This Lethal Weapon review contains spoilers.
Lethal Weapon Season 2 Episode 1
“I love you, man.”
Last year, FOX’s take on Lethal Weapon surprised many viewers—myself included—by not only being a faithful film-to-television adaptation, but one that actually thrives on the relationships that the films built while pushing those dynamics to even more impressive territory. The series even started incorporating the extended Lethal Weapon universe into the show, like Joe Pesci’s inscrutable lawyer, Leo Getz (played sublimely by the always-enjoyable Thomas Lennon), and the show continues to find its voice.
While many other recent TV adaptations of hit films, such as Minority Report, Limitless, and Rush Hour all crashed and burned, Lethal Weapon managed to not just survive, but mature over the course of its debut season. With the high quantity of low quality procedural crime shows on television, Lethal Weapon triumphs by taking the nuts and bolts plotting of procedurals and injecting it with a strong sense of humor and bonkers regard for the limits of “reality.” “El Gringo Loco” may not be the best episode that the show’s ever produced, but it makes for a strong premiere for both fans of the series and those that are coming into this buddy cop series blind.
The Lethal Weapon season 2 premiere goes down ol’ Mexico way with Murtaugh in pursuit of Riggs. Riggs is on a warpath and determined to settle the score with Tito Flores, the man that he learned was responsible for his wife’s death. This understandably adds a lot of weight to what’s going on in this episode, even when it’s messing around and dealing with lighter fare. Putting this major piece of Riggs’ backstory under the microscope as well as exploring the idea of him selling his soul, so to speak, for revenge makes for heady material. This season looks like it’s going to get a lot of mileage out of asking the question of who Riggs is when he doesn’t have this vengeance mission looming over him any longer. Lethal Weapon’s decision to hit the ground running this year makes for a strong impression, with the tone and subject matter of “El Gringo Loco” hopefully acting as an indicator of where the season is interested in going, rather than being a one-off experiment.
Murtaugh finds his rescue mission taking a lot longer than he anticipated, with the faithful partner stuck in Mexico for upwards of two weeks. Meanwhile, Murtaugh’s family is feeling his absence as his dedication to his partner once more ends up coming at the expense of his family. Murtaugh may be having some trouble staying on top of Flores, but Riggs seems to have done quite the good job at locating his prey. The episode’s cold open shows Riggs at his most unhinged and it’s a satisfying way to kick off the year. It also does a good job at showing where Riggs’ head has been at since season one’s finale. The episode excels at making it truly feel like Riggs might pull the trigger on Flores, endangering his life and career in the process, when an impromptu “I love you” from Murtaugh drastically changes Riggs’ composure. Guns pointed to someone’s temple one second and startling bromance confessions the next is pretty much Lethal Weapon in a nutshell and it’s great to have it back.
While Murtaugh and Riggs are away breaking the rules off in Mexico, Avery finds not only himself, but the entire department, under fire as Internal Affairs begins breathing down his neck. This makes for a solid source of pressure for this new season. IA is pretty set on the idea that Avery’s department has some weak links that can be fixed, as he tries to desperately save face. This bureaucratic material is juxtaposed nicely to the chaos going on in Mexico. Riggs’ and Murtaugh’s recklessness is explicitly shown down South while Avery tries to defend their unconventional methods. It’s a structure that works well for this bifurcated storyline.
With this Flores business wrapping up a lot of the family drama that’s fundamental to this show, the idea of the “family” of Riggs’ and Murtaugh’s department falling apart is a smart angle for the show to go down next. It looks like it could be an especially messy year for these two. Besides, Riggs and Murtaugh at their most beleaguered is when they’re at their snarky best. Speaking of which, in spite of the seriousness of this episode in regard to Riggs finally apprehending the person responsible for Miranda’s death, the show still knows how to efficiently insert humor into Riggs’ and Murtaugh’s police work. Part of this premiere involves Murtaugh trying to get his finger re-attached thanks to Riggs handiwork. Clearly, in spite of being separated, these two still haven’t missed a beat.
Unfortunately, in spite of Riggs and Murtaugh apprehending their man and bringing him back Stateside, somebody effectively steals Riggs’ thunder by putting a bullet in Tito Flores’ head. A lot of the initial suspicion naturally falls on Riggs, who has a clear motive as well as there being video of him announcing that he’s going to kill the guy, but rather than worrying about being under fire, Riggs instead settles into sheer lazy bliss. With his “series arc” being concluded, he’s suddenly content ditching the whole policeman game and watching his life pass by through beer bottles. Of course no one is really buying that Riggs’ new mindset is going to be a permanent change and that he’ll really leave the police force, but it helps push him towards clarity in this premiere.
The investigation into Flores leads to Murtaugh’s family taking a loss and once more receiving the short stick of things. Murtaugh returns home from Mexico to see his family doing just fine without him. In the few weeks that Murtaugh’s been away his family has managed to grow up a lot during his absence. Suddenly he finds his children bedazzled and enrolled in college, while he feels like a stranger in his own home. Trish is quick to point out the irony of all of this and how they felt much the same way when Murtaugh was taking care of business in Mexico. What’s family for, if not for reminding you of your downfalls, after all?
It’s always enjoyable to see Murtaugh riffing with his family and the show embracing their very real chemistry, but it definitely feels like a lot of this sort of story has gone on before As a result, Murtaugh’s family woes feel a little repetitive, but it at least doesn’t meander and ends up putting Murtaugh and his family in an interesting place for the season.
As members of Flores’ cartel start coming after those that were aware of his body, Riggs and Murtaugh have their work cut out for them. Especially with the two of them finding themselves suspended from the force. As the two attempt to maneuver around their tricky situation, it culminates in an insane plane that sees Murtaugh and Riggs taking on the entire freaking cartel, and at Flores’ funeral, no less. Let’s just say that by the end of things they’re ready to put a few more bodies under ground.
All in all, “El Gringo Loco” does a lot of things right and is exactly the sort of premiere that you want from this show. It spends some time reiterating the series’ bedrock relationships, but is more interested in just having a big, flashy good time with all of this. Fortunately, the premiere is also full of gunplay and explosive action that keeps things moving. Lethal Weapon doesn’t hold back in the badass department here. Before the opening credits roll there’s already been a grenade that’s gone off and a body falling several dozen feet out of a window onto a car. If that’s not enough, Murtaugh gets a delightful scalpel-happy scene at a morgue and Murtaugh gets to fire a goddamn rocket launcher by the time the episode’s over. Just in case there were any doubts over this season’s explosion quota.
If the Riggs and Murtaugh from the Lethal Weapon films were going through the same stunts, they’d definitely be announcing that they’re too old for this shit. Oh well, out with the old and in with the new.