Vegas “Pilot” Review – Welcome to Vegas, Baby

Vegas (CBS) "Pilot" Episode 1 (2)

Well, Vegas certainly started off with a punch.literally. Within the first five minutes of the series Dennis Quaid’s Ralph Lamb beat the tar out of several smug air traffic controllers for continually allowing planes to fly low over his ranch and spook his cattle. This just might be alright folks.

Vegas takes place before Las Vegas was, well, Vegas. Set in the 1960’s, Vegas takes us back before the big casinos sprawled across the Nevada desert and most of the land was still nothing but dust. It’s a time when mobsters were just getting their foothold on everything in the town. Everyone was on the take and the sheriff knew where all the bodies were buried. It’s a very wise choice on the part of the creators to set this show back in time. Sheriff Lamb wouldn’t be able to be a very effective lawman in modern day Las Vegas. He is not overly concerned with violating a person’s civil rights, and he’s not above punching a prisoner in the mouth for being rude to a lady. Lamb is a man who’s good at solving crimes, but would much rather work his ranch. He doesn’t have much use for the type of folks that populate Las Vegas, nor does he really care for the politics. He’s no nonsense, straight to the point, and a straight arrow. He is in stark contrast to Michael Chiklis’ Vincent Savino.

Savino is the typical kind of gangster you’d find headed out to Vegas in the 60’s. He wears a snappy suit, fedora, and walks like he owns the world. Which in his mind, he does. He’s the guy who smiles at you one minute and takes a baseball bat to your head the next. He’s smooth as silk on the outside, but underneath it all he is violent and cruel. Basically, he’s a dangerous man.

The assistant district attorney assigned to help Lamb investigate the murder at the center of the Pilot is Katherine O’Connell, portrayed by Carrie Anne Moss. She and the Lamb family obviously have history, and I expect more will be revealed as the series progresses. I just want to stop here for a moment and note that I hope Katherine isn’t used just to ‘pretty up’ the show. A lot of tv shows have a habit of dumbing down female characters. She’s only there to service certain plot points and look pretty while doing it. She’s never given any real agency and she doesn’t exhibit any real intelligence or depth. It was kind of hard to judge whether that’s the direction Vegas intends to take Katherine, but I sincerely hope they do not. She had a few moments where all she was supposed to do was look pretty, but she also had a few moments of showing herself to be a capable ADA. I’ll give the show a few episodes before passing judgment on Katherine. Carrie Anne Moss is a wonderful actress, and if given decent material she can make Katherine a great character. Let’s hope they go that route.

The pilot episode centers around the murder of the governor’s daughter. Mayor Ted Bennett, who is currently running for re-election, recruits Lamb to solve the crime since the current sheriff has gone missing. The mayor commanded Lamb’s unit during the war, and he knows Lamb to be an excellent investigator. I got the sense the mayor was working so hard on the investigation more so the governor would get off his back, not because he necessarily wanted justice for the girl’s killer. He also needs Lamb to help restore some order since he’s running on the platform as the ‘law and order candidate.’ Lamb recruits his brother Jack and his son Cale to assist him on the case. The Pilot concludes with the discovery of the sheriff’s body and Lamb being appointed the new sheriff.

All in all, I’d say the Pilot did a fine job of setting up the series. It effectively laid out the character relationships and revealed the motivation of a couple key players. One of the most important aspects of a show (besides writing) is casting, and I think Vegas has done a great job. Quaid did a wonderful job with Lamb as a man who has a fire in his belly but is cool and calm when necessary. Chiklis is intense, charming, and brutal as the gangster that will be the thorn in Lamb’s side. This could be interesting.

What did you think of the Vegas Pilot? I’d love to hear your thoughts.