Battle Creek follows a jaded and cynical police detective who struggles to adapt to a new partnership with a naive and upbeat FBI agent. Warning there are spoilers ahead.
The pilot script for Battle Creek was actually written years ago by Vince Gilligan, who then went on to create Breaking Bad. CBS bought the show but never made it, until now, which was probably quite smart considering the success of Breaking Bad. Whilst Gilligan has stayed on as an executive producer, he is too busy with Better Call Saul to run Battle Creek. That job has been given to David Shore, who is probably best known for creating the series House. Having those two big names attached to this show made me confident that Battle Creek would be good. Add that to the fact that Bryan Singer, most known for his work in the X-Men film series, directed the pilot and I was convinced CBS had a winning show on their hands.
Thankfully my prediction seemed to have been on point, as Battle Creek delivered a great pilot. The plot was exciting and fast paced, the characters were interesting and likeable, and the writing was witty and intelligent. A pleasant surprise was the comedy level; although the show is quite gritty and dark I found myself laughing throughout. The best moment occurs at the height of suspense when the SWAT team are about to enter the suspect’s house. It’s pretty tense, and then we hear the suspect’s voice over intercom asking them not to break down his $5000 door and come right in as it’s open. It’s these funny moments that make the show truly enjoyable.
However for me the best thing about the show was the relationship between the two leads Dean Winters and Josh Duhamel who play Detective Agnew and Special Agent Chamberlain respectively. Their chemistry is undeniable and they really bounce off each other well. Together they are great but we also shouldn’t underplay their individual performances. They both do an incredible job in their roles. Dean Winters looks very comfortable as the sarcastic detective, it’s like he was made for the part. His sharp one liners and bleak outlook on the world make him the comedy of the show, even if he’s not intending to be. However I didn’t really expect anything less from Winters, he’s good in everything he does. Josh Duhamel portrays the upbeat FBI agent with the endless supply of meaningful quotes as endearing and charming. His character had the danger of coming across as annoying or out of place, yet Duhamel does a great job and manages to make him likeable. He’s also the character I had the most questions about by the end of the episode. Clearly there’s more to his past than he’s letting on, the speech about making mistakes was an obvious clue. Perhaps Agnew calling him the Devil was more accurate than we thought. Whatever the case, it will be very interesting to see his back story unfold.
The supporting cast are made up of Janet McTeer (Commander Guziewicz), Kal Penn (Detective White), Aubrey Dollar (Holly Dale), Edward Fordham Jr. (Aaron Funkhauser), Liza Lapira (Detective Jacocks) and Damon Herriman (Detective Niblet). Aubrey Dollar probably got the most screen time out of the bunch and her character seemed sweet, if not a little awkward . This was evident in her introduction to Agent Chamberlain, with her first words being “You’re very good looking”. It was completely endearing and probably quite realistic. I mean if I was introduced to someone that looked like Josh Duhamel, I’d probably have the same reaction. Unfortunately we didn’t really get to see much of the other characters, with most of the episode being devoted to Agnew and Chamberlain. However it’s always difficult to establish secondary characters in pilots and I think the choice to focus on the two leads in the first episode paid off. Hopefully we’ll see more character development of the rest in upcoming episodes.
I’ll admit that despite the big names attached to Battle Creek I was a little worried. There are so many crime dramas on television these days that it’s hard to stand out from the crowd. With each new one there has to be a unique spin, a gimmick of sorts. Forever has an immortal ME. Castle has a crime writer working for the police. Elementary is a modern day retelling of Sherlock Holmes. Battle Creek didn’t seem to have anything like that. It seemed like a completely standard crime drama that we’ve all seen before. It even has the usual polar opposite pair of detectives who butt heads, and of course one that seems to have a dark past. Nothing new, nothing flashy. And perhaps that’s why this show works so well. Instead of focusing on trying to deliver some sort of brand new twist on the procedural layout, they actually concentrate on the quality of the storytelling. As a result we get clever writing, strong performances and great production. It draws us in so much that we don’t need any gimmicks. We instead enjoy it because of its good quality and that’s what makes Battle Creek stand out.