These days you’re nothing without original content. Internet streaming sites such as Netflix and Hulu have already added their unique voices to the television landscape and now DirecTV is jumping on the bandwagon with their first original drama, Rogue.
Rogue has all the ingredients of an instant hit: an exciting premise (an undercover tale mixed with crime family staples), a stellar cast (helmed by Thandie Newton and Marton Csokas), and an audience that has proved themselves to be eager consumers of gritty dramas with a morally ambiguous anti-hero at its epicenter. Yet, even with the deck so favorably stacked, Rogue faltered in its start.
Completing the twists and turns necessary to properly set up a story of an undercover agent and a mob boss joining forces takes time. As a result the debut of the series is actually two episodes (“The Aquarium” and “Fireball”) aired back to back. An extended premiere isn’t in and of itself a bad thing, but with Rogue, you feel every minute of the two hours it takes to get to the plot points DirecTV provided in its guide listing. Luckily, having seen the third episode, I can tell you that once that exposition is out of the way and the real action starts, Rogue begins to live up to its potential.
Even so, Rogue is an acquired taste. DirecTV has clearly poured a lot of money into this venture and the production value is high, but those particular choices are strange. Rogue fancies itself a noir, which isn’t all that revolutionary for a gritty crime drama, but it has turned the volume up to eleven. The shadows are played against the bright Oakland sun, the crime is increasingly violent, and the sex is gratuitous to put it mildly. It’s a distinct style and one that I think works with the heightened drama, it just takes some time to get used to.
Thandie Newton, as a grief stricken mother and cop turned rogue (get it?) agent, anchors the series and sets the pace for her fellow actors. Perhaps as another homage to the bygone area of film noir, Newton plays Grace with a fiery demeanor that could easily be read as over the top, but seems all too fitting for the overblown circumstances her character exists in. Likewise, Marton Csokas, as the increasingly desperate crime boss, matches her intensity in a somewhat clichéd performance.
Luckily Rogue has been given plenty of time to warm up its audience. The beauty of cable television is that the show creators are free to develop their story without the added pressure of studio notes based on ratings and viewer feedback. In some scenarios this can be a detriment, but if the improvements of the second episode continue for the following eight, than Rogue can add its names to the pantheon of successful cable ventures.
Rogue airs Wednesdays at 9/8 C on DirecTV's Audience Channel. For more thoughts on the series, check out my interview with two of the show's stars here.
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