This Lethal Weapon review contains spoilers.
Lethal Weapon Season 3 Episode 13
“Why don’t you tell me where you come from?”
Lethal Weapon often celebrates flashy shootouts, messy car crashes, and extravagant explosions. It’s a procedural series that loves to throw a quirky crime at the LAPD and the audience to keep things interesting, but it’s a show that knows that it’s based on a schlocky buddy-cop action film. Occasionally Lethal Weapon strives for a little more regarding the relevancy of its storytelling and “Coyote Ugly” decides to get topical as border security becomes the episode’s major focus. The case of the week involves a Mexican father and daughter who make a run for the border and get tragically separated. The safety of this immigrant family comes under scrutiny, but more importantly, this disaster highlights much more debilitating issues with the country’s protection of the border. This all makes for a solid foundation for an episode that actually attempts to make some social commentary. “Coyote Ugly” may still rely a little too often on overdone characterization and characters intentionally keeping each other in the dark, but it understands how to effectively split up the cast and use them to their strengths.
The specifics of the case in “Coyote Ugly” naturally play into Cole’s paternal instincts, but it also provides another occasion to flash back to the character’s past and learn more formative details about his development, particularly with his mother. This time Cole’s late teen years are visited and even though they provide more insight on the pain that he’s gone through, I’m not sure if this is entirely necessary. This is maybe the fourth flashback-heavy installment that dips into Cole’s past and while the show would do the same thing with Riggs, these are beginning to hold diminishing returns and all feel more or less the same. Hopefully this will be the last major look into Cole’s past before the season is done. In spite of how these dips into the past do slow down the episode to some degree, they help provide “Coyote Ugly” with a greater emotional core.
Murtaugh and Cole both find their ways to the murder and trouble at the Mexican border, but they get there through entirely different means. Curiously, it’s Natalie that puts this trouble on Cole’s radar when Hector, the father from the botched border mission, comes to her hospital and she’s suspicious of cartel involvement. This not only allows Cole to play the hero in front of Natalie, but he gets to solve this crime in his own way and help Hector’s daughter, Ana. Accordingly, Cole plays hookey from work, even though he’s deep in these matters, just from the opposite angle. Murtaugh doesn’t buy Cole’s flimsy excuse for not helping at the scene of the crime, but Cole is confident enough that the ends will justify the means. He needs to get this done.
That being said, Cole’s absence means that Murtaugh is teamed up with Bailey for a lot of this episode and it results in a little prickliness between the two of them. Bailey tolerates this longer than she should and then rightfully demands respect when Murtaugh continues to talk down to her, even though he’s known her longer than he’s been partners with Cole. Frankly, a scene like this is perfect and long overdue. Bailey consistently kills it and never properly gets her due, but Murtaugh’s response to this, while appreciated, doesn’t exactly fix the problem.
Roger explains that he doesn’t talk down to Bailey because of a lack of respect, but that it’s actually the opposite and a result of how he considers her to be family. Family can take the truth and be real with one another and this is a courtesy that Murtaugh wants to make sure he gives to Bailey. While this is nice and all, there’s no reason why Roger couldn’t do this and also be a solid human being to Bailey. This confrontation between the two of them is only a blip in what’s a rather busy episode, but it’s still nice to see Lethal Weapon spend some time on these character dynamics before the season (and possibly series) comes to a close.
Matters heat up rather quickly in “Coyote Ugly.” Cole wastes no time in his attempt to save the stranded Ana, but the cartel immediately intervenes and start spraying lead everywhere. What follows is actually quite suspenseful and these two strangers need to depend on each other for survival while they’re on the run. Cole’s also been shot, so he’s considerably handicapped and the exhaustive heat wears him down in a way where he’s hardly leading with confidence. He can barely stay conscious.
The dynamic between Cole and Ana works well and even though it gets a little on the nose, there’s still weight to moments like Ana cauterizing and cleaning Cole’s wounds. This helps ramp up the tension until Murtaugh and Bailey are able to find the two of them and save the day. There’s a rather claustrophobic feeling to the installment as Cole and Ana are holed up in an old shack as it takes gunfire. Even if some of the character moments misfire in “Coyote Ugly,” all of the action delivers and the episode features plenty of memorable set pieces. The outdoor cinematography, especially during the sunset, is also just gorgeous. This might be the best looking episode of the season.
With only a few episodes of the season left, Trish needs to kick her play for D.A. into high gear. This storyline still feels like a way to pad out the remaining episodes of the season, but it’s not a bad thing that Trish gets more focus. As Trish’s campaign officially gains traction she readies herself for the vigorous competition and slander that’s surely headed her way. Trish’s bid for public office has her ready for the fact that her past is going to get dug through as any residual skeletons in her closet are searched for. Her campaign manager wants to vet her family so they can get ahead of anything, if necessary.
Trish has legitimate reasons to worry about what from her past could come back to damage her (a previous marriage! Gasp!), but this intense look into her life also has Roger concerned about some past indiscretions. Apparently, back in their glory days, Roger and Avery made off with some illegal cheese that has given them a heavy conscience for all of these years. This is clearly meant to be the humorous juxtaposition to the actual problem that Trish has to extinguish, but it’s still a fun aside. Any time that Murtaugh and Avery are able to reminisce usually leads to some gold. All of this material, even Trish’s prior marriage, is fairly incidental, but it does further progress this arc.
The episode’s final act really goes out of control. Hector and Ana get to be infamous whistleblowers and heroes in their own right, and there are some particularly insane action sequences set in a hospital parking lot. Cole should probably be dead after what he goes through at the end of the episode and he pushes far too hard here, but hey, it makes for a hell of a conclusion.
The core story to “Coyote Ugly” connects and it’s not that the episode’s major conflict isn’t exciting, but it indulges in a very familiar theme from this season. Instead of the immigrant father and daughter setup, what if it was a husband and wife who attempt to cross the border? This way the episode’s crime gets to parallel what’s going on with Roger and Trish instead of another foray into Cole’s troubled parenthood. There’s an absolutely terrible line from an absolutely terrible Oliver Stone film, Savages, that goes, “I have orgasms. He has wargasms,” and it’s what pops into my head every time Cole visits a sandy terrain and stares off in contemplation. The season’s almost over and the internal conflict that Cole wrestles with here just as easily could have happened in the second episode. Hopefully the season’s final two episodes really go for broke in terms of the originality of their crimes.
“Coyote Ugly” reiterates (yet again) the importance and safety of family, whether it’s through the case, what Cole has going on in his personal life, or the way in which the Murtaughs get investigated. This is by no means Lethal Weapon: Day of the Soldado, but it’s an enjoyable, suspenseful examination of a heavy topic that’s typically off the show’s radar.
And don’t steal cheese. Or do steal it. It doesn’t seem like it really matters.