DETROIT 187 “Legacy/Drag City” Review

DETROIT 187 Legacy Drag City Episode 15

DETROIT 187 “Legacy / Drag City” Episode 15 – When I saw the guest-star list last week I started salivating early, looking forward to this episode. Why?

“Omar’s comin’.”

Okay, sure, there’s no Omar on Detroit 1-8-7. But the superb Michael Kenneth Williams, who played the revenge-driven vigilante Omar on five seasons of HBO’s The Wire, was guest-starring as Clarence Warrenton, a parolee who shows up at the precinct and confesses to two murders. And I wasn’t going to miss that.

Omar wouldn’t like it if I missed it. And I generally try not to do things that Omar wouldn’t like.

Half-kidding Omar-worship aside, I was truly curious how this would go down. A colleague and I recently had a discussion about whether or not Williams had any real skill beyond the “Omar” type of character; Williams also plays a man named Chalky White in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, a role which my colleague basically called “Omar in a fancy suit,” citing this as proof of a lack of range. I countered by pointing out he’d played the role of Thief in Joe Penhall’s grim adaptation of Cormack McCarthy’s The Road – a role in which Williams basically played the most cowardly man ever.

So for me, this episode of Detroit 1-8-7 was the MKW litmus test. And of course I was right: Williams was excellent playing a character both desperate and downtrodden, probably the polar opposite of the infamous Omar. In a fantastic hospital scene we get to see a mercurial change come over Clarence once he realizes his charade has failed; Williams lets us see Clarence’s defensive walls come up while still retaining that spark of fear in his eyes, since he now knows the police are on the trail of the real murderer, Clarence’s son Justin (a excellently emotive Harrison Knight).

In fact, while I’m at it, I’m going to commend the casting department (Nathan Wright, I believe) for an all-around spectacular job. Not only did they go all out and hire a cadre of real-life performing drag queens for the “Drag City” storyline (and who does that, really?), but they basically hit every note perfectly. It’s uncommon to find a show where the regular cast and the supporting cast fit so seamlessly into their roles. A few more standouts:

Kristina Apgar, playing Riley Sullivan, the ex-girlfriend of detective Stone (D.J. Cotrona). If Detroit 1-8-7 were a show on the CW, Riley would have been dressed in the latest Chanel or Anna Sui fashions, with artfully tossed hair in some modern style. Ignoring the fact that, despite Apgar’s statuesque beauty, she was playing a beat-up ex junkie with no place to stay. (Sorry, sweetheart, but this ain’t the CW – it’s Detroit.) And I’m so glad they got it right. They somehow made Apgar appear plain, which played to the woman’s acting skills rather than her looks, and it really sold well. I eagerly await what looks to be an emotion-charged love triangle developing between Stone, Sullivan, and Sanchez — a Sanchez (Natalie Martinez, better and better) who was at her best when eyeball-to-eyeball with this new potential rival. Great electricity; both actresses said more with flickering glances than with words. I have a feeling this isn’t the last time we’ll see these two felines circling one another.

And it’s all going to ratchet up the drama to an even greater degree when the thugs who beat Sullivan come after Stone. “They did it because of you. They’re coming after you,” Sullivan warned him at the end. Stone’s past coming back to haunt him big time. Sucks to be him – great to be us.

Raphael Sbarge, playing “the frumpy one” Marcus Wiler, a man whose one weakness (an unhealthy obsession with a drag queen) drives his wife to murder. Sbarge’s nervous eyes had me squirming in my seat; I almost wish he were a recurring villain.

Kerry O’Malley, playing Audrey Wiler, the ignored and furious wife. O’Malley’s desperate body language when she breaks down and admits to killing the drag queen was superb. Most actresses simply let the emotion play across their faces, but O’Malley seemed to almost crumple under the weight of all of it. Fantastic.

This on top of the usual top notch stuff we get from the regulars. Fitch (Michael Imperioli) got a few nice quips in, and Mahajan (Shaun Majumder) expanded his semi-misogynist / borderline racist role with more than a few pointed insults. And who knew he was such an expert on women’s shoes?

Top it off with the best drag queen name in the state of Michigan: Detroit. (Pronounced Dee-TWAH.) “De-troit! Not Detroit, but French!”

Lovely.

Next week: rerun! The following week: more awesomeness. And according to the preview, explosions! Can’t wait.

Want to escape the doldrums of the inner city? Follow me on Twitter! That’s @Axechucker, you drag queen wannabes!