Allegiance review

Allegiance Review: A Proudly Canadian Police Procedural

CBC's new Canadian cop drama transcends the badge.

The following is a review of Episodes 1 and 2 of Allegiance.

A police procedural series isn’t anything new or special. There are many that exist – True Detective, Rookie Blue, Flashpoint, NCIS, The Rookie – due to its powerful but unfortunately predictable story structure. Despite this familiarity, there’s a reason they are so popular: they work. Providing a great atmosphere for gripping tension and mystery, this genre naturally has the building blocks for a captivating series. Allegiance, the new series premiering on CBC and CBC Gem, takes that foundation and expands it into something even greater by introducing fresh perspectives on the justice system. Utilizing Canadian star-power to tell universal stories, Allegiance excels as a fast-paced police procedural while investigating North America’s complex political landscape.

Set in Surrey, British Columbia, the series follows Sabrina Sohal (Supinder Wraich) who, after graduating from the country’s top police academy, must deal with the surprising arrest of her father, politician Ajeet Sohal (Stephen Lobo). As she finds her bearings on the job, she also struggles with prioritizing her duty as a cop over personal matters. She and her station members track down a missing child which leads to a high-stakes face-off with a white supremacist. In the show’s second episode, “Supply Side,” Sabrina and her station members address a massive overdose and set off to find the source of laced drugs. These episodes set up the series’ dilemmas: the complex process of exonerating her father and dealing with a white supremacist right-wing group.

One of the exceptional features of the show that transcends its procedural structure is its accurate portrayal of our contemporary political landscape. With crucial progressive movements like Black Lives Matter exposing police brutality, Allegiance confronts racism and intolerance, exemplified by moments like when Sabrina challenges the oft-used “I don’t see colour” argument. She asserts that acknowledging colour is essential. She critiques those who claim otherwise by emphasizing that only those who haven’t experienced racism can dismiss it. Additionally, the exploration goes further by delving into less-discussed yet prevalent issues, like the consequences of diversity efforts. Sabrina encounters jealousy from her white co-worker, Luke (Lachlan Quarmby), who attributes her success to her race, undermining her skills and capabilities. Allegiance tackles this complex issue by presenting a realistic and angering portrayal. While the story delves into racism, it also explores issues of class, power, and privilege.

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Despite its unique perspective, the story’s foundations make it susceptible to predictability. The challenges Sabrina faces may offer differentiating content, but the outcomes often follow an overused pattern that’s hard to avoid. With cop dramas, the turning points usually come in either two forms – the good guy wins or the bad guy does. It is challenging to find an unpredictable third option in such clear-cut situations. This leads to foreseeable and less-than-satisfying payoffs. The second episode attempts to surprise us with twist in a case of “whodunit,” but lingering shots and obvious shadiness makes it quite clear who did it as soon as we see them. Despite its predictability, Allegiance does a fantastic job at building tension within the story’s rhythm and pacing. In these high-stakes moments, it is pleasantly stressful, even if we know how it likely plays out.

The characters in Allegiance are exceptional, portrayed with a chemistry that feels authentic to real-life. Sabrina is a strong lead, benefitting from Supinder Wraich’s outstanding skills, which is no surprise given her notable experience on other Canadian shows like Sort Of. She steals the screen in most scenes and particularly shines alongside her training officer, Vince (Enrico Colantoni). Their chemistry provides welcomed comic relief between the more intense aspects of their job. Showrunners Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern even tailored some elements specially to utilize the actors’ unique dynamic.

The show’s portrayal of Canada is also well done, avoiding the weird pitfall Canadian content can fall into – trying to be American. Allegiance showcases its Canadian culture and charming setting with pride. The characters mention Surrey several times to orient the viewer and provide cultural context, no matter their country. The cinematography is gorgeous but only features a few beautiful shots of mountainous landscapes. Including more shots to show off North American beauty would have raised it to another level. Regardless, it authentically represents the diverse culture without overlooking the challenges. Despite Canada’s self-proclaimed peacemaking title, we have our own social issues which this show doesn’t try to hide. As a Canadian, it offers a great representation of our reality while providing a universal appeal.

Overall, Allegiance is an entertaining and intriguing watch. Within just two episodes, it provides a gripping drama while proudly including Canada’s natural beauty and distinctive culture. The narrative transforms the police procedural genre by providing a unique dive into social issues like race, white supremacy, class privilege, and justice system bias. Policing can be a heated topic today, but Allegiance confronts this complexity directly, layering a familiar structure with a unique and compelling approach.

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Allegiance premieres February 7 at 9 p.m. on CBC TV and CBC Gem, with new episodes premiering every Wednesday.



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