.

As the FBI agent sent undercover with The Ravens, Damon Byrd, played by Arlen Escarpeta (Final Destination 5), sees everything in black or white and wants nothing more than to wrap up this case and get home to his wife and son that he hasn't seen for 11 months. Like Ramos, he's fighting to save his marriage. Yet, as he spends time with The Ravens, even enduring their distrust, he begins to question the FBI's methods when priorities in the case shift and his superiors make far too many demands for results. He's the man caught in the middle, often butting heads with Steve and his adopted brother Cole, played by Cory Hardrict (American Sniper, Gran Torino), Escarpeta brings depth to the role and easily matches Kwanten and Hardrict in intensity.

Also notable in the series are Elizabeth Rohm (Law&Order) as the seemingly cold and uncompromising Special Agent in Charge Aria Price, Kwame Patterson (The Wire) as Neckbone, the drug kingpin bent on revenge, Billy Malone (Grey's Anatomy) as Frank, the casino owner who comes through for The Ravens in an unusual way, Sarah Dumont (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) as Kate Miller, Frank's employee who catches Steve's eye and is hiding her own secrets and Michael Malarkey (The Vampire Diaries) as Sam Foster, a member of the rival gang the Vipers involved in a clandestine affair with Beach.

The Oath is a hard-hitting, pull-no-punches series with characters you want to see more of in a second season. Some of the production limitations result in some poor sound quality and shaky camera work in several episodes and unfortunately, the weak link in the cast, to this reviewer, is oddly Bean, who at times overacts in his role as the newly released Hammond patriarch and original leader of the Ravens. The Oath is now available for streaming on Crackle. What did you think of the series? Who is your favorite character? Do you think the show deserves a second season? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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