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Tommy - In Dreams Begin Responsibilities & There are No Strangers Here - Review

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If you aren’t watching Tommy, you might just want to reconsider. I apologize for not getting this initial review up in a timely manner, but it’s no reflection on just how much I like this smart, new show! I’m not a huge fan of Edie Falco – but she is fantastic as LAPD Chief Abigail "Tommy" Thomas – and I am becoming a big fan of Tommy. The episode plots are timely and smart, but where this show really shines is in lightning fast, snappy dialogue. Below is a quick look at the first two episodes.

“In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” was written by Paul Attanasio and was directed by Kate Dennis. Attanasio is the creator and showrunner, and his former creative credits include Bull and Homicide: Life on the Streets. Fun fact, there is some disdain for Mayor Buddy Gray (Thomas Sadoski) because he went to Harvard – as did Attanasio. Speech writer Ken Rosey (Michael Chernus) is disdainfully called over qualified because he’s also a lawyer – and yes. Attanasio went to Harvard for law. Dennis’ other credits include The Tick, New Amsterdam, and The Handmaid’s Tale, making her no stranger to snappy dialogue, drama, and the occasional comic nuance – all present in this show.

As you might expect, there’s a lot of exposition in the first episode. Tommy is from New York and has been brought in as police Chief because the former Chief - Milt Leakey (Corbin Bernsen) was caught in a sexual harassment scandal. In fact, the #MeToo movement is a strong thread in the episode. It turns out that Tommy’s own career was stalled when the Deputy Chief of Police in New York tried to rape her. She broke his nose but was convinced to simply say it was sexual harassment. Nothing happened to him, but her career was stalled and she lost 10 years of promotions. We also quickly learn that Tommy is gay and has a fraught relationship with her daughter, Kate (Olivia Lucy Phillip), who is going through her own marital problems and is a child psychologist.

The episode also weighs in on another major thread from the news when ICE tries to detain an illegal immigrant, Maria De La Puerta (Andrea Londo). It turns out that this storyline also dovetails into the first as Maria was smuggled into the country as a child by Arturo Lopez (Arturo Del Puerto) in a sex trafficking of minors ring. Lopez is a community leader and Maria refuses to name him as the father of her daughter until Kate tells Tommy that Maria’s daughter, who is staying with Kate, is being sexually abused. Once Tommy tells Maria, she agrees to testify and goes into witness protection. Arturo ends up in jail. It seems like that may be the end of it… but it’s not!

        I really liked how the ICE storyline shows that not all illegal immigrants are criminals - and in fact may be victimes themselves. They have lives and families and have lived under the radar for a reason. One of my least favorite aspects of the show - at least in these first two episodes is Kate and her contentious relationship with Tommy. For a child psychologist, it doesn't seem that she's ever been able to deal with her own childhood or the adult decisions that her mother made.

This first episode also introduces us to the Mayor and his Deputy – Doug Dudik (Joseph Lyle Taylor). In this first episode, Mayor Buddy seems like a nice guy who is trying to do the best for the city, but is clearly a politician at heart. Sadowski wasn’t the first choice for the role, but I think he was an excellent one. He gives a terrific performance here, and his good looks and suave delivery make him easy to like. Dudik on the other hand clearly comes across as a bit of a henchman. I’m enjoying seeing whether Buddy is as supportive of Tommy as he appears to be in this first episode.

Rounding out Tommy’s office and joining Ken the speech writer are Donn Cooper (Russell G Jones), her Chief of Staff – who also worked for Leakey – Blake Sullivan (Adelaide Clemens) – her director of communications – Mrs Gates (Tonye Patano) – Tommy’s executive assistant – and finally, Abner Diaz (Vladimir Caamano) – her driver and personal security detail. Tommy keeps Cooper on because he’s known for his honest advice and there’s great chemistry between Jones and Falco. In fact, the only member of the core cast who didn’t really do much for me was Clemens.

This first episode threw lots of balls in the air, and I’m betting we will see a lot of them play out over the course of the season – even the ones that don’t seem that important. For instance, by the end of the episode Kate asks Tommy to move in with her. But before Tommy leaves the hotel, she has a second encounter in the bar with a woman (Audrey Marie Anderson) who flirted with her in the elevator earlier. The woman propositions Tommy, but Tommy turns her down. Anderson is a big enough actor that I doubt she’s playing an insignificant role here – I’m betting we see her again…

“There are No Strangers Here” was written by Tom Szentgyorgyi and was directed by PJ Pesce. Szentgyorgyi’s other credits include Reverie, Bates Motel, The Mentalist, and NYPD Blue, which seems particularly appropriate given Tommy’s background! Pesce’s credits include The 100, Quantico, and Supernatural. This episode begins at a gala dinner where Tommy has to give a speech – she’s funny, making fun of her accent and pointing out that she’s also a woman. After the speech, she gets a rather lukewarm reception from Ken – who is clearly very insecure about his writing – again, are we seeing shades of Attansio’s worry about how we are enjoying the show? Don’t worry, dude – I’m loving it! Blake is also less than enthusiastic, but the Mayor loved it. We also meet his wife, Roni (Stacy Roca), and quickly see that his marriage is not good.

The gala is interrupted by news that a cop – Edward Guzman – has been shot and set on fire. This naturally has the city and the police on high alert – and once again the show doesn’t shy away from the storylines that have been making headlines. Tommy now has to deal with the racial tensions that LA is known for. This was a clever plot line that didn’t play out the way that I expected it to. In the end, it turns out that the officer was suffering badly from PTSD sustained after he was shot on the job. He killed himself, and then his father Alex (Gary Perez), also a former cop, tried to cover it up so that Edward’s widow would still get his pension.

As the case unfolds, tensions rise. Former Chief Leakey wades in on a podcast to criticize Tommy, who then holds her own press conference that doesn’t go well. It turns out that one of the old guard, still loyal to Leakey, leaked the story to the press. Cooper has Tommy’s back and demands Tarkanian (Jordan Lage) turn in his retirement papers. The police end up firing 17 bullets into a van driven by a Korean – who luckily isn’t hit.

The team tries to unravel who might have killed Guzman if it wasn’t just a random attack. Ken tries to talk to Guzman’s partner and is completely blown off. I loved the interchange between Ken and Diaz as Diaz tells him that a cop isn’t going to talk to him. He calls him a “pilot fish” – he can swim with sharks but he’ll never BE a shark! Diaz discovers that the partner was covering up that Guzman’s PTSD had never really gone away and was severely triggered a few months back when they responded to a child in distress who died. Guzman became convinced that he’d never be able to look after his own unborn child.

Once again the episode seamlessly dovetails from Tommy’s promise in her opening speech to do things differently – and more modernly – by using her cyber-tech guy – Decker (Alexander Hodge) to track down likely suspects in the shooting. When they determine that Keith Culberson (Ronald Peet) is a likely suspect, the cops surround his house and it looks like it’s going to be a bloodbath. Tommy refuses to let them storm in, and again uses Decker to find a peaceful solution. She contacts Culberson via his livestream within his apartment and convinces him to give himself up. It turns out that he had no gun but he’s brought to her office unharmed. While there, he explains his complaint against Guzman. In a case of clear racial profiling, Guzman suspected him of being involved in a crime with no direct evidence and slammed him up against a wall three times before handcuffing him for an hour and then finally letting him go. Tommy apologizes and gives him her card, telling him to call her if anything like that happens again. He asks if she’s going to give a card to every black person in LA. She replies, let’s start with you. It’s also telling that her ex-husband was also black. Decker makes a great addition to Tommy’s inner circle.

Meanwhile, Arturo is being arraigned and the Deputy Mayor seems unusually interested. When the proceeding is postponed, it seems likely that Arturo is trying to cut a deal. At this point, the Mayor also becomes interested and reaches out to Blake to try to get more information. He first compliments her on how she handled Tommy’s surprise press conference. He’s clearly interested in more than just her ability to get him information. Is this his Achilles heel too? Is he simply a womanizer and ruled by his libido or is he into something even worse? It’s possible that his greatest “crime” is having consensual sex outside his marriage – or he could have something to do with the sex trafficking or be a sexual predator like Leakey. Only time will tell… In the end, however, Arturo is killed in prison before he can talk – and it’s unclear exactly who ordered that done.

The episode ends with Tommy going to Alex and presenting him with the evidence that she knows what he did and why. She is initially met at the door by Leakey, and it seems this may be another fight with him. In the end, she is able to come up with a compromise. Alex must be prosecuted for what he did, but she suggests a fund to support the widow, Amy (Kahyun Kim), and lets Leakey take credit for it and announce it. Ken wants to know why she lets him take credit – and of course, it’s a smart answer. Leakey knows more people than she does and now he owes her one.

Tommy gives an incredible speech at the funeral, and it’s clear that Edward’s suicide is not being kept a secret. She emphasizes that the fault is not his but all of theirs. For not taking better care of officers and the toll they are subjected too. Again, the show wades right in to a topical issue.

If you aren’t watching this show, you totally should be! I loved the acting, the writing, and the focus on topical, important issues – not to mention all the gorgeous shots of LA! Did you watch? What did you think? What is your favorite aspect of the show? Your favorite character so far? Have you decided if Mayor Buddy is a good guy, a “Gray” guy, or an outright bad guy? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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