“Ironside” Pilot Review

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Ahhh, don’t you just love early pilot releases? I know I do. Ironside officially comes out on NBC on October 2nd, but if you’ve got an internet connection you can view it now over at NBC.com or Hulu – which is exactly what I just did.

Ironside is a remake of a 1960s cult television series, whose main character is described as “a tough, sexy but acerbic police detective using a wheelchair after a shooting is hardly limited by his disability as he pushes and prods his hand-picked team to solve the most difficult cases in the city.” [x]

The pilot episode started out strong, with the same scene we’ve all probably seen in the show’s trailer: a man suspected of kidnapping is dragged into a car in an empty lot as Sergeant Robert Ironside (Blair Underwood) works his interrogation “magic” on the guy. Meanwhile, one of his detectives hilariously stands just outside the car and shouts the Miranda Rights at Mr. Suspect. That one ridiculous scene is a pretty good indication of how the rest of the pilot went – a good blend of dark humor, decent action scenes, and introspective moments.

Blair Underwood very rightly steals the show as the main character, a man with an eventful past whose knack for sniffing out the truth leads to him being very, very good at his job. That past is lightly outlined in flashbacks throughout the episode, showing glimpses of Ironside’s life before the shooting that severed his spine and left him in a wheelchair. Underwood is particularly fantastic at fleshing out the different sides to his character.

What we’re given from the rest of the characters paints a surprisingly engaging picture, considering how few details we get on these other people’s lives. Robert Ironside has a loyal, intelligent team of handpicked detectives: Teddy (Neal Bledsoe), who used to be an investment banker with a hefty trust fund but changed professions for an unknown reason, Detective Holly (Spencer Grammer) with a no-nonsense attitude and some interesting connections to pry information from, and a dude who may or may not have a wife. (Yeah, that’s all I got from Pablo Schreiber’s character Virgil so far).

There’s also Ironside’s boss Ed Rollins (Kenneth Choi), who is more than a little fed up with Ironside’s tendency to stretch the limits of the law to catch bad guys – but grudgingly admits that it brings results – and ex-partner Gary (Brent Sexton) who is wracked with guilt over the shooting that led to Ironside losing the use of his legs.

What I didn’t like was that Ironside showcased quite a lot of law-stretching and police brutality in its pilot, which I’m uncomfortable with due to the almost blasé way in which it was presented. Sergeant Ironside was barely even reprimanded for beating a suspect’s head in at the beginning of the episode, and there was a flashback in which he also dangled a man off a roof as his partner egged him on. Neither of these things had visible repercussions beyond Rollins’ exasperation, and were treated as the typical antics of a “hard-working cop.”

The case-of-the-week wasn’t that memorable, either – something to do with laundering drug money, shifty investment bankers, and a murder and a suicide within a few days of one another – and that would be what I’d call the weakest point of the episode. Though the cases in a procedural are usually like that, I would have expected the pilot to go with something a little stronger. There was a twist near the end that took me by surprise, but once the novelty of that wore off, the rest of the storyline was quite predictable.

All in all, Ironside is a pretty typical police procedural, but the characters make it interesting and fresh enough that it’s still a good watch. You can watch the show on NBC on Wednesdays at 10/9 central starting October 2.

Check out the series trailer below:

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