Shots Fired Wednesdays, 8 p.m., Fox. Premieres March 22.
There are a lot of big issues raised in Fox’s crime drama Shots Fired, which begins with a black police officer shooting an unarmed white college student in the South and only gets more incendiary from there. But the show from filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood (Beyond the Lights) and Reggie Rock Bythewood also embraces its pulpier side, with plenty of cop-show clichés.
Sanaa Lathan gives a strong performance as Ashe Akino, a veteran Department of Justice investigator sent to the fictional town of Gate Station, North Carolina, to help young DOJ prosecutor Preston Terry (a somewhat stiff Stephan James) get to the truth of what happened during the shooting. Their investigation opens up a mess of corruption and conspiracy, which eventually draws parallels to several recent, racially charged scandals.
A lot of the political commentary is blunt and inelegant, but it can be powerful at times, when it’s not undermined by melodramatic plot twists. As with other series that play out a single criminal investigation over an entire season, Shots Fired drags as the story progresses, and the detours into its main characters’ personal lives are mostly distracting. The result is an uneven but sporadically engaging drama that tries to titillate its audience while also making it think.