This Lethal Weapon review contains spoilers.
Lethal Weapon Season 3 Episode 10
“Same ol’ Cole.”
“Yeah, who doesn’t love that guy.”
It’s a new year and a new episode of Lethal Weapon, but while many of us are caught up in New Year’s resolutions and plans for self-improvement, “There Will Be Bud” sees both Cole and Murtaugh falling back into the same mistakes that have held them back all season. Fortunately, these mistakes and regressive behaviors make for an entertaining installment.
Hot off the news of Natalie’s engagement, Cole tries to distract himself and look to greener pastures. While there was a clear rapport between Cole and the LAPD’s new Assistant District Attorney, Erica, in the previous episode, “There Will Be Bud” instead decides to throw Cole into a new love triangle. He’s able to clear his head of Natalie long enough to rebound with Julie, but it turns out that Julie and Erica also have plenty in common, which makes Cole’s life in the LAPD even more stressful than usual. More relationship drama is the last thing that this show needs, but that being said, Seann William Scott effectively sells the comedy as he finds himself caught up in these Three’s Company-esque sexy hijinks.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with setting Cole up for a new love interest and taking him out of Natalie’s orbit, the only problem here is that it still seems super obvious that Cole and Natalie will end up together. This not only makes Cole’s pursuit of Julie a lost cause, but it also makes his inevitable interest in Erica a waste of time (because let’s be honest, this whole routine with Julie is just to kill time until Cole pivots to Erica). This is especially painful because Julie’s a lot of fun, has great chemistry with Cole, and her character really resonates in this one episode.
Lethal Weapon has a tendency to introduce strong love interests—both for Riggs and Cole—only to ultimately reduce them to a means to an end. Don’t make Julie compelling and then set her up to fail. At the same time, there’s also a scene where Erica tends to an emotionally wounded and drunk Cole and there’s a real tenderness to their relationship, too. Erica’s also great and you want to see things with her work out too, so hopefully, this can just turn into a platonic legitimate friendship.
It’s at first worrisome when a look at Julie’s wedding features Cole kicking down the doors when the priest asks for any objections and he boldly declares “Stop the wedding!” It’s comforting that this turns out to be a dream sequence and indicates that the show does have some degree of self-awareness. It even starts to have some broader fun when the wedding scene fully embraces its dream logic. However, there’s also a car chase that repeatedly throws Cole and Erica into one another and forces them to embrace in a very cliché romantic comedy manner. Lethal Weapon lampooning such a moment between Cole and Natalie hopefully means that this season won’t actually culminate in a wedding that needs to get interrupted. It wouldn’t hurt for the season to hold off on this romance a little as their relationship just cycles through the same rhythms and obstacles. Cole’s relationship with his family is one of the character’s major plot points, but it’s continually reductive to repeatedly have him looking for his new “other half.” There’s a much richer character hiding within this stereotype and hopefully this Julie/Erica/Natalie business won’t keep Cole occupied until the end of the season.
Meanwhile, Murtaugh finds his professional life unexpectedly crossing over with his home life when the LAPD’s latest murder intersects with Trish’s career goals. It temporarily sets the two of them at odds. Roger’s dismissive attitude remains consistent throughout the episode and his storyline gets bogged down by arguments with Trish (and this is, by all means, her case more than it is his). As tired as it is to put Roger and Trish through the wringer again, especially when it’s always the same dynamic, the content is at least satisfying this time.
Trish takes up just as much of this episode as her husband does, which is pretty exciting. This is the most ensemble-like that the series has felt in a while, and even Leo and Erica have plenty to do in this installment. Trish is still a little disenfranchised by how she needs to take traffic court cases and other low level charges to help build up her credibility, but she grabs a major life preserver when she latches onto Leo Getz’ class action lawsuit and becomes his co-counsel. It’s a validating moment for the character, particularly because she deserves this opportunity. Furthermore, Trish and Leo continue to prove what a great team they are and the series has found a comfortable place for both of them. I definitely didn’t expect Leo to turn into a foil for Trish, but it’s yet another supporting relationship in this show (much like Bailey and Gutierrez) that’s more exciting than the primary one between Murtaugh and Cole.
Trish just doesn’t become Leo’s co-counsel, but she very much takes the leadership role between the two. There are some initial growing pains and Getz exhibits some hesitation over this arrangement, but Trish’s hunches pan out and this relationship is even stronger by the end of the episode. What’s fun here is to see the ballooning scope of Trish and Leo’s case as they stumble upon a massive bombshell. It’s the perfect suspenseful story to play in contrast to the more action-packed material that Cole and Murtaugh are focused on. What’s even better is that these two stories eventually dovetail together. There’s a particularly strong moment when these dueling narratives culminate in Roger and Trish both immersed in stakeouts at the same time and critiquing the methods of the other. That’s the right way to get humor out of this series rather than always showing the team blowing up something in spectacular fashion.
The major crime in “There Will Be Bud” begins in a somewhat innocent and fun place as it plays with weed dispensaries, but with each new detail of this case, the episode becomes increasingly grim. Cole and Erica get into a half-baked car chase with a dispensary vehicle and learn that there was some very bad blood (the murderous kind) between the owners of the dispensary. Since the idea that one owner would be the one to murder the other is far too clean and simple, Cole remains unsatisfied with this solution and looks for more information, which of course there is. It’s at this point that the work that Trish and Leo do becomes crucial and an important whistleblower figure rises to help turn this into quite the blood-soaked final act that’s cut against the climax of a courtroom drama, offering the best of both worlds.
Cole and Murtaugh may be regressive in their behavior, but that doesn’t result in a disappointing episode. “There Will Be Bud” features a handful of great action scenes, such as when Cole drives a motorcycle through the window of a building to save the day. Cole’s decision to fire his gun off to make pigeons fly so they’ll block a sniper’s shot is also just a really smart Cole moment. The action scenes are technically impressive, but Bill Callahan’s script really delivers here, whether it’s in the construction of the episode’s complex story or the generally sharp dialogue (“Remember when you were upset about that table?” is a genuinely great act break line). Even quieter moments like Avery and Cole’s brief babysitting stints with Harper (Remember Harper Murtaugh!? She’s back, baby!) really resonate in this installment. If the final five episodes of the season can be this polished, then we’re in good hands.
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, Bloody Disgusting, and ScreenRant. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and he’s always game to discuss Space Dandy. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.