This Lethal Weapon review contains spoilers.
Lethal Weapon Season 2 Episode 2
“What do normal people do?”
It still may be early into Lethal Weapon season 2, but it looks like the show is particularly interested in pushing these characters to new levels of growth and maturity. For a series that relies strongly on archetypal characters, it’s exciting to see Lethal Weapon getting ready to mix things up a little. Or at the least, have their characters asking questions about whether they should be mixing things up a little.
“Dancing in September” certainly has a lot of fun and doesn’t struggle with turning its crime of the week into something amusing. At the same time, it begins to pose some larger challenges for its characters, particularly in regard to moving on and “leaving the nest.” In Murtaugh’s case, that has to do with accepting his age and letting his son, RJ, move away to college. In the case of Riggs, it’s closing the door on the Miranda side of his life and figuring out who he is without that. Evidently, it’s someone who’s incredibly gung ho about life and normalcy.
Riggs amped up for therapy is pretty wonderful and provides some welcome development for the character. Riggs’ demeanor could certainly go in a number of directions after receiving relative closure over his wife’s murder. So the fact that he is so eager to make more progress and confront these recent feelings that have come forward is an exciting place for the character. With Riggs checking off the box in his closure column, he’s suddenly a man without a larger purpose or unresolved mission. In other words, he’s “normal.” This is not something that sits well with Riggs as his latest crisis sees him panicking over whether his hyperbolic personality is even capable of living a “normal” life.
All of this new ground is handled in a very fun, playful fashion. Riggs showing up at the scene of the crime in super cop mode as he continues to baffle expectations is also a refreshing spin for the character. Frankly, it’s a lot more entertaining to see him get butterflies in his stomach over jumping back into the dating pool than it is to watch him brood over his dead wife and be self-destructive. Clearly Riggs’ courtship of Karen Palmer is going to be a recurring presence through this season and “Dancing in September” lays a strong foundation for them. His growing obsession over Agent Palmer ends up consuming his latest case. The whole thing turns into a very sweet not-date between these two.
The case itself deals with the murder of a prominent plastic surgeon that slowly spills over into the Russian mob and a growing laundry list of felonies. The whole superficial world of vanity that’s present in the field of plastic surgery fits this show like a glove. It’s the perfect subset for Lethal Weapon to dig into for an episode. The cold open shows a hedonistic party where women are lining up for injections of Botox like they’re rails of coke and it’s pretty damn ridiculous. It also manages to immediately establish this heightened sandbox that the episode kicks around in.
This entire murder investigation gradually turns into some complicated foreplay between Murtaugh and Palmer. The DEA and LAPD each have random pieces of evidence in this case with the two trying to twist the other’s arm and complete the case before the other is able to piece it all together. This angle works well for the show and keeps the parsing out of information regarding this case more interesting than it would normally be. Plus, there’s a nice manic urgency to all of this and it allows Riggs to have some welcome chemistry and banter with someone that isn’t Murtaugh.
Riggs may be walking on air as if he’s a new man, but if there’s ever been any doubt that Murtaugh may be getting too old for this shit, it gets validation this week. The guy’s back gives out while lifting some of his son’s moving supplies and suddenly Murtaugh feels mortality’s breath on the back of his neck. When the episode shifts into the territory of complete wellness and growth hormone therapy, Murtaugh actually chimes in when Riggs snidely jests that nobody wants to live forever. Here’s someone that would. Or at least look like he can. Murtaugh is especially vulnerable in this regard, but of course by the end of the episode he’s regained his groove and feeling good about who he is, even if that’s a man that’s past his prime.
This material grows into a steady runner through the episode as the Murtaugh family is simultaneously dealing with their first child going away to college. Roger and Trish find themselves at an emotional crossroads over this pivotal event in their family and become particularly nostalgic. Roger even toys with the idea of RJ living at home for school, but eventually realizes that it’s better for both his son and himself if RJ’s able to leave the nest.
There’s also a particular amount of chaos going on within the LAPD, too. The attention brought on from Internal Affairs in last week’s episode also appears to be far from over. Avery makes it clear that although the department might have passed IA’s initial assessment, the matter is still very much ongoing. Murtaugh and Riggs are even stuck wearing body cams on the job in the name of full transparency and things staying by the book. The department’s explosion budget is already in the red and something’s got to be done.
This re-structuring results in Deputy Chief Santos stepping in to kick the department’s wheels and make some judgment calls. However, she just so happens to share some important history with Murtaugh. That is, depending on who you ask. The clever undercutting of expectations that goes on here with the whole Murtaugh and Santos situation is yet another way in which this show can take a tired direction and inject some energy into it.
Murtaugh and Santos’ tale of “finger lingering” works a lot better than if the two actually shared an affair or something significant together (contrary to what Murtaugh’s “serious vibes” may tell him). It also leads to both Murtaugh and Riggs lost in their heads and trying to deal with self-manufactured anxiety in different, enjoyable ways. The boys get pretty unstrung and it makes for entertaining material for the episode to lean on when necessary. Look, this is a Lethal Weapon television show. It’s not trying to be The Wire. But this series’ constant ability to have fun and make procedural buddy cop material feel fresh is more than enough here.
The path that that the final act goes down with Sara Burns, a poor patient who gets caught up with murder and the mob, initially feels a little predictable. The story quickly goes in yet another unexpected direction though where Agent Palmer has to go undercover as Sara (since after plastic surgery the mob has no idea what she currently looks like). It’s a bit of an absurd plan, but one that plays right into the episode’s themes and also manages to get Palmer in on the action, too. At least all of those mobsters know a great plastic surgeon if she ends up breaking any of their noses.
Lethal Weapon’s second season continues to show the confidence that it earned from its first season, while also not being content with staying still. As it fleshes out this universe and shows off more of what it’s capable of, this keeps on looking like a movie adaptation that’s in for the long haul rather than being some trendy curiosity. If you’re looking for bonkers procedural crime, you’re not turning to NCIS or a Law & Order, you’re coming here. Besides, you’re not going to get a killer “Call me Ishmael” gag anywhere else.