This Lethal Weapon review contains spoilers.
Lethal Weapon: Season 2, Episode 10
“Riggs, don’t you think you deserve to be happy, too?”
The holiday season is usually the time where families are able to reunite and a year’s worth of grievances can be buried and forgotten. It’s an incredibly forgiving, inclusive time of year that can put a whole lot of things into perspective. The holidays might be all about togetherness and helping lost souls find each other, but Lethal Weapon is also a series where family is a gravely important element in the first place.
This season greatly pushes the theme of fractured families, particularly in response to the gnarled mess that is Riggs’ childhood. Daddy issues are a consistent well that this year pulls from for Riggs’ trauma and so it’s only natural that all of this gets particularly messy over the holidays. Especially when Riggs is on action figure duty.
Family is also an area that’s a frequent source of B-stories in regards to Murtaugh’s life outside of the LAPD, which in this case sees him hopeful to get away for a much-needed getaway with the rest of the Murtaugh clan. The whole family—Riana’s McNiele-blooded boyfriend included—are set to catch some rest and relaxation off in Hawaii. Trish and company fly off with Murtaugh set to catch a later flight and reunite with them all in Maui, but who wants to bet that things don’t go according to plan here?
Murtaugh tries to translate his “vacation mindset” over to his work, but a nasty homicide rips him out of his fantasies and reminds him that crime couldn’t give a damn if it’s Christmas. The homicide in question is a young man named Diego who’s a friend of Murtaugh’s, but the circumstances become more gutting after Murtaugh ostensibly blows the kid off when he tries to reach out for help. This makes for some deeply compelling material as Murtaugh becomes desperate to prove that Diego has changed his ways.
No one else wants to risk their neck for this lost cause, but Murtaugh is convinced that he can help clear Diego’s name, even though a kilo of cocaine was found on his corpse. Murtaugh’s mission quickly starts to complicate matters because he should just leave this to the other professionals while he meets his family in Maui. It’s impossible for Murtaugh to give up on this kid. This also results in Murtaugh acting a whole lot more like Riggs as he bends rules and tries to expedite this case. It’s a welcome change in the character’s typically restrained behavior.
Goodwill towards others is certainly strong in Murtaugh here, but “Wreck the Halls” injects Riggs with an almost syrupy level of Christmas spirit. There are a number of adorable scenes this week where Riggs shacks up with Molly and Ben and if you squint real hard they almost look like a family. It’s appreciated that in an episode that features dozens of murders, explosions, and self-immolations, that scenes where Riggs tries to pick out a Christmas tree or get an awkward holiday photo can still resonate so much. It’s definitely a shock to see Riggs so willingly submit to the domestic life thing.
Riggs’ relationship with Molly and her son continues to be a highlight of the season and it leads to some terrific material. There’s a solo moment between Riggs and Ben where the topic of fathers come up and they both provide their respective takes. Riggs tries to defend Ben’s dad, but the boy is all too eager to attack him and be realistic on the subject.
What’s great about this moment is that both Riggs and Ben believe the things that they say, even if they’re in opposition of each other. There are some wonderful parallels here where Riggs tries to not turn into his own father, but also ensure that Ben’s upbringing is a whole lot healthier than his own. Ben’s real dad might be trash, but at least the kid has someone like Riggs who tries his best and actually wants to do the right thing. But then Riggs takes Ben to a strip club, so clearly it’s a sliding scale of good parentage.
As more evidence stacks up against Diego and the suspect who took his life, the episode makes some smart decisions with pacing and structure. Riggs and Murtaugh effectively “solve” the crime fairly early on in the episode and put it to rest. Murtaugh is ready to hop on his flight to paradise, but his nagging suspicions distract him and send him right back into the fray. Murtaugh won’t set foot on a beach until he knows that he’s done everything to get redemption for his friend.
Murtaugh eventually gains an ally in Diego’s stripper girlfriend, Krystal. Diego’s innocence looks like an uphill battle until Krystal corroborates that Diego has nothing to do with the drugs and that this must all be a setup. It takes some time, but Murtaugh begins to make headway with Diego once he has some support on his side. Even McNiele briefly pops up to lend Murtaugh a hand. After the events of his last appearance, it looks like McNiele wastes no time in how quickly he’s morphed from Murtaugh’s nemesis into his best bud. Even without the episode’s dose of McNiele, between the meth, Aryan brotherhood, bribery, and eggnog dunking, there are plenty of unexpected wrinkles to the final leg of this case.
“Wreck the Halls” also seems like its goal might be to use up any of the series’ remaining budget from 2017. This installment is tightly packed with chaotic action set pieces, all of which hit their mark. There’s an extremely bad-ass cold open where a criminal sets two cops on fire and operates with the precision of a supervillain. There is a radical shoot-out that’s set in a strip club that also involves the inspired defensive use of a hair iron.
However, the real showcase here is the episode’s final set piece, which pits the Aryan fraternity against Riggs and Murtaugh with unflinching aggression. Murtaugh’s hit even happens in his home, which leads to the building getting a fresh new coat of bullet holes and cosmetic damage (which is frankly nothing by the time the episode’s over).
This conclusion looks like a pretty impossible situation for Riggs and Murtaugh to escape from, with Riggs in especially hot water here. The two of them are both pretty positive that they’re about to die and the time that they take to check in with their loved ones during what they believe to be their final moments hits just right. It’s a deeply powerful way for the show’s mid-season finale to conclude. Murtaugh and Riggs inevitably pull off some quick thinking, which in Murtaugh’s case involves him blowing up his house.
“Wreck the Halls” makes it clear that the threat of the Aryan fraternity will be an overwhelming presence in the back half of season two. Additionally, the show will absolutely return to the bombshell revelation that Riggs’ dad is still alive, but locked up in prison. Whether the guy figures out how to get out or not, he clearly still has plans to torture Riggs and get in his head. This development feels a little manipulative and unnecessary since Riggs’ father was still a constant presence over his son, even when the audience believed that he was dead. This reversal might just lead to a lot of brooding phone calls, but maybe it’ll develop into something with more weight. Riggs might finally get to be the one to kill his father after all.
“Wreck the Halls” likely overextends itself, both with a busy homicide mystery and some heavy emotional melodrama, but it still amounts to a satisfying episode. There are a few sloppy plot holes and issues that crop up (like why did McNiele need to “break” into Murtaugh’s house and why did Riggs have to drive his truck through it?). They’re careless mistakes, but they’re not much of a distraction and the larger beats of the episode still land. Before it’s over, “Wreck the Halls” poses the question of whether Riggs deserves to be happy and it looks like this season finally begins to hint at how Riggs might find his peace. It’s just not going to be an easy journey.