The story of an inner-city Los Angeles police precinct where some of the cops aren't above breaking the rules or working against their associates to both keep the streets safe and their ... See full summary »
Welcome to the Montecito Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, where you can do anything you want... but Ed Deline and his crack surveillance team will be watching. Just remember, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas...
Season 3: Same weaknesses as before but improves a bit on previous season ironically by focusing on the brutality more (SPOILERS)
It was many years ago as a student living in a rather dingy flat and staying up late that I discovered Oz and the memory of this amazingly brutal and adult show stayed with me for years, to the point that I cannot watch an episode of Law & Order or some similar show without pointing out the Oz actor who is playing a small role that week. I recently started watching back through the show and was a little disappointed to find it was not quite as flawless as my memory told me it was. In this third season we open with Alvarez in solitary following the terrible act of violence that ended the previous season, Adebisi broken, soft and irrelevant following the murder of his father figure, Kenny reforming himself as "Bricks" in order to take the lead of his group, Hill is in Oz and nobody ever mentions him hiding in a coffin in the final scene of season 2 while Beecher returns from his broken limbs as, well, Wolverine.
Yup, Wolverine. Within the first episode or so Beecher removed the corrupt chief guard by slashing at him with his fingernails until he dies of a cut throat. It is as suddenly violent as it is laughable and it starts the tone that will continue for the rest of the season brutal violence mixed with half-done plotting. Fortunately this silly moment is one of the sillier ones but it is still a season that isn't willing to put the time in to prop up its plots (not unlike Busmalis' tunnel in season 2). It is actually an improvement on the second season though, because a lot of the plotting is lower level violence and betrayals, all of which can cope with less character development and therefore less time. Whenever it is all backstabbing and political wrangling over the control of drugs then it not only works but it makes the violence all the more relevant. Sadly it is not all this way and the show still makes the mistake of rushing character just. Much like O'Reily suddenly fell in love with Gloria and suddenly his brother had killed her husband, so here we have characters acting in service of the plot rather than the other way round.
The most obvious example of this is Keller; despite all evidence to the contrary (his treatment of Beecher and his treatment of his ex-wives), suddenly Keller loves Beecher. This dynamic sets up some plot lines but it never makes sense in regards the actual character. Adebisi is a little different because his change, although still sudden in some ways, is spread out over time I would have liked a bit more subtly to it, but it worked better thanks to the time it takes. This rush means that everything gets done quickly and so the writers need to put more and more events into the season so we have boxing matches, murders of characters introduced simply so they can be murdered and of course that old favourite: family members ending up in the same section of the same prison as their relatives. All of this works when it is brutal and impacting, but unfortunately it is never as smart as it needs to be in terms of developing the threads. The pace of the show creates a real collage of violence but it also undermines how good that same collage is because it isn't allowed to breathe and grow.
The cast all do well despite this or in some cases, because of it, since they are not all great actors. I shan't list them but suffice to say that the ones that do the best are those that are allowed to play simple violent monsters that ooze threat and as a result Simmons, Winters and Akinnuoye-Agbaje will forever be etched in my mind as the characters they play here. Perrineau continues to do good work as the narrator here and his interludes frequently aid the plot by providing some form of structure.
Season 3 of Oz works because it has a lot going on and focuses on how brutal and impacting it all is, but it still has the same weaknesses that the previous season had and it worries me to see them being built into the fabric of the show. The rush to move plots along means they rarely get to have as much meaning as they could have whether it is characters murdered within seconds or big character changes that occur in a few lines of dialogue. I note that the fourth season was given more episodes for its run so perhaps this means that the writers take their time a bit more, but we'll see. Enjoyable for what it does but what it doesn't do is pretty damaging along the way.
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