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The Oath -Season 2 - Series Review - "Making the Right Choices"

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*NOTICE- The following review contains spoilers.

The Ravens, that “pretty good group of bad guys,” are back. The Oath’s dark and uncompromising second season, now streaming on Sony Crackle and produced by rapper Fifty Cent, takes us deeper into the gritty sub-culture of police gangs who are supposed to protect and serve but aren't opposed to lining their own pockets when the opportunity presents itself. To the gang, the Ravens represent the one thing they’re all in need of – family – but last season they made a deal with the devil, the Colombian Cartel.

The entire second season is centered around the choices people make to survive. The choices Steve Hammond (Ryan Kwanten) makes as leader of the Ravens are meant to get them out from under their obligations to the Velasquez family of the Cartel. Making the hard choices is what a leader does, but this season it seems that every choice Steve makes only drives the Ravens further apart and further in debt to not only the Colombians but also the DEA. As Steve, Kwanten does a masterful job of portraying a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. He's still the tough, unforgiving leader he was in season one, however he tests the limits of each Raven family member’s loyalty with the choices he makes, whether it's continuing to work with Carmen Velasquez (Zulay Henao) as she fights her psychotic brother Ricardo (Sebastian Zurita) for control of their father's empire; or negotiating the release of disgraced agent Price (Elizabeth Rohm) as a bargaining chip, or trying to set up a legitimate security business in an effort to go straight. While Steve's efforts to get the Ravens out from under the Colombians’ control is the central theme of the season, it is the stories of the secondary characters that shine throughout The Oath's eight-episode second year. This season boils down to the choices each of them makes. Some of them have the right idea, some of them don't. Whatever choices they make don't always work out the way they expect them to.

For most of the season Ramos (J.J. Soria) battled his father-in-law and wife over custody of his daughter, the person who meant the most to him. Then to protect the other Ravens from DEA prosecution, Steve makes a deal that results in Ramos' wife and daughter going into witness protection with her father without consulting him. Stung by Steve's unilateral decision, Ramos makes the only choice he can, a deal with the DEA, info on the Cartel in exchange for joining his family in witness protection.

Cory Hardict's character Cole is given a solid storyline and he makes the most of it as one of the two strongest performers this season. He is the Raven's greatest symbol of hope and redemption. Assigned to foster community outreach to counteract the bad press caused by the expose article, he encounters a beautiful young inner-city doctor (Leona Lewis) and her pastor father (Erik King) fighting to save their neighborhood from the drug dealers fighting over the territory. At first, he finds it just a lip-service mission to paint the Ravens in a good light. Hardict does very nice and nuanced work with King and shares a nice chemistry with Lewis. Cole gives in to his attraction to the doctor and is drawn into the sincerity of her and her father's mission. Seeing how far they were willing to go for something they believe in has him questioning his own choices, and he ultimately decides to become the cop he was supposed to be. Sadly, the choices they make have tragic results but only serve to convince Cole that going straight is the right thing to do. The only problem is- will the consequences of someone else's choice let him live long enough to fulfill his new purpose?

As she was last season, Katrina Law's Officer Karen Beach was a standout as the season's most complex character. Beach plays things close to the vest, always displaying the tough cop persona on the outside, but inside she was a swirl of emotions. Reeling from the betrayal of her mother as a source for the damning newspaper article, Beach is tempted by her lover Foster's offer to run away from this life. Yet, he makes a bad choice to try and steal from the Cartel and is killed. Beach puts on the good front of dealing with his death, but she descends into a spiral of grief on top of the betrayal from her mother. This sends her into the most compelling storyline of this season, Beach's search for her father, the man her mother claims raped and impregnated her. This storyline features some fabulous work from Law and Kim Delaney as her mother. Beach's impassioned act to expose her professor father for the sexual predator he was in front of one of his classes was filled with barely controlled rage and raw pain from the actress and was the standout scene of the season. And just as it appears Beach has a handle on things, she pointedly tells Steve over the phone that it's time they all started making the right choice. Shortly thereafter, she is gunned down and killed by the Cartel as a result of a bad choice someone else had made.

For all the strengths in this intriguing season of The Oath, there are some drawbacks as well. First, new cast member Christina Milian's character of Office Christine Parks, the daughter of a former Raven fighting the system to raise her sister, never quite gels with the rest of the cast. The shocking death of one of the original Ravens late in the season makes it understandable why she was brought in. Also troublesome was the character of Kraley (Andrew Howard), Steve’s father’s lieutenant, who spends the entire season fighting Steve for control of the Ravens. He pops in and out of the story essentially as a plot stirring device spurring someone to make the wrong choice each time.

Perhaps the biggest drawback to this season was the misuse of Elizabeth Rohm as disgraced DEA agent Aria Price. Having her turn out to be last season's big bad was a highlight, however, her use this season is the weakest part of the storytelling. Getting Price out of prison and using her to curry favor with the Cartel was a nice twist, but the storyline is handled poorly. Her character gets caught up in the fight between the Velasquez siblings' control of the Cartel. And oddly, midway through, she gets wounded making an escape and disappears for the rest of the season.

Our lives are guided by the choices we make, however this season on The Oath, Steve Hammond discovered the hard way that choices have consequences. He ultimately makes what he thinks is the best choice to protect everyone, but in the shocking final moments of the season, the Cartel retaliates with attacks on both the Ravens' bar and the safe house where Ramos and his family await transport into witness protection. Who lives, who dies?

The Oath is now available for streaming on Sony Crackle. What did you think of the series? Who is your favorite character? Who, if anyone, do you think survived the massacre at the bar and the attack on the safe house? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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