I haven’t had time to get caught up on my weekly TV-watching lately, so this week I am going to talk about just one show – the new series on CTV, Played. This series had my attention right off the bat because a) it’s a Back Alley Films/Muse Entertainment production, and after Bomb Girls, I will follow them anywhere, and b) Lost Girl’s Vincent Walsh is one of the stars. From the basic description about a team of undercover cops in Toronto trying to shut down various criminals each week, I wasn’t sure how much I would like it, but the hands and heads behind it are talented enough to warrant giving it a shot, so I did.
As it turns out, Played is not only one of my favourite new shows of the fall season, but it’s also quickly becoming one of my favourite shows currently on the air overall. The writing is smart and unlike most other television shows, it makes the city look stunning in ways I’ve never seen before, and the attractive cast has so much talent among them that it’s actually kind of unbelievable. How all of these factors came together into one show is beyond me, but I am so very glad they did! Played can even be reminiscent of other cop shows at times, but in the end, it’s really unlike anything else out there – now or ever.
The pilot gave us an introduction to the CIU (Covert Investigations Unit) team as they were being assembled. Walsh plays seasoned Detective John Moreland, whose penchant for following his gut can get him into trouble, even as it gives him the edge he needs to solve a case. As such, he now has to answer to Detective Sergeant Rebecca Ellis (Chandra West), who is in charge of the group overall. The rest of the team consists of Detective Constable Maria Cortez (Lisa Marcos), Detective Constable Daniel Price (Dwain Murphy), Officer Khali Bhatt (Agam Darshi), and newcomer Officer Jesse Calvert (Adam Butcher). When a situation arises that requires a more delicate touch, the undercover group is called upon to observe, infiltrate, and apprehend the criminals involved with as little violence as possible. Though, sometimes it’s not always possible.
The locations chosen for each episode are incredible, and most I wouldn’t even recognize as being in Toronto, except for the fact that this is truly a city of neighbourhoods, and this show portrays that aspect every chance it gets. The city is almost a character in and of itself sometimes, and om something as simple as John sitting on a porch with his ex-wife and discussing their daughter lends an entirely different feel to the show than a scene in a club, or on a rooftop patio overlooking the city, for example. The world feels completely realized and lived in, largely because it is – the characters all inhabit the space as fully as though they were actual people that we as viewers are just getting to know. We come into the middle, in many ways, but we’re never made to feel that way. The world of Played could be going on all around us, right now, and it never panders to its audience at all. It simply invites us to go along for the ride.
Episode 3 has been my favourite of the season thus far, in part because of an incredible and dynamic performance by guest star Brittany Allen, and because the chemistry between her character and Murphy’s character was so beautifully done that I found the whole ep was mesmerizing to watch. There are also several scenes wherein Walsh’s character has to really dig deep to find his own inner truth and put some of that on display – whether it’s to convince a criminal that he’s trustworthy, or to connect with his ex-wife for their daughter’s sake – all of it is so strongly portrayed that i feel like Walsh must actually be drawing from some of his own experience once in awhile. He brings so many layers to a role that already has a ton of layers built into it – it’s so exciting to watch each week! I’m also really enjoying the slowly budding relationship between Walsh and West’s characters. There’s a grudging respect there on both sides, especially after episode 4 (which featured amazing performances by guest stars Christine Horne and a quietly threatening David Richmond-Peck), and I suspect that will build more and more as the team faces increasingly difficult challenges and the stakes for each of them continue to rise. The only way they are going to succeed in their task is if they continue to work together, because at the end of the day, they are really all they have.
Played airs Thursdays at 10pm EST on CTV.