The first episode of USA Network’s Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. starts out with a bang – but perhaps not the bang you’d expect. The pilot episode titled “Wherever It Leads” opens with the mysterious road rage murder of Kevin Gaines; a known Death Row affiliate and recognized Suge Knight cohort.
This particular murder took place on March 18th, 1997, precisely nine days after Biggie was slain in Los Angeles. The case itself gets presumably solved by detective Russell Poole (Jimmi Simpson) of the LAPD who is then rewarded with handling the ultimate investigation; Biggie’s on-going and seemingly neglected unsolved murder case.
The first half of the episode frequently jumps back and forth between a few periods in time, establishing a digestible timeline. Scenes cut between Biggie’s 1996 West coast Life After Death promo tour where both he and Tupac were alive, spitting freestyles together and smoking on chronic, to Biggie’s death investigation in 1997, to 2006 when the unsolved case got reopened due to a 400 million-dollar lawsuit by Voletta Wallace and assigned to detective Greg Kading (Josh Duhamel). The most fascinating developments and dialogue take place in 1996 as viewers start to see how intertwined and amicable the relationship was between Biggie (Wavvy Jonez) and Tupac (Marcc Rose).
Shifting back to 1997’s investigation, Russell Poole, clearly the most street smart detective on the force and passionate about finding the truth starts piecing together motives, scenarios and suspects that lead to Biggie stoplight shooting. The first suspicious character they target is known Crip, Duane Davis. The getaway car was confirmed by witnesses to be a black 1996 Chevy Impala which Poole found out Davis was in possession of – cause enough to warrant a raid on the gang member’s house.
Poole and his partner Fred Miller (Jamie McShane) quickly find out that gangster aren’t easily persuaded to talk to police, especially when asked to give up street life intel. The evidence against Davis doesn’t stick and the good cop bad cop duo is left right where they started; with nothing. Although, Poole is convinced Biggie’s death is somehow connected to Tupac’s death and urges that he and Miller start connecting those dots.
The episode’s most powerful scene happens shortly thereafter when Biggie’s mother, Voletta (Aisha Hinds) comes to the station questioning the integrity and urgency of the LAPD. Poole tries to assure her that all is being done to find her son’s killer but Voletta, calm in composure but visibly devastated, claims that the LAPD doesn’t “Care about the murder of a young black man.” She ends her outburst by stating to Poole that Biggie and Tupac were true friends, adding yet another layer of confusion to the unraveling case.
Before the credits role, another flashback confirms just that; that Biggie and Tupac were more than just two young black males coming up in hip-hop, they had a bond deeper than rap.