Blue Bloods follows a family of New York cops as they face the difficulties of political and social issues, criminal activities, and… teaching their teenagers how to drive. Each episode features at least one scene of this close-knit Catholic family seated around the dinner table, talking out the week’s activities and receiving wisdom from one end of the table or the other. The Police Commissioner, Frank, sits at the head, and his father, Henry, sits at the foot. But in the Reagan household, everyone has a voice and a right to an opinion, from its oldest family member to its youngest.
The members of this family all have different personalities, and do not always get along with each other, but at the end of the day they watch each other’s backs. “Grandpa” Henry is an old-school cop, full of stories of “back in my day…” He headed up the police department during the times when the cops carried beaters and the mafia had “honor.” He doesn’t appreciate this “new” generation of cops who must do things by the book. He’s willing to bend the rules more than his son, Frank, who is a paragon of virtue and stubbornness. Frank wants his way, done the right way, with no whiff of corruption or favoritism. This lands him in hot water when the rest of the family cannot understand why he will not “bail out” one of his kids who has gotten into trouble in the department. Because, Frank reminds them, he has to be honest and aboveboard as the Police Commissioner, or it will call all of his decisions into question.
But while he will not break the rules, Frank will stand by his kids and fight for them by giving them the resources to deal with their problems… and once in awhile, showing up as a cop and a father. One of my favorite episodes in the first season involves a serial killer let out of prison on a technicality. This angers the entire family. The daughter, Erin, became a Prosecutor rather than a cop. The serial killer targets her and ends up stalking her through the empty courthouse one night. While Erin uses what cop skills her dad has taught her to survive, Frank becomes suspicious when she does not show up for their agreed-upon dinner across the street. He puts a bullet between the man’s eyes for threatening to slit her throat. As a trained cop, he does not miss. It’s the resolution to the moral crisis the episode explored through asking hard questions about the criminal and justice system.
Blue Bloods asks hard questions. Like Law & Order, each episode argues both sides to any given issue and has different family members supporting alternate points of view. Erin will be for something her brother Danny does not support, such as in the pilot episode where Danny has 12 hours to find an abducted child before she slips into a diabetic coma. Rather than put up with a never-ending run-around from the man who kidnapped her, he repeatedly dunks the man’s head in the nearest toilet. Outraged, Erin tells him off for this, not only on a moral level but a judicial one—a “forced” confession could get all the evidence thrown out, allowing the kidnapper to walk free. Danny argues that he doesn’t care about that, and will find another way to prove his guilt, so long as a kid lives to hug her mother . It asks, does the ends justify the means? Or is Erin right?
Danny, as you might have guessed, is a no-nonsense cop with an Irish temper. If anyone pushes his buttons, he pushes theirs twice as hard, but he is absolutely someone you want on your team, because he is fearless. If there’s a dangerous thing a cop needs to do, he will do it just to keep other cops out of the line of fire. If he must walk up to a car with a bomb in it, and grab the woman’s hand before she can detonate it, Danny will do it. But the show doesn’t excuse his reckless behavior or ‘police brutality’; he is often under investigation, and his behavior comes back to bite him in a big way, when he’s framed for corruption, drug-dealing, and murder.
Then, there’s Jamie, the youngest and sweetest of the Reagans. He joined law school and then he realized he wanted to become a cop after all. Avidly moral, he and Danny do not always agree on how to close a case… but they have each other’s back. Jamie wants to work hard and prove himself in a tough business, he refuses to take favors from his dad, and is a good influence on his first partner, a Brooklyn cop. Jamie’s earnest desire to help him with a gambling debt causes him to go to his father for a loan. Frank gives him the money, but then calls in Jamie’s partner to ask him to set a good example for Jamie. He makes it sound like he suspects his son has a gambling problem, and wants his partner to help keep him out of trouble. This allows the man to keep his dignity but also think about the consequences to his actions. The sensitivity and gentleness with which Frank does this is remarkable. He wants a fellow policeman to keep his dignity.
Just as prevalent in their lives are the people who are no longer in it—Frank’s wife and their son, who got shot in action, cast a long shadow over all their lives. Frank does not want to lose another kid, which makes him protective of Jamie. Danny feels the same way. They often speak fondly of their brother, or recount a piece of wisdom shared by their mother as they traverse all the difficulties and challenges of being a family of lawyers and cops. From paychecks that won’t stretch to buy a new car to Erin’s daughter’s desire to learn how to drive and become independent, each episode is as much about the family dynamics as it is the “case of the week.” Danny tracks down murders, drug dealers, and other troublemakers, while Jamie befriends people and does the right thing, Erin tries to navigate life as a single parent, Harry seeks for meaning after retirement, and Frank sighs over his hatred of dealing with the political angle of his job, rather than just focusing on what he values most—that they are reducing crime in the greatest city in the world.
In a television landscape that seems to celebrate dysfunctional families and focus on their feuds, Blue Bloods is a welcome reprieve, since it shows us a group of people who love and support each other even when they disagree and who wind up, after Mass, at the dinner table, to break bread and be thankful for each other.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charity Bishop devotes her free time to eating chocolate, debating theology with her friends, researching the Tudors and writing novels about them, caring for her beloved cats, running a MBTI typing blog, writing books, blogging, and searching for spiritual truth in all aspects of life.