FOX’s freshman drama Shots Fired dives headfirst into arguably the most controversial topic of 21st-century America: racism and its effects on justice and inequality. While this show is scripted and revolves around fictional characters, the issues being explored and the reference points used are very much real.
We follow two investigators from the Department of Justice, Preston Terry (Stephan James) and Ashe Akino (Sanaa Lathan), who are called to a small town in North Carolina to get to the bottom of the killing of an unarmed teenager by a police officer. Unfortunately, this scenario is not unfamiliar, but the fact that it was a black cop that shot a white teenager makes all the difference — and that’s exactly what sets things in motion: Three weeks earlier, another unarmed teenager was shot and killed by police, but that time the races were reversed: a white cop shot a black teen. As it’s pointed out in the show, where was the cavalry then?
As Preston and Ashe, who both happen to be black, dig deeper and deeper into the killing of the white teenager, Jesse, they discover a blurry line connecting him and Joey, the black teen gunned down, leading them down a complicated path riddled with twists and turns involving government corruption, police cover-ups, and a pastor (Aisha Hinds) possibly looking for her chance to make national headlines while the tension between races quickly escalates.
An interesting question is posed from the first moment we see Deputy Joshua Beck (Tristan Mack Wilds) has gunned down Jesse: What happens when someone has a foot in the Black Lives Matter movement but also in the countering Blue Lives Matter — something that is rarely, if at all, discussed in real-life media?
The story sometimes becomes muddy as Preston and Ashe’s personal and professional lives become intertwined which, frankly, serves as a distraction rather than an additional dramatic layer — there’s plenty of drama to stand on without a custody battle or struggling for a father’s acceptance.
Regardless, it’s surprising Shots Fired has not gained more buzz and attention going into last week’s premiere. It’s an extremely topical show that has, for the most part, not shied away from posing and then attempting to answer the ugly questions around how race and injustice connects. It takes care not to point fingers at either side but to show in equal parts the positive and negative from both sides. Plus, it has a pretty great cast topped off with Helen Hunt as the North Carolina governor, Stephen Moyer as a possibly corrupt police officer, Will Patton as the sheriff, Richard Dreyfuss as the richest man in the state, making it worth giving the new series a shot.
Watch Shots Fired on Wednesdays at 9pm ET on FOX.