3 out of 5
Created by: Will Beall
covers season 1
We love our flawed leads. They’re human; they make mistakes; we can see ourselves in them. There have been longer, deeper, darker dives into this – think Breaking Bad – and then there’s the more shallow, bottle-episode variant that most serialized TV produces, which give us easily digestible and disposable scenarios with some light moralizing by episode’s end, to whatever entertaining extent.
Bill Hollister (Stephen Dorff) is not a flawed lead. He’s cut from the other cloth: he’s the grit teeth, always-does-and-says-the-right-thing man-in-charge, doing things his own way ’cause he’s right, consarnnit, and if that happens to line up with rootin’ tootin’ USA spirit and the tenets of the gottdamn proud job of being LA’s sheriff, then so be it. Sheriff? In a show called Deputy? Ah, but that’s in the hitch that starts off the series, and how our goes-his-own-way Hollister can flip from one role to the other: Bill is, indeed, a deputy – and a mounted one, of course – and the sudden death of his boss causes some age-old policy to kick in, insta-promoting Bill until elections can be held. …Which stymmies those who were next in line, such as Jerry Lyndon (Mark Moses), and gives Bill free reign to ignore policies and politics as he deems fit to police “the right way.”
Bill is also happily married to an awesome, badass doctor-wife (Yara Martinez), and has a smart and capable daughter (Valeria Jauregui) who loves him, friends who absolutely stand by him and also happen to have set-in-stone morals, and is even modern-man enough to grapple with one of his detective’s gender identity issues, admitting he might mess up sometimes when it comes to pronouns, but also coming out of the conversation sounding exactly all confident and humble in the way any of us wish we could.
Bill is the exact opposite of a flawed lead. But that’s okay. Sometimes we just want a little rah-rah, and for the good guys to kick down doors ’cause it’s “just” and to save the day, and then to modernize it and also let good gals kick things down justly and whatnot.
Some of Deputy’s attitude is questionable, of course, given that it tries to straddle a line of reinvention – Bill wants to use his time as temporary sheriff to enact whatever change in dated policy he can – while also trumpeting dyed-in-the-wool morals, and some kind of in-borne Apple Pie-ness that’s just as much of a cause of those dated policies as anything else… There’s also the oddity of some heavy subject matter in the subplots that comes and goes a bit too quickly, like PTSD from kidnappings, and the aforementioned gender issues, and adopting kids after you shoot their dad in a drug raid, but a couple of things make it work: the excellent main cast – Dorff and Martinez are great, and it’s always awesome to see Bex Taylor-Klaus – and the show’s general swaggery ‘tude and cinematic, over-exposed shooting style; the former means people can carry generic scenes and setups and give them weight, and the latter means the show looks like it means business, which is convincing enough, then, to keep us watching.
Deputy, in other words, is silly – it’s designed to please. But damn, it pleases good, and you’ll find yourself cheering on Bill’s build up to the elections, even if his “we’ll do it our own damn way” speeches don’t always make sense.