Gang Related is a riveting action-drama on Fox that first aired in May 2014. Most viewers found that once they watched the pilot, they were hooked. It all started with a young Hispanic Ryan Lopez as a boy in the hood. His parents have recently been killed, and his one and only prize possession is his late father’s wristwatch.
Another much older and meaner neighborhood boy, the young Carlos Acosta, grabs him, beats him up and takes the watch away from him. Carlos’ younger brother, Daniel, tries to help his friend Ryan to no avail until the patriarch of the family, Javier Acosta, steps in. He gives young Ryan his watch back and gains a loyal friend for life, or so it would seem.
The actor Cliff Curtis, who worked on a number of popular films including the 2001 film “Blow,” plays drug lord Javier Acosta. His portrayal of the fearless leader of the Los Angelicos is spot on. He is the epitome of strength and grace under pressure with a murderous edge.
Ryan Lopez Undercover
Ten years later, after Ryan was taken in and raised by the Acosta family, he joins the LAPD as an integral part of their Gang Task Force. His allegiance, however, is still to the Acosta family and the Los Angelicos. He actually joined the GTF out of his loyalty to them in an effort to keep Javier constantly on top of what the LAPD is up to at any given time. He basically becomes an undercover cop in reverse. Ryan is stoically underplayed by Ramon Rodriguez with his cool demeanor and professionalism in the face of a dual role. Is he a bad guy or a good guy? Maybe both.
At the reins of the department is Chief Sam Chapel, who is played adeptly by the endearing Terry O’Quinn. He’s the guy you love to root for, and he never disappoints. Chapel is fair to a fault and as by-the-book as they get, right up to the point where his back’s against the wall. His gorgeous but estranged daughter Jessica is the L.A. Assistant District Attorney. The character is played by Shantel VanSanten from Final Destination and One Tree Hill. She’s always dressed to the nines for her job and exudes quiet confidence and competence. She and Ryan fall in love midway thru the series, which could prove deadly for one of them.
Other members of the team playing on the right side of the law are RZA as Cassius Green, Ryan’s second partner on the force. His first partner and best friend is murdered early in the series in a senseless act by Carlos Acosta, which Ryan witnesses but must keep to himself because of his dual loyalties. Sung Kang plays Tae Kim, an FBI agent on-loan to the GTF as a specialist in Asian gangs.
The Los Angelicos Rise to Power
The Los Angelicos have a number of bitter enemies, including the GTF, but Ryan always makes sure that the gang is always one step ahead of them. They climbed to the top of the food chain amongst L.A. gangs and anyone else in the drug business. They have all but cornered the market on a new hip cocaine product called “Fish Scale.” This is a very lucrative and dangerous product, and everybody wants to get their hands on it. Javier has pinned his hopes for the future on importing and selling enough of the drug to finance the family’s rise to ultimate legitimacy.
Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with this plan, including Javier’s oldest son, Carlos, played by Reynaldo Gallegos. Carlos has aspirations of someday taking over the family drug business from his father, but his hopes are dashed for a time when a violent shooting by a rival gang leaves him confined to a wheelchair. Unknown to anyone else, Ryan was behind the attack, making an anonymous phone call to the rival gang leader as payback for his partner’s death. The incident leaves Carlos bitter and mean enough to violently murder a personal trainer who is just trying to help him. In spite of his physical condition, Carlos manages to get involved in his father’s business in all the wrong ways and gets his hands dirty every chance he gets.
Javier’s youngest son remains close with Ryan while spending the majority of his time getting a good education and becoming a banker. He opens his own bank but gets involved with the wrong people in the form of two old college friends who have started up a very popular hedge fund, which is actually nothing more than an elaborate Ponzi scheme. He invests some of the bank’s money with one of them but gets found out, leading to some serious problems.
Meanwhile, Daniel has been romancing Ryan’s ex, Sylvia. They have a bit of a rocky relationship as he believes that she may still have feelings for Ryan. All this time, Daniel has no intentions of ever being involved in the family business, but that could all change in an instant.
One Gang Related Wedding and Several Deaths Later
No one suspects Ryan of his dual role, but there is a rumor circulating that there is a mole in the department. Several episodes chronicle his fight to remain undercover, and he ends up agreeing to help the D.A. after Jessica makes the fatal mistake of telling her that Ryan is the mole. The D.A. works for Acosta, who is now in prison following a drug bust, and after she tells him about the revelation, Jessica ends up horribly murdered. Ryan and Chapel travel to Mexico to avenge her murder, but Ryan discovers that someone else is at fault.
Daniel moves his wedding to Sylvia up and rushes to the altar just so that Javier can get a day pass for the wedding. Unfortunately, she overhears Daniel becoming the new head of the family business in a Godfather-like scene during the reception.
Javier goes back to prison and, in the final series episode, Ryan visits him there and tells him that he knows Javier ordered the hit on the woman he loved. As Ryan leaves, Javier is transferred into a wing of the prison occupied by the rival gang that hates him, and they beat him to death. The last shot of Gang Related reveals that it was Ryan who ordered him moved.
Viewers who missed the original airing of the show, which was cancelled in September 2014, can watch Gang Related online anytime.