This Lethal Weapon review contains spoilers.
Lethal Weapon Season 3 Episode 14
“So when you said you’d do anything to help, you didn’t really mean ‘anything.’”
It’s not surprising to see Lethal Weapon focus on its major themes and storylines as the season comes to an end. In the case of Lethal Weapon season 3, that means testing Murtaugh and Cole’s relationship one last time. While this may not be the most original conflict, it makes for an interesting one because it’s one that the show fundamentally couldn’t do if Riggs was still around. For that reason, “A Game of Chicken” makes for a satisfying set up to the show’s swan song because it very much functions as the ultimate test of “Lethal Weapon 2.0.”
This time around, Cole comes across some grim news that his friend is on the run for murder and that his life is in danger. What’s even worse is that Erica preemptively takes Cole and Murtaugh off the case because she knows how much of a conflict this is for Cole. Cole, being Cole, is willing to break the law and go to whatever lengths necessary to save his beleaguered buddy, Rafi. Murtaugh, being Murtaugh, isn’t quite so willing to step outside of the law in order to work this one out.
The complicated efforts that the real criminals have gone to in order to set up Rafi seem a little extreme (like going as far as changing his grade transcript), but when it turns out that the LAPD are up against Chinese super spies, these drastic measures seem a little more appropriate. This turns into another all-too familiar situation where Cole insists that he’s right and rages against everyone in his path. I understand why Cole needs to be correct here, but it’d be a lot more surprising and progressive if Rafi were guilty. This rift causes Cole and Erica to come to blows, but just when it seems like the show is ready to extinguish their romance, it remains strong, despite Natalie. More of Cole and Erica’s exceptional chemistry is on display in this episode, which would have made some arbitrary break-up all the more hard to swallow.
When Cole continues to hit dead ends, he reluctantly reaches out to Tom Barnes (remember him!) for help, which is a strategy that Murtaugh is vehemently against. In spite of Murtaugh’s advice, Cole plows ahead and therein lies the schism between Cole and Murtaugh. I can respect the show having the foresight to keep Barnes around in order to use him as a final obstacle between Cole and Murtaugh, but Cole should honestly know better at this point. Barnes showed his true colors in his previous appearances, so Cole’s continued allegiance to him feels more than a little silly. What does make this a little easier to swallow is that the episode shows that Cole truly exhausts every resource at his disposal before he turns to Barnes. It also helps that Barnes doesn’t screw over Cole and actually is reliable this time.
What also works in this feud is that Cole seems personally wounded that Murtaugh won’t go above and beyond to help him out. That’s not to say that Cole is right here, but it adds a more complex ripple to this argument since Cole feels betrayed. Furthermore, even though there are heavier stakes this time around, this fight between Murtaugh and Cole feels like a rehash of what went down in Barnes’ previous appearance. Having Cole haphazardly injure Bailey or Gutierrez to get on Murtaugh’s bad side—or something that’s even more personal—might have worked better than just more trust issues between these two alpha males. That being said, maybe I’m holding the show to too high of a standard. They’ve done their homework with the Barnes stuff and it still arguably works better than if some random case tore the two officers apart. At the same time, there is all sorts of discussion between characters about how Cole is “spiraling” and that something is wrong, although this doesn’t seem any more unhinged than his usual theatrics.
If all of this wasn’t enough, Lethal Weapon clunkily underscores this rift in the partnership over the fact that in conjunction with Trish’s bid for District Attorney, Murtaugh is getting interviewed with good partnerships as the focus. This interview acts as something to return to throughout “A Game of Chicken” and remind the characters and the audience why Cole and Murtaugh are actually a good team while they find themselves in this crisis of faith. It’s not the best device to juxtapose against Cole and Murtaugh’s fight, but it’s enough that it still works.
Even though Cole and Murtaugh are in a rough place, Murtaugh of course still comes through in the end to save his partner when his life is on the line. Cole finds himself captured and tortured by Chinese intelligence and the final act of the episode features some impressive stealth play, well-choreographed gunplay and fisticuffs, and some emotional catharsis between flying bullets. The episode’s message gets somewhat jumbled, but by the end of all of this, it’s actually exciting to see Murtaugh not forgive Cole and hold a grudge against the guy. It’d be so easy to wipe the slate clean here, so Lethal Weapon deserves some points for creating some very real tension for its finale.
For those that are eagerly awaiting for answers regarding Trish’s District Attorney campaign, “A Game of Chicken” doesn’t leave you hanging. Trish edges ever closer to officially announcing her campaign and at this point it’s clear that this storyline is being stretched out to culminate with the finale. For that reason, Trish’s portion of the storyline is lacking. Her campaign does inch forward and she gets past her insecurities, but it’s easily something that could have been included in the previous episode, or in the finale when this all comes to a head. It seems far too rushed for the finale to actually see the results for the District Attorney race, so the cliffhanger will probably rest on the aftermath of her announcement. Maybe someone tries to assassinate either her of Roger at the announcement ceremony and that’s the season’s big finish.
This season was awarded two additional episodes to its original order of thirteen and “A Game of Chicken” makes for a satisfying use of that extra time. The episode makes things personal in an effective way before heading into the finale and the show’s status quo hangs in balance for what might be the last time. Whether this is the end of the series or not, it’s encouraging to see it put its best feet forward and take some risks before bowing out.
And FOX, there’s still ample time for an “R.J.’s Dispensary” spin-off!