“I’ve got a feeling that today’s gonna’ be my lucky day.”
Lethal Weapon has always shown an unabashed glee towards its big explosions and hold-your-breath action sequences, but while it wears those flashy elements on its sleeve, it’s not hard to see that Lethal Weapon is really a show about family.
The bond and importance of family has present since day one, but it’s become especially prevalent in the show’s new season, largely because of the loss of Riggs and the Murtaughs opening their hearts (and table) to a new person. The first two episodes have dug especially deep into Murtaugh and Cole’s family drama, but with the prevalence of these things in “A Whole Lotto Trouble,” it becomes clear that this will be a particularly strong narrative engine through the entire season.
“A Whole Lotto Trouble,” is much more about Cole and Murtaugh’s problems at home than it is about a lottery scam. In fact, when Cole tries to prime Murtaugh on the case, he stops him in his tracks and demands that they air their personal business first before they get to the murder at hand. Etiquette, he calls it.
“A Whole Lotto Trouble���s” crime of the week focuses on gambling—specifically the lottery—as its target. The episode begins with what initially looks like every 9 to 5-ers’ dream come true before the fantasy quickly warps into a tragic nightmare. A jackpot winner gets executed for his winning ticket before he can claim his ill-gotten gains.
Beyond the obvious murder, the other crime in play here is that there’s a “lottery hacker” who figures out how to play the system and then gives the numbers to people who are in financial need, like a bizarre take on Robin Hood. A group of criminals have become privy to the list of people that are set to win, with their intention to knock off each of these winners, one-by-one. This has a certain precision to it, but I may have preferred the “magic sharpie theory” in the end
“A Whole Lotto Trouble” offers up more between Cole, Natalie, and Maya as they continue to try to find a balance. There’s so much of Cole’s job that is beyond his control that he wants to at least try to be a good parent and make something more positive, if he can. Maya’s set to spend her first night at Cole’s motel digs, but it’s not the smoothest arrangement. They find as tough of a time to find a rhythm together as Cole does with Murtaugh (their banter is also just as poor).
Cole keeps trying to treat Maya like the little girl that she was the last time they connected, but fortunately Murtaugh has a little experience on the matter. Even though he’s incredibly preoccupied with his own chaos, he can at least give his partner a little guidance on how to properly navigate the minefield that is a 12-year old girl. It’s also a tiny detail, but the way in which Cole is truly jealous of the happy wife and family that Murtaugh has is a welcome, sweet dynamic that Riggs never brought to the table.
The material with Maya begins kind of one-note. Cole runs his mouth and Maya is unresponsive. There’s not much to it until she throws herself into an active crime scene and gets an earful of Cole’s past discretions. The circumstances behind this are a touch contrived, but it leads to one of the episode’s most fulfilling scenes. Cole is left to confess his crimes and really get honest with his daughter, but it helps them finally get closer and bridge this gap. The way in which Maya is the adult in the scene and Cole begins his confession behind a door, but is out by the end, is perfect. Seann William Scott handles the material with particular care and it at least makes the clunker moments in his storyline with Maya worthwhile.
Cole may find himself worried about his daughter, but it’s the opposite end of the family tree that has Murtaugh in distress. Roger is on the cusp of his 30thanniversary with the LAPD, which he’s genuinely excited for, but then the experience sours. Murtaugh’s father-in-law, Don Bennett, drops by unannounced and finds the perfect way to get under Roger’s skin and completely deflate his achievement. This storyline gets the most out of Wayans and allows him to show the full gamut of Murtaugh’s character, but this competitive conflict is all the better since Richard Roundtree (Shaft, himself) plays Don.
There’s such great energy here between these two as Wayans and Roundtree riff off of each other. They attempt to both be the alpha here and this helps turn an average plot into a good one. Oh, and he’s a federal judge, which is something that he can’t stop reminding Roger about because what’s thirty years on the force when you’re a federal judge?
Roger eats his humble pie more than a few times through this ordeal, but he gets the cathartic release that he needs when he tells off his father-in-law. What’s more important here is that Trish is the one that really gets through to Don. She eloquently expresses to him why what he’s doing is inappropriate, even if he doesn’t realize that he’s doing it, and it’s the proper way to put this all to rest.
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The logistics of the lottery scheme aren’t much trouble for Murtaugh and Cole, but what does bog them down is the muscle that’s involved. “A Whole Lotto Trouble” actually delivers a rather memorable fight scene that makes full use of its geography in a way that’s rare for the show. The shootout and brawl takes place on what looks like an M.C. Escher painting. Characters are constantly falling of being toppled over stairs and the distinct camerawork in the scene gives the battle a particularly disjointed look.
The final set piece of the episode is set on a fire escape and is similarly creative and actually creates a sense of danger. However, the hyperbolized superhero image that it goes out on is a little much Wayans also makes Murtaugh look absolutely terrified at a few moments during this attack and while it’s not made explicit it’s a nice layer to Murtaugh’s character to see him especially concerned about his well being before his 30thanniversary. He may, finally, be getting too old for this shit.
“A Whole Lotto Trouble” is breezy fair for the most part, but it’s actually quite the funny episode. The script pops a lot as Murtaugh, Cole, and Avery all deal with various frustrations. Murtaugh could definitely survive a stabbing, but the gag that this near-accident leads to is pretty hilarious, too. Bailey is also on fire in this one and she often punctuates a scene or exchange in the perfect way. It’s a shame the scripts and dialogue can still be so sharp on this show when there seem to be so many problems going on behind the scenes.
Luck is also used as a runner throughout the episode because of the whole lotto motif, but it’s really just a lazy excuse for a bunch of absurd events to go down during Murtaugh and Cole’s police work. Almost all of their action scenes go out on some spectacle where “luck” is the cause and even if it doesn’t exactly make sense, it’s fun.
“A Whole Lotto Trouble” finds a strong balance and its approach should really be the structure that the show continues with for the rest of the season. There should be a loose, but ridiculous, crime of the week that’s used to break up the personal turmoil that these characters go through. A minimalistic case allows its limited story beats to all contain big moments rather than something that’s allowed to grow stale by the middle of the episode. Lethal Weapon knows what its strengths are and “A Whole Lotto Trouble” is the best example of that this season. It just needs to embrace that even more through the rest of the year.
Finally, it’s also rather ironic that this episode focuses so much on the bonds of family and Murtaugh’s commitment to his job that this would be the installment that airs after Damon Wayans’ announcement that he too would be leaving the show at the end of this season. That may seem like a valid reason to end the series, since both Riggs and Murtaugh will be gone, but it instead presents Lethal Weapon with a very interesting situation. Bring in well-known pitch hitter, Ashton Kutcher, as Wayans’ replacement and turn this into Dude Where’s My Car?: The Series. Just imagine that Jesse and Chester are all grown up.
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.