This Lethal Weapon review contains spoilers.
Lethal Weapon Season 2, Episode 11
“Where you start in this world is not where you end up.”
“Funny Money” is one of those episodes of Lethal Weapon that finds a way to pair an interesting crime together with some personal drama from the characters’ lives. There’s a lot on the plate in this installment, but “Funny Money” streamlines it to keep the feel relevant and the episode becomes thematically stronger as a result. Family, or the lack thereof, is a major theme this week, but the episode doesn’t embrace this so much that the show loses sight of what it is. For instance, there’s an exceptionally bad-ass introduction to this episode that’s super blunt and involves children, no less. The start of the installment is basically like if Shane Black made The Goonies, and for any missteps that “Funny Money” takes, it will still always have this ridiculous adrenaline burst of a start.
Counterfeit money is the name of the game this week on Lethal Weapon, when Riggs and Murtaugh not only find themselves roped into a counterfeiting ring, but one that appears to prey upon clueless teenagers. The fraudulent money operation would be plenty for the LAPD to deal with, but this case involves children, which inevitably gets Murtaugh and Riggs thinking about their own offspring and loved ones.
Murtaugh lays the law down with his family as he simultaneously worries over RJ’s well being. Murtaugh gets to spiral in classic fashion when he realizes that RJ is skipping classes and he tries to calculate just how much money each truancy costs him. RJ’s absences actually escalates to the news that he’s dropped out of college, with Riggs and Trish both having different reactions to this development. The group eventually reach the same page and explore how RJ dropping out isn’t necessarily a failure. The episode presents a refreshing depiction of how some kids take longer to find their path than others. It’s some unexpected poignancy, but it works.
Murtaugh’s preoccupation with his own family allows Riggs to escape off to his own hijinks, a lot of which has to do with his father’s sudden reappearance in his life. Lethal Weapon’s fall finale teased a bonkers bombshell to its audience where Riggs’ horrible deadbeat dad suddenly looks to be a whole lot less dead. Clearly the show’s plan was to have some fun with its viewers over the first half of the season in regards to Riggs’ volatile history with his father. Just as it looked like some closure was coming for poor, tortured Riggs, the show decides to throw a massive curveball at everyone with the reveal that Papa Riggs is still very much in the picture.
Flashbacks to Rigg’s childhood have been a reoccurring presence this season, but clearly this new wrinkle in their relationship is what’s going to drive the second half of this season forward. By the season finale Riggs’ father is either going to end up actually dead, or Martin and his dad will bury the hatchet and somehow learn to co-exist. If that’s the route they’re planning on though, Riggs’ better be prepared to dig a pretty huge hole for that hatchet. It doesn’t look like this is a forgive or forget situation.
Excluding his father, Riggs is otherwise killing it with the whole domestic thing. He’s settled in quite nicely with Molly at this point and he even surprises Ben with a dog (just don’t get too attached to it). Riggs might even be a better parental figure than Murtaugh at this point in time, which is a bonkers statement to comprehend. Molly’s declaration that Riggs’ “mess is where she wants to be,” is also all sorts of cute, even if it ultimately ends on a bittersweet note.
It’s perhaps a little transparent that Riggs’ Father of the Year routine has a lot to do with the fact that his own (not dead) father has re-connected with him and he’s terrified about the situation. Riggs might be in control with Molly and Ben, or when he’s out in the field, but it’s a different story with Riggs’ father. Everyone tells Riggs that it’s a bad idea, yet he still can’t help himself. Fortunately the material steers away from the over the top melodrama and restricts itself to the episode’s final minutes.
Back in the LAPD, there’s a little bit of celebrity in the air as Ernie Hudson stops by as Peterson a “living legend” who Avery informs will be working alongside the LAPD for the counterfeit case. Peterson assures the skeptical Murtaugh that he won’t step on anyone’s toes with this case, but that almost certainly means that he’s going to stomp on some feet here.
Peterson may think that both he and Murtaugh are chasing the sunset, but Murtaugh develops a bit of a chip on his shoulder and is determined to prove his superiority to Peterson. Murtaugh never seems to catch a break when it comes to the law enforcement officials that periodically pass through the department, but this tension between Murtaugh and Peterson is a lot of fun. Peterson’s ego is out of control right from the jump and he handles the case briefing like an autograph session at a convention. It’s a lot, but it gives Murtaugh a strong obstacle independent of Riggs’ issues. Besides, Clint Eastwood isn’t starring in any movies about Murtaugh’s police work.
As Riggs and Murtaugh get deeper into the murder of counterfeiter, Mike Greco, they come in contact with a skilled female counterfeiter known as Degas, who they suspect is the killer. There’s some entirely unnecessary banter over which famous painter the counterfeiter should be named after, but it’s an enjoyable aside that shows off this episode’s voice. Due to certain limitations of Degas, she’s quickly ruled out as a suspect, but she does point the LAPD in the right direction. Apparently Mike wanted to expand from counterfeit money to counterfeit plates and it’s a transition that got him killed.
This counterfeit journey connects Riggs with Tai, a young boy who’s caught up in all of this and is about to make the same mistakes that led to Mike Greco’s death. Riggs sees a lot of himself in this aimless delinquent and suddenly he acts as a parental figure to another lost child this week. Riggs’ heart-to-heart with Tai is the highlight of the episode and his speech about how family is overrated and it’s friends that are what really matter is a powerful, uplifting note to go out on.
“Funny Money” saves some surprises for its final act and it turns out that Peterson is a traitor. This makes all of the character’s extreme boastfulness play even better in retrospect, plus it allows for Ernie Hudson’s role to be substantially more layered. There’s a pretty cool foot race-turned-bicycle chase between Riggs and one of the young counterfeiters. Later Riggs also faces some heavy machine gun fire, but stays calm through the chaos. It’s a decent action set piece, but the fear comes from the fact that the young boy that Riggs is with might be about to die.
“Funny Money” presents a well-rounded redemption tale that has action that connects, character beats that pay off, and an enjoyable script. As the episode comes to a close, Riggs finds himself with an incredible amount of rage and some very dangerous thoughts. He must decide if he wants to be the Burt Reynolds or the Chuck Norris of the situation, but the decision ultimately seems moot. Either way it looks like there’s going to be a whole lot of blood.