This Lethal Weapon review contains spoilers.
Lethal Weapon: Season 2, Episode 20
“Feels like Mars to me…”
Ever since Lethal Weapon’s very first episode, a highly important question to the series is what does Martin Riggs need to be happy. Through the first season that need appears to be justice for his dead wife and bitter vengeance for her killer. Lethal Weapon’s second season widens the scope of that question and brings closure with Riggs’ father into the equation, but it’s still not a clear-cut answer. At times it appears that Riggs’ goal is to break every rule that there is within the police department and at other moments it honestly looks like he wants to die and be put out of the misery.
Riggs is an enigma that’s wrapped in a riddle that’s wrapped in a truck. There’s a reason that the character’s therapy sessions are such a crucial part of the series. “Jesse’s Girl” tries to answer some of the fundamental questions that define Riggs and it’s kind of heartbreaking to learn that in a much simpler time, all that Riggs ever wanted was to have a family and to be a good dad. Now that he’s found himself with essentially that, it’s time to see if he can maintain that dream and keep things golden through the end of the season.
After a rocky year, Roger and Trish are also eager to keep the peace, yet their concerns over their children can’t help but pop up to poke holes in their solitude. Roger and Trish’s paranoia doesn’t stem around something as drastic as a pregnancy, but Riana is still caught in their crosshairs after they become skeptical of her new friends and the sort of influences that they may be.
This fear turns into an exercise in restraint and even though Roger wants to scold his daughter for her bad behavior, Trish insists that it will be smarter to lay back and save the tag-team parenting for the real problems. This way they’ll have their daughter’s trust for when they really need it. Of course, neither of them anticipate that their daughter is about to be involved in a murder…by proxy!
Riana’s parents are right to have doubts about her new friends, but it’s really quite impressive at just how quickly Phoebe and Tyler establish how awful they are. The two of them break into a mansion and get up to a lot of stupid, teenage fun while the owners are gone. Phoebe and Tyler both rack up a lengthy list of offenses when suddenly Tyler needs to prove how macho he is and this incident of adolescent recklessness very quickly turns into homicide.
Phoebe’s older boyfriend, Tyler, is such an obvious bad guy and he reminded me a lot of the very similarly looking bad boy from Twin Peaks: The Return, Richard Horne. When he starts to do terrible things it’s not at all surprising. It may feel like derivative writing to some degree, but it’s more so a testament to the casting here.
The situation surrounding how Riana loses her dad’s jacket to Phoebe is also pretty damn contrived, but it gets the job done. It’s just a little ridiculous that Riana happens to completely forget about her jacket mere seconds after she gives it to Phoebe and it’s still within sight. Furthermore, this is all done so the jacket can appear at the scene of the crime, which all feels very sloppy and convenient.
Riana’s relationship with Phoebe leads to her tagging along with Murtaugh and Riggs for the first part of their investigation. This makes this episode feel a lot like a “Take Your Daughter to Work” situation, but it adds a fresh dynamic to the typical police work that Riggs and Murtaugh have to get through. These scenes pop particularly well not only because Riana gets put into the line of fire, but also because it allows this father and daughter to bicker with each other while Riggs gets lost in the middle. It’s the sort of dynamic that would grow stale over several episodes, but it’s a fun change of pace here.
The well-being of Murtaugh’s family is obviously a large part of the series, but since the second season is nearly over, the show only has a few opportunities left to say everything it needs to on the topic of Riggs’ traumatic childhood and relationship with his dad. The past few installments very much feel like they put a lot of this plot point to bed, but here’s Lethal Weapon’s final chance to dive into Riggs’ psyche and explore some pained childhood flashbacks. Clayne Crawford also happens to direct this episode (and he does an exceptional job on a mediocre installment), so the actor really gets to dig into Riggs this week.
Riggs’ dad theatrics are all over the place in this episode. Sometimes he throws home runs and sometimes he completely strikes out when it comes to Ben. Whether the work that Riggs does in this episode wins you over or not, it’s hard to deny that Riggs helping Ben break in his catcher’s mitt is one of the more adorable scenes from the series. “Jesse’s Girl” really wants to underscore how pristine their domestic life is, but at this point both Molly and Riggs sound like a very broken record when they echo statements like, “Ben could really use a stable father figure” and “family life sure suits you, Riggs.”
It’s not that this material doesn’t connect or isn’t exciting, but it’s just that the season has already told so many stories of this nature. When Lethal Weapon begins to hammer the points in to this degree it just makes it feel like the status quo is going to be overturned very soon. And then Riggs goes and hits Ben in the face with a baseball simply because it’s convenient for it to happen. It’s a lot.
In the most awkward scene in the episode, Riggs intimidates and arrests Ben’s little league coach because he essentially tells Riggs that Ben might be a better artist than an athlete. Riggs has abused all sorts of police privileges for his own selfish means in the past, but this incident feels particularly silly. Even Murtaugh attacks him for the faulty logic here and it’s clear that Riggs is really just frustrated at himself for not being the perfect stepfather and making sure that Ben’s a little league star. When Riggs’ horrible little league flashback plays out it’s easy to empathize with why Martin is so twitchy towards the game. He even begins to doubt himself and wonder if he actually might have subconsciously meant to hurt Ben. It’s ridiculous, but it is a way to bring all of this cycle of abuse stuff full circle.
It also doesn’t help that lackluster fathers become a running theme of the episode, which means that other characters get to scream things at Riggs like, “What do I know about being a father!” It’s all very heavy-handed, especially when every man in this episode ends up either being a troubled son or deficient dad. Lethal Weapon has been able to tell some very intelligent, layered stories throughout its two seasons, so it’s a shame that they couldn’t have a little more faith in the work that they’ve done instead of making everything so one-dimensional here.
The more personal beats in this episode fall flat, but when the focus falls on the crime everything tends to come together. The emotion might be sloppily handled, but all of the action absolutely delivers. There’s a rather thrilling chase scene between Tyler and Riggs in a black-lit bowling alley that makes for a great spectacle. Not only does the suspect nearly get crushed to death in the alley’s machinery, but Riggs also gets to use a bowling pin as a projectile weapon (maybe Jake Peralta could take some notes).
Later on, Riggs also just happens to walk in on a robbery and finds himself in another insane shoot out that’s set against a movie theater. The soundtrack of the film distracts Riggs and distorts reality from fiction to great effect. It’s another smart way to make a standard action scene become a little more interesting, both visually and in terms of suspense.
This entry is mostly interested in keeping its personal story and its case of the week intertwined and that’s admittedly when the episode is at its best. As Riggs and Murtaugh put more pieces together they come to the surprising conclusion that Tyler didn’t actually murder anyone. However, homicide aside, Phoebe still steals some diamonds from the victim’s house, which puts Tyler’s life on the line and brings the real murderer from out of the woodwork into an incredibly tense finale.
“Jesse’s Girl” is one of the rare episodes of Lethal Weapon where the personal issues of Riggs and Murtaugh are actually more important than the showcased crime. This strategy isn’t exactly a misfire, but this also isn’t one of the strongest cases from the show’s history. Plus, this is one of the few times where Murtaugh’s home life directly plays into the crime of the week.
It’s also rather frustrating that these selfish teens, Phoebe and Tyler, dictate so much of the episode’s plot. This might cause a few rough patches, but the resolution to it all is still strong and there’s some real weight in the final act. Riggs’ decision to console Phoebe during a deeply intense firefight reminds the audience that behind all of Riggs’ faults he is a good person that always wants to do the right thing. Also, goddamn if the choreography behind Phoebe’s fire escape fall isn’t crazy impressive!
“Jesse’s Girl” works, it just suffers from the fact that everything that it does has already been done previously this season. This entry wouldn’t suffer from any of these problems if it came earlier in the year, but at this point there are higher expectations in place, especially with the final episodes of the season. This is the time for the series to get ambitious and crazy with these last installments of the year and go out with a bang rather than playing it safe with the season’s greatest hits.
Also, Bailey gets to go on her first vacation in two years. Can you believe how selfish she is?