In 2010, CBS debuted “Blue Bloods,” a show whose family-oriented premise added something fresh to the procedural police drama landscape. “Blue Bloods” centers on the Reagan family, whose members are deeply intertwined with New York City law enforcement. From detective Danny Reagan (Donnie Wahlberg) to attorney Erin Reagan (Bridget Moynahan), the family deals with the city’s most challenging cases. And while they manage to succeed in their professional lives, the emphasis on a familial bond provides some warmth to an otherwise brutal and calculating genre.
Some of the cases on “Blue Bloods” have resulted in the show’s saddest moments, ones that would make even the most hardened “Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit” fans shed a tear. But it’s seeing the Reagans interact as a family that has perhaps resonated the most with fans. Of course, the key Reagan clan moments in the series are the famous family dinner scenes. The Reagans’ Sunday get-togethers are an opportunity to see the personal relationships between family members unfold through the lens of the work they bring home with them. Throughout its many seasons, “Blue Bloods” has shared many memorable Reagan family meal moments. Yet when it comes to Season 1, there’s clearly a particular family dinner scene that stands as the best.
The pilot episode’s family dinner set the standard
The first-ever Reagan family dinner scene in the pilot episode of “Blue Bloods” does a tremendous job of setting the table for every other Sunday dinner moment to follow. As the Reagans meet to dine, their work drama emerges to ruin everyone’s appetite. After 12 seasons, it’s not unusual to see the Reagans debate each other over the various cases we see them tackling in other parts of the episodes, but this is the first time the show presents that explosive dynamic. For the inaugural family dinner, it is siblings Danny and Erin who are front and center. In the episode, Danny gets way too rough on a suspect during an interrogation. The incident raises the ire of Erin, who argues at dinner that Danny is entirely in the wrong, despite his intentions.
What makes the scene stand out is that it organically presents the series’ common theme of the professional line blurring into the personal. And it’s in one of the most relatable ways. Despite Erin making a strong argument, her grandfather Henry (Len Cariou) and father Frank (Tom Selleck) take Danny’s side, which according to her, they always do. Erin is the only lawyer in the family, dealing with a generation of cops. And we get the sense that Erin has had this type of conflict with Danny, Frank, and Henry before based on the fact that she was raised as the only girl in a family of three brothers. It’s not hard to picture this type of conversation occurring at the dinner table throughout her life, whether in relation to work or personal matters.
The first family dinner scene is a proper Reagan time capsule
Looking back on the first and best family dinner scene from Season 1 of “Blue Bloods” is an excellent way to see how one of the most important facets of the show got its start. And the pilot’s Sunday dinner moment also functions as a time capsule for the series, which becomes apparent when comparing it to the finale of Season 12. The last scene of that season ends with a family meal, although it’s much more celebratory in tone than the big fight we see in the pilot. Ironically, just as Erin had the spotlight in the pilot, she is also at the center of the Season 12 finally dinner scene, where she finally announces she’s running for district attorney.
When we scan the table during the finale scene, all the changes that the Reagans have witnessed throughout the years, both great and tragic, are on full display. Danny’s wife, Linda (Amy Carlson), was featured prominently in the pilot’s dinner scene as she was helping to set the table. However, her tragic death years later means she is only a memory come Season 12. And by the first episode, the Reagans were already struggling with the death of Erin and Danny’s brother Joe Reagan, which happened roughly one year before the series starts. Yet, in the Season 12 finale dinner, Joe Reagan lives on through his son Joe Hill (Will Hochman), who, after being introduced in Season 10, appears to have ultimately been welcomed and accepted by the rest of the Reagans. Not only does it stand on its own, but the dinner scene in the “Blue Bloods” pilot also makes us take stock of the Reagans’ long and winding evolution on TV.