The Red Line began its four-weekend event stint on Sunday, and wasted no time diving into a complex story about what happens when an unarmed black man is shot by police in a city already divided over racial politics. However, the first two episodes went light on the latter part of that issue and instead focused on the all-consuming grief of the Calder-Brennan family, who lost one of their patriarchs in the series' opening scenes.
The show didn't neglect Paul Evans (Noel Fisher), the police officer who shot Harrison Brennan (Corey Reynolds) or city council candidate Tia Young (Emayatzy Corinealdi), but the meat of the first two episodes was watching Daniel (Noah Wyle) and Jira (Aliyah Royale) — Harrison's husband and adopted daughter — try and figure out their new lives and new dynamic without an integral part of their family.
"There was something very moving to me about a man who has to sideline his own grief to care for his daughter and then to have his grief be subjugated to the cause of a movement and the need of a city and the pain of a country, and to try to figure out how to balance that," Wyle told TV Guide. "When is it appropriate for me to be the face of my own pain and when would it be inappropriate and counterproductive because I'm not the face of Black Lives Matter? At least that's what the character's thinking. That was a really interesting plight to put the character in and I was profoundly moved by it."
The grief of losing a spouse and a father is enough, but Daniel and Jira have their own conflict due to the fact that Daniel is white and his daughter isn't. The tragedy of Harrison's death hits her on a completely different level than it does for Daniel and his inability to understand that drives a wedge between them at a crucial point in their lives. Trying to bridge that divide will consume a lot of their storyline as the show moves forward.
"You have a hubris as a parent. When you've — to be frank — when you've wiped tush and you've cleaned up vomit. You've fed and you've cared for and you've basically kept something alive, you feel a sense of innate knowledge that you can protect it and you can keep this life from falling into harm's way, but the thing that you confront as a parent constantly is that it's not your life," Wyle explained. "It's their life and they have their own minds and you can only protect them to a certain degree. Your frame of reference for what their life is is limited and stops at the end of what you're able to see and feel...It's only magnified when that moment comes in Episode 1 when [Jira] says, 'This is going to happen to me and I want to connect with somebody who's going to understand what that feels like.' And [Daniel] knows that [he] never will. As much and Daniel would love to have that not be true, it's true."
Jira's need to find someone who understands how she feels pushes her to find her birth mother, who neither she nor Daniel knows is actually Tia Young. While it's understandable that Jira would search for something she lost with the death of her father, Daniel's jealousy over that plight requires a little more explanation.
"I think he's threatened by more change, more than anything else. He's defined himself as husband and father and one of those things has now been taken away and as she goes to search for more family, it feels like an indictment of the family that's left," Wyle said, "Which means that he's not enough, which means he's not only lost his husband, he's lost his daughter, too."
Secrets can only last so long though, especially in an eight-episode event series. The truth will come out, and Wyle previewed how that new information brings forth a whole new set of issues for this expanding family.
"It's an existential fear that I don't think has anything to do so much with who her birth mother is, because very quickly he gets on board with who she is and what could happen. And then the concept of what family can be gets really interesting," the actor said. "That kind of kicks in the second half of the season. This notion of, 'Okay, so a family can consist of a birth mother and an adopted father,' and, as the show progresses, birth father potential. All sorts of stuff [will] come into play."
The Red Line continues Sundays at 8/7c on CBS.
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