This Lethal Weapon review contains spoilers.
Lethal Weapon: Season 2, Episode 21
“Why do I care?”
Big changes can lead to even larger consequences. People are often told that change is good, but sometimes it’s not always so easy to make that call. Changes like a big promotion, a change of scenery, or a new family member are all major events, but the truth is that when some things change they really just stay the same. It might look like there are new responsibilities or obstacles to face, but it’s really just the same dangers that have always been out there.
Perspective can go a long way in the end, both in terms of what’s changed and how capable you are to handle said change. The penultimate episode from Lethal Weapon’s second season throws a lot of changes at its various characters, but at the same time it also reiterates that if a season three does happen then this is still going to be the same thrilling, quirky Lethal Weapon that fans know and love.
“Family Ties” kicks off as Murtaugh gets a heavy dose of responsibility and moves on up into Avery’s shoes as he tries his hand at interim captain for this installment. On that note, Avery is suspiciously absent in this episode, but Lethal Weapon makes the most out of this and plays into Avery’s absence rather than try to cover it up. Whether this development was always in the cards for this episode or some scheduling around Kevin Rahm’s availability had to be considered, this actually works out quite well for both the series and Murtaugh.
There have been a few episodes this season that have focused on Roger’s efforts to better his position at the LAPD. These have largely been played for laughs as Murtaugh has had issues to deal with like secret pseudo-crushes, but they’ve still spoken to the journey that his character is on. If Murtaugh was suddenly interim captain out of the blue it might come across as contrived, but because of the convenient work that the show has done previously this season, this instead feels like a motivated conclusion for his character’s professional arc. Is this the end of Avery though? It feels a little unceremonious to have some new character just explain him away through clunky exposition.
Naturally Murtaugh wants to knock his first assignment out of the park, but he gets thrown a particularly unusual curve ball. What appears to be a run of the mill kidnapping actually turns into a complicated crime web that has Riggs’ father and the Aryan Fellowship of Texas at the core of it all. It’s appreciated to see Lethal Weapon attempt to intertwine its personal drama with its case-of-the-week action, especially when Riggs’ dad has been given such a prominent focus.
That being said, it was only three episodes ago that the show literally told the exact same kind of story that focused on Papa Riggs. Naturally this strips “Family Ties” of some of its momentum, but it’s still a story and episode that works. It just feels like it might have been better storytelling if Riggs’ plot here and from “Frankie Comes to Hollywood” were combined into a lone episode to avoid the heavy déjà vu.
While Murtaugh attempts to win brownie points and wow the LAPD with his complete mastery over all things captain-y, Riggs’ grief and poor instincts push him in the opposite direction. With Nathan Riggs crossing over into his work, Martin is forced to make some particularly heavy, albeit overdue, decisions. When Riggs hears that the outcome of this case makes his father’s freedom a very real possibility, Martin finally, truly has to come to terms with all of this baggage that continually tries to ruin his family and work life.
If anyone is wondering just how well Riggs is doing with his daddy issues, there’s a pretty chilling nightmare that kicks off the episode where Riggs’ dad systematically invades the lives of Roger and Trish and infects his life like a virus. It’s much more foreboding and doom-filled than Lethal Weapon is used to, but that’s part of what makes it such a powerful start to the installment and the season’s final two episodes.
Riggs’ portent of dread also seems to imply that Trish might end up in crossfires before the season’s through. Lethal Weapon cleaning house on such a crucial character seems about as likely as Riggs’ suddenly gaining psychic powers, but it doesn’t change the fact that “Family Ties” wants this Trish tidbit to remain significant. Or maybe Riggs’ just had too many microwave burritos and they’re seeping into his subconscious.
“Family Ties” presents a fairly straightforward crime, but it’s a welcome change of pace when a typical Lethal Weapon shoot-out scene subverts itself when Riggs namedrops his father for some leverage (“I should have recognized the crazy in your eyes” really says it all). That still doesn’t stop a particularly badass gas station explosion from taking place.
It’s also pretty cute to see Murtaugh in “Dad Mode” as he needs to reprimand Riggs for his typical reckless behavior (although Murtaugh causes even more damage in his efforts). This is yet another example of how Lethal Weapon is expertly able to take a familiar scene, but re-contextualize it in a fresh way. There’s a lot that works in this episode simply because of who’s doing what.
Furthermore, “Family Ties” features some pretty incredible truck stunts and some great action scenes set on the highway. The director does get a little too overzealous with the use of slow motion in this episode, some of which makes the action look a little sillier than intended. These are far from the best action scenes that Lethal Weapon has pulled together this season, but they’re still strong enough on their own that the show doesn’t need to resort to such tricks. Let the explosions and destroyed highways speak for themselves.
Around all of the family bombshells and projectile fireballs, Leo Getz also shows up just to make sure that the melodrama and angst never bubble up too high. He also might be the only other person who’s as excited about Murtaugh’s temporary promotion as he is. With Riggs all up in his head and lost in what to do with his father, Leo allows Murtaugh someone else to bounce off of here. It’s always interesting to see how Lethal Weapon plays Murtaugh and Leo’s brainstorming sessions in contrast to the ones between Murtaugh and Riggs. There’s a different, subtle dynamic in place and Leo is a lot better at figuring out the truth when there’s some element of adultery or romantic deception involved.
Murtaugh proves that he can handle the kidnapping business, but just when it looks like Riggs has his father on lock, he gets thrown for another loop. A giant brother-sized loop. The development that Riggs actually has a teenage brother, Garrett, could honestly go either way here. It feels like it could be a way to continue to milk Riggs for trauma and give him someone that just reminds him of his father and all of the mistakes that he made. On the other hand, Garrett could actually help Riggs pull himself out of his permanent hole and find some peace of mind.
Riggs’ romantic partners all seem to come and go, but a new family member might be the piece of permanence that Riggs has needed. “Family Ties” gets a little sloppy in this department with how Nathan talks about his son, but at least the episode doesn’t reverse all of this in the end and reveal that Garrett’s status as a Riggs is just a ploy or something reductive. Also, while this surely isn’t the case, it’d be pretty hilarious if the only reason that Garrett Riggs is introduced is so he can replace Clayne Crawford/Martin Riggs next season due to all of that talk. Just sub in one Riggs for another and who’s going to notice?
The crime in “Family Ties” never becomes too convoluted, but it does try to turn up the emotion as much as possible. The kidnapping case might not be a bust, but Nathan explodes on Martin and accuses him of intentionally letting Garrett wind up in a coma. While impartial to his “brother,” obviously Riggs doesn’t use the man as some bargaining chip in his feud with his father. Guilty or not, it does allow Riggs to do some serious soul searching and make some real breakthroughs with his family. Overall, the crime comes down to missing money and other petty issues, but the specifics here aren’t important. At the end of “Family Ties” Murtaugh has more confidence in his job and Riggs has more confidence in his family, with the two of them both ready to tackle next week’s finale with everything that they’ve got.
Oh, and Avery’s a killer captain, but when is he going to bring on the canine units and the police Ferraris? Get on it, Rog!