“A job is a job. The fulfillment comes from within the job.”
Procedural programs like Lethal Weapon survive due to a certain amount of stasis. Each episode should begin with the characters more or less in the same place, ready to tackle their targets with a consistent point of view. Cops shows are even guiltier of this, as the respective partners typically need to occupy opposite ends of the personality spectrum. “The Roger and Me” is an interesting episode of Lethal Weapon because it has its characters reflect on who they used to be, who they think they are, and who they actually are. Roger, Cole, and even Trish go through this process this week and it helps elevate a regular episode into one with somewhat higher stakes. It also signals hope that Lethal Weapon is thinking about its ending.
Lethal Weapon’s cases of the week have a tendency to throw Murtaugh and Cole into different cliques and walks of life. This is an effective enough approach for how the show can continually throw a fresh coat of paint on something as general as a murder or a robbery. “The Roger and Me” has underground MMA fighting and murder collide in a dangerous way. When up and coming fighter Mark Hardy turns up as a corpse, Murtaugh is initially suspicious of the fighter’s disaffected manager. The spoiled bro doesn’t intend to make Roger’s interrogation process go smoothly, but as is usually the case with this show, the most obvious suspect turns out to be innocent.
The episode splits up Murtaugh and Cole for the most part and tries to inject this crime with a little extra urgency due to Roger’s past as an apparent kung-fu expert? Hardy’s death causes Murtaugh to reflect on how sloppy he’s gotten as a fighter (okay, he has one good move, “The Roger”) and that he’s no longer the statuesque specimen of health that he was in his younger years. The way in which this crime causes Roger to look inward is a solid structure for this episode, but it’s just a shame that Murtaugh’s legendary move from his past virtually comes out of nowhere. This makes Murtaugh’s internal crisis feel a little unjustified. That being said, this does allow the episode to go down an especially goofy path with 2007-posing-as-the-1970s Murtaugh (complete with afro) that’s more than a little reminiscent of the loose style of the “Brock Landers” videos from Boogie Nights (also, how much better would it have been if this episode just truly went for it and had Roger tell the cadets that he used to be a porn star?). It’s perhaps the most playful the show’s been all season.
Even though this “Raging Murtaugh” material feels slightly awkward, it at least fits into the episode’s overall theme of Murtaugh trying to figure out his future. Accordingly, with only three episodes of Lethal Weapon left this season (and let’s be honest, probably ever), it looks like it’s time for the show to start to introduce its endgame for some of its characters. With a sterling reputation of over 30 years at the LAPD, Murtaugh is the perfect candidate to give a guest lecture to all of the LAPD’s prospective cadets. Murtaugh crushes the task, but perhaps does a little too well. He soon learns that there’s interest to make him a permanent lecturer for the department, which certainly flatters Roger, but is also symptomatic of something much larger: his retirement.
The past few episodes of Lethal Weapon have played up the whole “I’m getting too old for this shit,” card for Murtaugh, but “The Roger and Me” looks like it may be serious. In any other episode, the news of Murtaugh’s retirement should be taken with a heavy grain of salt, but the fact that both Trish and Avery push for this new trajectory for Roger is significant. At this point it looks very likely that the series could end with Roger comfortably shifting into a mentor position as Cole steps up and takes more responsibility at the LAPD. It’s frankly an ending that stays true to the character and if by some miracle there is a fourth season of Lethal Weapon, it wouldn’t be impossible to have Murtaugh appear every so often in this lecturer role.
As Murtaugh’s future begins to look clearer, there is still plenty of doubt and uncertainty in the air when it comes to Cole. It’s a relief to see that the tender, sweet relationship that’s formed between Cole and Erica is very much still intact. The two are in no hurry to overcomplicate things or sabotage what they’ve got going, but problems arise when Maya rears her tiny, little head. While everyone assumed that Natalie and her new family were ready to have their happily ever after, Maya drops some honesty and reveals that things haven’t been that easy for her.
Lethal Weapon has had issues with how it’s circled around Cole and Natalie’s relationship, but it’s much more refreshing to have Maya act as the agent of change here rather than her mother. Cole’s dynamic with his daughter this season has been one that’s worked and so it’s smart to position her against Erica and what lies ahead for Cole here. It feels like the final hurdle that he has to figure out in his life as opposed to another version of the same problem. Erica and Maya’s scene together is also particularly cute.
Both Murtaugh and Cole try to sort out their personal dilemmas as the intricacies of Hardy’s death become more complex. Soon a large sum of stolen money begins to fuel decisions and the LAPD has to race to an undercover fight before more people get killed. The case takes some unexpected twists in the end, like how the man the LAPD wants to keep alive nearly gets forced into a deadly fight himself, and just how aggressive Cole is willing to get to save the day. It’s Lethal Weapon at its most brutal.
As if everyone didn’t already have enough to deal with here, Trish also finds herself in a bit of a personal crisis when she experiences doubts over the future of her practice. Trish’s unfulfilled feelings over her career have been a constant for the character this season. This malaise has seen Trish partner up with Leo Getz and take other unusual detours, but at the moment Trish seems to think that a position in public office would be the best for her. There’s nothing wrong with this latest development for Trish, especially as Roger is caught up in a similar crossroad, but it does feel derivative of past installments (as does Trish and Roger’s argument over the issue). All of Trish’s subplots this year could have easily been combined into a lone episode, but at least the show is trying to do something with the character before the finale. She may be ready to settle down, but Roger isn’t just quite yet.
“The Roger and Me” doesn’t get too out of control with the car crashes and explosions, but it does get particularly bloody with the physical combat due to the MMA backdrop. Beyond that, Murtaugh and Cole also turn to fisticuffs a number of times when they get in over their head. It’s not the most action-packed episode, but it still features plenty of mayhem. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s actually some great comedy in this installment, whether it’s in the fantasy sequences that Roger regales the cadets with or some of its meta dialogue. Furthermore, the episode marries these two extremes and often uses a comedic beat to punctuate a tense fight scene.
“The Roger and Me” is a completely serviceable episode of Lethal Weapon that spins its wheels in some regards, but it looks like it’s actually having fun, which can sometimes be overlooked during the end of as show’s run. This isn’t the best entry that the season has to offer, but a focus on strong characterization and a look forward toward the end of the season help this installment stand out.
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.