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Series / Shots Fired

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"One of you looks like you're trying to make a name for yourself and the other one looks like you're trying to rid yourself of your demons."

Shots Fired is a ten-part Law Procedural Thriller miniseries created by Reggie Rock and Gina Prince-Bythewood. It aired on Fox in 2017.

Jesse Carr (Jesse Leinbach), an unarmed Caucasian teenager, is shot in the small North Carolina town of Gate Station by Sheriff's Deputy Joshua Beck (Tristan Wilds), the town's only African-American officer. Governor Patricia Eamons (Helen Hunt) contacts the Department of Justice (DOJ) to determine if the shooting was lawful. Two African-American DOJ officials receive the assignment - veteran investigator Ashe Akino (Sanaa Lathan), who was previously cleared of shooting an unarmed individual and struggles to control her temper, and prosecutor Preston Terry (Stephan James), a young and confident attorney seeking to build up his reptuation. As they study the shooting, Ashe and Preston soon learn about the unsolved death of African-American teenager Joey Campbell (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), which has seemingly gone unnoticed outside of Gate Station.

Also connected to the investigation are:

  • Lieutenant Calvert Breeland (Stephen Moyer), a 20-year veteran of the sheriff's office;
  • Sheriff Daniel Platt (Will Patton), Gate Station's top lawman;
  • Janae James (Aisha Hinds), a local pastor;
  • Shameeka Campbell (DeWanda Wise), Joey's mother;
  • Kerry Beck (Clare-Hope Ashitey), Joshua's wife;
  • Sarah Ellis (Conor Leslie), the aide of the governor;
  • Arlen Cox (Richard Dreyfuss), a wealthy developer;
  • Alicia Carr (Jill Hennessy), Jesse's mother; and
  • Deputy Caleb Brooks (Beau Knapp), Joshua's best friend in the sheriff's office.

As Ashe and Preston continue their work, they begin to inquire about a potential conspiracy that led to Joey's shooting being covered up...

Shots Fired contains examples of:

  • Academic Athlete: Preston was a star baseball player... at Yale. It's implied that he was good enough for the majors and he demonstrates that he still possesses athletic prowess to Sarah, but he chose to pursue a career in law over baseball.
  • A Father to His Men: His record as a lawman is checkered, but Breeland does genuinely care about the deputies beneath him and punches out a former officer for insulting Caleb and Joshua.
    • Platt fits this trope when Breeland's murder prompts him to launch a full-on assault to find the killer until it turns out that the killer is actually him.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: After unsuccessfully trying to apologize to the people he wronged and being chased away, Breeland is then shot outside of his home right by his family.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: Series lead Ashe is a good cop, but the officers in Gate Station don't respect the law like she does.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Platt, who made the final decision to cover up Cox's shooting of Joey, and Cox, who uses a hired gun to make certain the shooting remains covered up.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Cox promises to help the community with his planned private prison and help fund Eamons' education initiative, but proceeds to renege on his deal by trying to increase the prisoner occupancy. And he also killed Joey, as well as being behind the attempts to silence the shooting's witnesses.
    • After Breeland's death, Platt goes to comfort his family and earn their trust when he's the one who killed him.
    • Averted with Janae, Sarah, and Caleb whose possible ulterior motives all turn out to be Red Herrings.
  • Brainy Brunette: Sarah, who attended the prestigious Duke University and is working directly for the governor of North Carolina.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: As the higher-up in the department, Platt and Breeland wear white uniforms, while the regular deputies wear blue.
  • Detective Mole: Platt personally leads the investigation to find Breeland's killer... who happens to be him.
  • Dirty Cop: A lot of the officers in Gate Station appear to be corrupt, with Platt and Breeland as the most prominent examples.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • When Paula raises her voice in front of Kai, Ashe responds by throwing a glass vase near her head. Ashe later claims she wasn't trying to hit Paula, but she still was risking seriously injuring her.
    • Upon finding a video of Jesse's death, Ashe and Preston learn that Joshua responded to Jesse rudely dropping his license and registration out of his window by forcibly pulling him out of the car, leading to the shooting.
  • The Dragon: The handler, on the behalf of Cox.
  • Driven to Suicide: A literal example occurs when Derkin's guilt over his involvement in Joey's death causes him to drive his vehicle into the water.
  • Driving Question: Two actually...
    • Did Joshua shoot and kill Jesse under lawful circumstances? His indictment at the end of the series indicates that he did not.
    • Was the shooting of Joey covered up? Yes.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Preston's first scene is DOJ officials reviewing college baseball footage of him where he taunted the opposing team before hitting a home run, showing his confident nature and raising questions over his professionalism.
    • Ashe's first scene is her throwing a vase near Paula when Paula raises her voice to Kai, demonstrating her protectiveness of her daughter and her Hair-Trigger Temper.
  • Fair Cop: Ashe, who's aware of it and even accuses Preston of being gay because he didn't check her out.
  • Government Conspiracy: Ashe and Preston suspect that the reason why Joey's death made little news is because someone was powerful enough to call the shots in covering the story up. Turns out that Platt and Breeland covered up the shooting to protect Cox.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Ashe has problems controlling her temper, which is implied to be the result of trauma she suffered during her law enforcement career and reason why Javier pursues sole custody of their daughter.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Breeland, who first comes off as an apparently corrupt and abusive officer who may have been involved with Joey's death (which he was), but after being to shown to also be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, offers to help the DOJ solve the case. He agrees to testify against the department for covering up Joey's death in exchange for full immunity, but Ashe and Preston reject the deal because they refuse to let him go unpunished and remain at odds with him.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite his dodgy record (especially his involvement in Joey's shooting), Breeland does care about his family and fellow officers and prevents rioters from being sprayed with a fire hose.
  • Karma Houdini: Played with. Cox avoids being indicted for shooting Joey and appears to get away with trying to have witnesses killed. However, he's not off the hook completely because Preston is able to pursue a new case against him over civil rights violations at his prisons.
    • Cox's handler also appears to escape justice, but if Cox goes down for the civil rights violations, he also may go down with his boss - and Cox already demonstrated that he'll throw other people under the bus to save his own skin.
  • Mama Bear: Don't come between Ashe and Kai. Ashe throws a glass vase at Paula for simply raising her voice in front Kai and gives Breeland quite the beating when he threatens to separate them.
  • Married to the Job: Why Platt's wife leaves him.
  • Minority Police Officer: Ashe and Joshua, the latter being the only minority officer in Gate Station.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Played with when Ashe informs Cox that a witness (Breeland) is going to testify against him for shooting Joey, encouraging Cox to confess and turn himself in. Doing so prevented Breeland from going unpunished, but also led to his death, and Cox ends up avoiding indictment, which may not have happened if Breeland testified first.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Joshua is naturally in shock after shooting Jesse.
    • Cory while hiding from Cox's men.
    • Sarah when one of the guests at a special event dies in front of her.
  • Only Sane Man: Caleb turns out to be the only level-headed police officer in Gate Station.
  • Parental Favoritism: A suspicion held by Preston towards his father and brother Maceo because Maceo followed their father's wishes of pursuing a career in sports and he didn't. His father further reinforces this suspicion by choosing to spend time with Maceo over attending an event at Eamons' mansion with Preston.
  • Police Brutality:
    • Breeland is repeatedly accused of this, although it becomes averted when he prevents a fire hose from being used on protestors.
    • It's eventually revealed that Joshua shot Jesse after forcibly dragging him out of his car.
  • Persecution Flip: Examined from every angle, as everyone is well aware of the anomalous nature of the shooting in the middle of the multitudes of white cops shooting unarmed black people.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Caleb, in contrast to nearly every other officer in Gate Station. His one failing is giving a ticket for a minor infraction, but winds up feeling guilty for it and redeems himself the same day by finding Shawn.
  • Red Herring Mole: Primarily embodied by Janae, who is repeatedly implied to have been involved with Joey's death and even gets arrested for the crime, but ultimately turns out to be innocent.
    • Sarah and Caleb to a lesser extent. The support that they show for others appears to be an act at first, but is proven to be genuine in the end.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Joey's death is inspired by the 2015 death of Eric Harris, an unarmed black man who was accidentally shot by Reserve Deputy Bob Bates when he confused his personal handgun for a taser. Like Cox, Bates lacked the qualifications to participate in a police patrol and received his position through being a campaign donor (in his case, to the sheriff). Unlike Cox, however, Bates was found guilty of manslaughter and served a prison sentence.
  • Sleeping Their Way to the Top: It's implied that Preston pursues an affair with Sarah to further his career, which Ashe calls him out on. The affair ends when Sarah realizes that she's being used by Preston.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Preston feels unappreciated by his father, especially in comparison to his NFL brother, because he didn't become a professional athlete. Zigzagged when his father tells him that he's proud of what he's done, but also reminds him that he missed the opportunity to play in the World Series.
  • Where da White Women At?: Played with. Ashe calls Preston out for his affair with Sarah, but while she makes a reference to race, her main issue is over Preston sleeping with a government official and Preston later demonstrates that he has no preference when he sleeps with Ashe.