This Lethal Weapon review contains spoilers.
Lethal Weapon: Season 2, Episode 17
“If this goes south tonight I might be stuck living with you forever.”
Roger Murtaugh and Martin Riggs are partners in the LAPD, but they’re so much more than that. In fact, this is a show where if the two of them were simply partners and nothing more, they’d both surely be dead dozens of times over by now. Lethal Weapon is a crime procedural, but over the course of the show it has gradually included more and more of Riggs’ and Murtaugh’s lives outside of the police department. The fact that these two have each other’s backs so thoroughly, both on and off the field, is exactly why their dynamic is so special. It’s why the series focuses on them, not Bailey and Scorsese.
Lethal Weapon is no stranger to setting its crime of the week in some very curious environments, whether it’s the world of plastic surgery, drag racing, or even surf culture. The series knows how to take an unusual area and pair it with a surprising crime and create something awfully compelling in the process. The crime in “The Old Couple” begins at a construction site, which arguably doesn’t sound as exhilarating as past cases, but the episode manages to buck expectations and ram a forklift through a man’s chest in the opening minutes and never loses that momentum.
While this outrageous murder is of the utmost importance to the LAPD, what’s really at the center of this episode is the reconciliation of Murtaugh and his wife. The final throes of Roger and Trish’s marital squabble fortunately come to their conclusion this week. This argument has brewed over the past few episodes and came to a head last week, but it’s a relief to finally see the series put this storyline to bed.
Multi-episode storylines about Roger and Trish’s marriage are definitely not a bad idea, but this particular fight doesn’t feel like it has enough steam to fuel three episodes. Murtaugh plans a last ditch effort where he’s confident that he can finally save some face and come out on top here, but it’s hard to not be thinking, “Man, they’re still fighting about this?” This fight should build momentum, not kill it.
This tense situation means that Murtaugh is still currently living in Riggs’ trailer, which is an endless source of entertainment. The only problem with the inevitable resolution between Roger and his wife is that it means that his brief time as Riggs’ roommate must come to an end. On the plus side though, the exercise also introduces the audience to “game show Roger,” which in particular pushes Riggs’ buttons.
While Roger concentrates on saving his marriage, Trish panics that she might lose her job if she can’t work some magic with her latest client, who has a $200 million price tag on his head. This season has turned to Trish’s job sparingly for story content, which has worked out well for the show. These sorts of obstacles still feel fresh and the show is far from running them into the ground. Trish’s material is arguably the weakest in the episode, but “The Old Couple” crams a lot into its runtime.
Most episodes don’t even have an additional C-story to help tie things together. The most impressive element of this episode is how well it blends everything into one idea. It all feels like one story that dovetails together rather than several disparate ideas. It’s also fun to see Trish use Avery as a go-between and a means of keeping tabs on Roger as well as simultaneously making him jealous over how much she doesn’t need him. This brief moment proves that Avery and Trish don’t get nearly enough scenes together.
The second season of Lethal Weapon has demonstrated a lot of impressive creativity in regards to Riggs’ love life. The show has found a lot of freedom by partnering Riggs up with a number of different women through several mini-arcs rather than one woman at his side all year. This allows Riggs to bounce off of a lot of different personality types and both the show and the audience get to learn which of these combinations work.
The previous two episodes had a lot of fun with Riggs’ friendship with Ruth, but now that she’s gone Riggs is ready to move onto someone new. Who in this case is actually someone who’s not new at all. Riggs’ break-up with Molly all the way back in “Funny Money” was devastating stuff, which is why it’s so satisfying to see the two of them try to give things another shot here. Molly’s rhythm with Riggs has always felt so natural and their departure seemed premature. If any character ever deserved to come back to the series, it’s Molly. I mean, Riggs bought her son a damn puppy…which his father then had killed!
As nice as it is to see Molly again, her return feels a little arbitrary considering the whole reason that Riggs initially turned his back on Molly is because he was worried about her safety in response to his vindictive, incarcerated father. There’s been no traction on that front, so it doesn’t exactly make sense for Riggs to reunite with her all of a sudden, but perhaps his time recently spent with Ruth has helped open his eyes a little. Molly points all of this out to Riggs in so many words and basically explains that if he wants her back then he needs to work out stuff with his father first. Fleeting logic aside, it’s still nice to have Molly back and hopefully this reunion will stick through the end of the season rather than signal her untimely demise.
Molly rightfully gives Riggs a hard time here, but it’s the push that he needs to finally take things seriously with her. Just because he’s known her for over 20 years he figures he has the right to pop in and out of her life and operate with some sort of special status, but it’s for this exact reason that Molly expects to be held to a higher standard. Dr. Cahill urges Riggs that his realization and effort is still progress so to speak, but he’s still crestfallen that he’s maybe ruined things with this constant in his life.
All of this comes together quite elegantly, but the moment in which Trish’s whale of a client intersects with Riggs’ and Murtaugh’s murder suspect is fairly cringe-worthy. Circumstances evolve to the point where everything hinges on a barbecue dinner at the Murtaugh household where there are to be absolutely “zero shenanigans” for everyone involved. Of course the meal turns to be an unequivocal failure, but that’s okay because Butler, Trish’s prospective client, is actually the lynchpin to the LAPD’s case. Meanwhile, it’s also just bizarre to see Riggs work so hard to help Trish get a second chance with her job, but that’s just the incestuous nature of the case this week.
There are probably better episodes of Lethal Weapon out there, but “The Old Couple” is such a triumph due to how much it accomplishes and the sheer brazen nature of so much of it. This episode could easily feel overcrowded or too busy, but it finds the perfect tempo and never loses it. There are genuine emotional breakthroughs in this installment and then intense action to counterbalance it all.
There’s an absolutely grotesque act of torture where a guy gets his nose sanded off with a car’s tire that feels like the most graphic scene that the show’s ever done. It’s an especially brutal moment for a show that airs at 8pm. There’s also some very kick-ass fight choreography for a brawl set in a garage that puts chains, a power saw, and a jack to inspired use.
The most memorable moment from all of this is during the episode’s final act, which is mostly set on a private plane, and it’s nothing short of breathtaking. In one of the best and most ambitious stunts from the entire series, Murtaugh and Riggs sneak onto a plane, have an intense fight in the cramped space, and then ultimately jump out of the aircraft. If all of that wasn’t enough, there’s only one parachute between the two of them and Riggs needs to catch it, then Murtaugh, mid-plummet. It’s absolute insanity that’s filmed gorgeously and this set piece instantly becomes the new standard for the show to follow. It’s hard to top “nosedive out of an airplane” without turning these guys into superheroes.
Hey, maybe there will be volcanoes next week.