‘Vindication’ Returns for Season 2, Mixing Faith With Small-Town Crime Drama

‘Vindication’ Returns for Season 2, Mixing Faith With Small-Town Crime Drama

A small-town crime show shot in Texas has ambitions to find a large audience, hoping to deliver the action people expect with authentic depictions of faith.
Josh Shepherd
By

Pure Flix, a key player in the niche market of faith-based streaming services, has announced that season two of indie drama series “Vindication” — a unique merger of crime procedural and faith-conscious family drama — will premiere on September 1.

TV veteran Todd Terry, known for roles in “Breaking Bad” and “Walker: Texas Ranger,” leads the show as Sgt. Travis, who runs a police precinct in the fictional Texas city of East Bank. The detective and his team solve break-ins and suburban-set mishaps, with a larger threat looming. Characters also struggle with personal issues such as forgiveness and addictions.

“Most entertainment today comes from a few large studios based in Los Angeles,” said writer-producer Jarod O’Flaherty in a phone interview from Fort Worth, Texas. “We’ve found a large, underserved audience hungry for content that reflects their values. This show tells realistic stories that people can relate to, and faith is part of that picture.”

Seeking to fill a perceived void of faith-and-family content, the show targets an audience akin to that of “The Chosen,” a serialized loose gospel adaptation distributed by Angel Studios that has become a global phenomenon. Similarly, “Vindication” sparked significant buzz when it launched. Currently available to watch free on emerging streamer RedeemTV and on Pure Flix, production on season one was bootstrapped by a resourceful cast and crew.

Now they’re looking to bring production quality to a new level. “This time around, it’s not a slow burn,” said Venus Monique, co-star on the series. “We have more big action scenes throughout, which punctuate stories full of emotion and heart, as people have come to expect.”

Bigger Cast—and Ambitions

Production on “Vindication” season two began in June 2020, with sporadic film shoots at various Dallas/Fort Worth locales up to this past May. O’Flaherty said they followed the stringent COVID-related guidelines imposed at the time and had only minor issues.

When an actor called the day before a film shoot to say he had tested positive for COVID-19, the showrunner had an “emergency recasting” session for that minor part. “The masking was a challenge,” recalled Terry. “It’s the new world we live in for any film set you’re on. Everybody was cautious and tried to respect others, because there’s a lot of different opinions on COVID and whatnot.”

“Vindication” has also expanded its cast with Cameron Arnett (“Overcomer”), Laurie Coker (“Laurie’s Poem”) and, as Travis’ detective partner, T.C. Stallings (“War Room“). Accomplished actor Stallings said this role breaks from “violent, thuggish-type guys” other shows typecast him in. “To get to portray an intelligent, upstanding black man in law enforcement, it’s refreshing,” said Stallings. “My character Tre, he’s a good friend and sometimes cracks a joke.”

He admitted to binge-watching procedurals like “NCIS” and “Castle,” and said he was bowled over by this indie show’s first season.

“Before I saw ‘Vindication,’ I wished somebody would create a really great crime drama that was willing to tackle questions of faith,” he said. “What was already a really good show, I bring a new dynamic to it.”

Tackling Complex Topics

Stars of the show, known for past faith-based projects, embrace how “Vindication” views the world through a Christian lens. “This series shows people living out their faith in everyday life,” said Terry. “But it’s not like each episode has a specific message that’s beat over your head.”

One mid-season episode tackles racial conflicts, with Stallings’s character a central figure. Beyond his usual review board, O’Flaherty said he consulted voices representing multiple racial backgrounds on the script.

Stallings was glad the show wasn’t afraid to take on such topics. “It’s impossible to address the totality of racial divisions in a half-hour episode,” he said. “This story tackles one aspect, about the interaction of a police officer across ethnic lines. It’s informative and will certainly start some conversation.”

Some past reviews question the show’s treatment of delicate subject matter. When “Vindication” dealt with sex trafficking, Laurel Shaler, a licensed social worker and professor of counseling at Liberty University, called it “less than helpful.” Its “feel-good, all’s-well-that-ends-well conclusion” simplified complex issues of domestic trafficking, rescue, and recovery, she said.

“Vindication’s” Monique said the series touches on difficult subjects to challenge assumptions. “People become introspective and think deeper,” she said. “After an opening scene, viewers might make a quick judgment about a situation. But it ends up turning out totally different by the end.”

Finding the Faithful in Streaming

The series comes as family titles are driving success for major streaming rivals, from Netflix to Disney Plus. But many families increasingly see those services’ corporate values shifting further away from their own.

People of faith can tell when Hollywood studios are being disingenuous, says O’Flaherty. “In their shows, someone might say a prayer at Thanksgiving dinner, or they’ll walk past a church. But for believers, seeking God is a part of our everyday lives.”

Producers behind “Vindication” say this underserved market creates space for Pure Flix, a streaming service which Sony’s Affirm Entertainment acquired last November. With Affirm’s slate of quality faith films like “Soul Surfer” and “All Saints” coming to its library, Pure Flix has a better chance of getting to critical mass.

“Vindication” season two will be the first Pure Flix Original series to hit the streamer since Sony’s acquisition closed, reflecting their hope to bring on new subscribers. Season two will premiere on September 1, with Amazon Prime availability also expected in the fall.

Bringing a dose of star power to the series, Stallings says he’s not out to replace Terry or first-season detective partner Kris (Monique), who tangled with several criminals. “Oh, she’s totally solid,” he said. “As a trio, we are super dangerous now.”

Josh Shepherd covers culture, faith, and public policy for several media outlets including The Stream. His articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion & Politics, Faithfully Magazine, Religion News Service, and Providence Magazine. A graduate of the University of Colorado, he previously worked on staff at The Heritage Foundation and Focus on the Family. Josh and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area with their two children.

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