This Lethal Weapon review contains spoilers.
Lethal Weapon: Season 2, Episode 4
“Never underestimate the bond between a father and a daughter.”
It feels like Lethal Weapon is constantly in competition with itself to up its game. The number of explosions and absurd stunts continues to increase, but the opening minutes of “Flight Risk” are the show at its most audacious and extreme. “You’ve got to be kidding! Who robs a plane?” is a question posed very early on in this episode, and then moments later Dan Cooper (a very scenery-chewing Adrian Pasdar) robs a bunch of high rollers in a private plane and then jumps right out of the door.
That’s quite the memorable cold open and the episode is sure to make it look as awesome as possible. The fact that the whole set piece is a riff on D.B. Cooper’s infamous crime makes this opening all the more outrageous. Riggs comments that brash crimes like this are why he got into law enforcement in the first place, but it’s also why people tune into a show like Lethal Weapon.
The introductory robbery that’s set 20,000 feet above the ground raises a lot of questions to the LAPD, but it also looks at those with excess as the marks of the week. As these affluent victims are shown to be easy targets, Riggs simultaneously tries to rid his life of clutter—both physically and metaphorically—as he goes through some spring cleaning. Riggs gets his life down to such barebones essentials that he brags over how’s able to count on his hands the number of items of clothing that he owns.
This stripping down of his life leads Riggs to a pawnshop and soon this peculiar edition of Pawn Stars transforms into a series of flashbacks that bookend the episode for Riggs. He suddenly feels nostalgic and this season’s journey towards fleshing out and humanizing Riggs gets a large boost. Riggs puts a family heirloom, a rifle, up for sale and suddenly he’s reliving a number of boyhood moments with his father, Nate Riggs.
If you squint really hard, these sessions where Riggs learns how to fire a gun and hunt kind of look like something from Justified, which is never a bad thing. The circumstances behind these memory lane detours feel pretty contrived, but the show needs to find other areas of Riggs’ psyche to mine now that the material with his wife is relatively put to bed.
Lethal Weapon exploring Rigg’s tortured past is familiar territory for the show, but an even more popular well that they draw from is Murtaugh experiencing complications with his family. This week its Murtaugh’s daughter, Riana, who finds herself going through a strong activism phase. Riana nearly gets arrested for protesting for animal rights (at the zoo, of all places) until Murtaugh intervenes. “Flight Risk” never makes it feel like Riana is ever in danger, but uses this situation as an opportunity to get Murtaugh alone with his daughter. This allows the two of them to get into a discussion over how Riana wants space from her dad and how Roger can be overbearing and clingy when her friends are over.
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This tension between Riana and Roger is emblematic of the episode as a whole as Cooper’s plane robbery actually has much to do with strained father/daughter dynamics. Nora, the flight attendant on the private plane, is Dan Cooper’s daughter and his latest crime is simply the most recent example of him manipulating her.
When Nora’s given the opportunity to use the information that she’s got on her father to help catch him and send him to prison, she’s all too eager to tag along with Riggs and Murtaugh. Nora’s inclusion here adds a solid dynamic to the episode as well as providing a new personality for Murtaugh and Riggs to bounce off of while on case. In spite of this fresh blood, all of Nora’s dialogue is pretty melodramatic and self-pitying, which has a tendency to be a drag.
Speaking of self-pity, Avery returns from his absence last episode and is in serious need of saving face and earning respect. He continues to be stuck on thin ice, all while Riggs and Murtaugh are not very concerned over changing their ways. It’s pretty damn funny though that Avery thinks that the disciplinary conference that he was spending time at was actually a good thing and a step towards promotion. Oh, Avery. Perhaps some of the reprimanding that he’s getting is warranted, after all.
“Flight Risk” manages to pleasantly defy expectations by having the LAPD catching Cooper halfway through the episode rather than leaving it for the final act. Due to Cooper’s capture happening fairly early into things, the episode is able to spend a lot more time on what Cooper stole and why people are trying to kill him over it. This also highlights a lot of parallels between Nora’s messed up family and Riggs’ as the two try to outdo each other over whose family tree has more broken branches.
The episode continues this strong trend of breaking rules and throwing out the script by maintaining its relentless pace. “Flight Risk” toys with both the audience and Nora’s perception of whether her father is actually dying or not, keeping the truth close to its chest. The location of the crucial briefcase that everyone is searching for (it’s full of diamonds, by the way) is equally in flux and it’s unclear if Cooper has this treasure or not. Add to that some violent kidnapping and everyone having a gun pointed at their heads in this one and it all amounts to one of Lethal Weapon’s more surprising, chaotic installments.
“Flight Risk” provides the right balance of an action-packed case with enlightening character study and still crams in two crazy shootouts. The second of these is so insane that it features a bullet POV angle as Riggs takes a sniper shot that goes through Santos’ open arms and dismantles a briefcase. It’s an absolutely ridiculous moment, but it’s also the coolest part of the episode. It’s also just encouraging to see that the episode’s big twist wasn’t that Nora and her father were secretly working together all along. That “surprise” is far too overdone. “Flight Risk” tells the audience that they’re never too old for big, fluffy things, but it also reminds them that unpredictable chaos is still a lot of fun, too.