This Lethal Weapon review contains spoilers.
Lethal Weapon Season 3 Episode 15
“Wesley Cole’s life is about to blow up. How close do you want to be when it does?”
So here’s the thing: This by all accounts should be the very last installment of Lethal Weapon. The show has barreled ahead through a myriad of behind-the-scenes problems and pivots to the point where it seems like it would just be easier to call it a day (we wrote about the potential barriers to a Lethal Weapon season 4 here). A hypothetical fourth season of this show would likely be yet another iteration of Lethal Weapon that now doesn’t feature either Murtaugh or Riggs. And yet, stranger things have happened on television shows. This show—much like its characters—continues to fight and prove that the underdog can stay alive. Last week’s episode brought in its highest ratings in months and this finale one hundred percent does not fuck around.
This is easily the biggest episode that Lethal Weapon has ever done and much like how Cole, Murtaugh, or even Riggs operate—if this is going to be the end, then it’s going to be one hell of an end that burns the whole house down with it. The finale’s big climax features Murtaugh bleeding out of his gut from a bullet wound, a literal ticking time bomb that’s about to go off, and Cole and a wedding gown-clad Natalie leaping out of a skyscraper in each other’s arms. This is peak Lethal Weapon and it wants you to know it by pushing all of this in your face right when the episode opens. This show has never been groundbreaking television, but it’s been a very decent police procedural that knows how to have fun and this finale has so much freaking fun that it’s almost surprising that the episode doesn’t end with the cast turning to the camera and saying, “Seriously, I dare you not to renew us.”
After the mess that Cole found himself in last week, his greatest ally at the moment is his daughter, Maya. Maya’s writing has been scattershot throughout the season, but she’s incredibly likable here. Her banter with Cole about life in general or the imperfections of wabi sabi is enjoyable (if you’re unfamiliar with this concept, you should consult your King of the Hill archives). Maya currently needs to be Cole’s de facto therapist because he’s in the doghouse with Murtaugh and everyone else, but it’s a dynamic that works well during the episode’s less action-centric moments. That’s what makes it so gutting when Natalie reveals that after her wedding she’s going to move across the country for Doctors Without Borders and she wants to take Maya with her. Cole is put in a brutal position, but he makes the right decision and doesn’t try to roadblock his daughter’s future. In a poetic way, it even makes Maya closer to Cole since it’s so similar to the childhood that he had with his mother.
Cole chooses to do the selfless thing, but now with truly no one left, he’s finally pushed into enough of a corner to take Barnes up on his offer. A few Mezcals later and the two are once again a team and raring to get out of LA. Cole’s actions here are regrettable, but honestly they absolutely make sense. Murtaugh is the childish one, icing out Cole and it’s because of this that he finally gives into the Devil that’s been whispering in his ear.
Unfortunately, Cole doesn’t realize that Barnes isn’t being completely honest. Pulling off this job means that he’s guilty of treason. Murtaugh learns about the treason situation before Cole does, courtesy of the FBI, who wants Murtaugh to wear a wire to help convict his partner and take down Barnes. This is enough to sober up Murtaugh, put this petty dispute to bed, and launch this story into motion. “The Spy Who Loved Me” deserves tremendous credit for not drawing this feud out through the bulk of the episode and rather it just cleverly uses it to properly push Cole to this dark place.
Accordingly, the finale’s first half sees Murtaugh race to alert Cole about what’s going on before the FBI gets to him and Barnes first. That’s a solid narrative engine for this finale and it’s so effective that “The Spy Who Loved Me” just focuses on its characters and makes them the story instead of bringing in an arbitrary new crime-of-the-week. On that note, Cole’s worlds collide in the worst way possible when his assassination gig with Barnes seems to pit Natalie’s fiancé, Andrew, as the target. If anything, the reveal that Andrew is caught up in shady behavior and not the white knife that Natalie sees him as is this finale’s biggest misgiving. It’s just such an easy out to all of this and feels like the least interesting solution. It at least makes Cole’s situation impossibly more stressful.
The episode takes another interesting detour when Cole’s method of determining what’s going on with Andrew involves forcing himself into his bachelor party. It’s a clever enough way for Cole to sniff around for clues that also manages to be incredibly awkward for everyone involved. It’s rather convenient that a plastered Andrew immediately tells Cole that he’s involved with some drug running, without even being pushed on the matter. Andrew appears to think that this was some innocent indiscretion, but it puts Natalie and Maya at risk in a very big way. Now that Cole knows what he’s dealing with, he jumps into action to try to put out all of these fires.
This season Seann William Scott has turned out to be a charismatic delight as Wesley Cole. If this is the end of this character, then he at least deserves work doing something similar somewhere else. With Wayans’ involvement with the show perhaps at its end, this finale wisely lets Cole have most of the fun here and repeatedly show how awesome he is while Murtaugh primarily plays catch up or begrudgingly wears a wire.
The FBI shift their priorities to flip Cole so they can apprehend Barnes (who apparently hasn’t been with CIA for some time), but Cole warns them that this won’t be an easy task. Barnes quickly proves how true this is and that he’s apparently some Moriarty-esque supervillain. He essentially does the equivalent of tying Natalie to train tracks. The moment in which he shoots Murtaugh is almost comically evil. Everything is square and then it seems like Barnes just flippantly decides to do it because why not? Trish doesn’t get a whole lot to do in this finale, but at least her phone call with Roger in what could have been his final minutes are deeply emotional.
Natalie’s slowly re-entered the series over the past few episodes, albeit in natural, restrained appearances. She’s hardly on the sidelines in this finale and she eventually turns into the lynchpin to everything. In a rather questionable maneuver, Barnes once again gets the upper hand on Cole and forces him to give him 10 million dollars or he’ll kill Natalie. It’s the perfect storm of clichéd elements and complications, but it’s what’s necessary to lead to the episode’s explosive finale.
“The Spy Who Loved Me” makes a number of sloppy concessions here to connect its dots and prove its point, but perhaps the biggest is Avery and company at the LAPD working together to steal $10 million from evidence to help out Cole. Sure, no one’s the wiser by the end of the episode, but come on. That’s the kind of thing that would easily get shot down in any other episode, but it’s allowed to slide here in order to prove the power of friendship and teamwork.
Lethal Weapon Season 3 featured plenty of impressive action sequences, but “The Spy Who Loved Me” saves the best for last. Cole gets to kick bad guys out the windows of buildings all Die Hard style, there’s an especially gruesome cauterizing technique on display, and the best fight scene that the show has ever done takes place in a crowded bathroom during Andrew’s bachelor party. The sequence is wonderfully choreographed and even has a morbid sense of humor to it with a missing tooth element that play through it all. Even though it’s nowhere on the same level as The World’s End, the fight scene did make me think of the Edgar Wright film.
None of this compares to what’s the most audacious stunt of the entire series, where an explosion propels Cole and Natalie hundreds of feet through the air to catch a suspended crane support. They absolutely should die from this and it’s the kind of nonsense that I expect to see in Hobbes & Shaw, but God bless Lethal Weapon for going for it. If stunts of this level of insanity can happen every week then I absolutely want another season of Lethal Weapon. Everything that follows is so extra that it’s entirely plausible that Cole, Natalie, and even Roger died in that explosion and this is all just some projection of heaven. If this is the end, then why not?
Against all odds, “The Spy Who Loved Me” delivers an all-time best episode that represents everything that’s great about this series. That’s not to say that this finale is devoid of laziness or poor decisions, but its enthusiasm is infectious the entire time. It understands what makes this show work and this would make for an extremely satisfying conclusion to the show, if need be.
Lethal Weapon, it’s been a hell of a ride for three seasons and while this very well could be goodbye, maybe we’ll find out that neither of us are too old for this shit again next year.
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.