This Lethal Weapon review contains spoilers.
Lethal Weapon Season 3 Episode 7
“We’re all expendable…”
Cole’s bond with Natalie has been a fundamental aspect of Lethal Weapon’s third season and “Bali” provides the greatest glimpse yet into their relationship. As these two struggle to find a balance in the present, they seem to constantly be at odds between fantasy and reality. Cole continues to cling onto the warm romance of their past, but Natalie has a grounded take on how things really are. “Bali” pits fantasy against reality in a number of different ways, whether it’s in reference to Cole’s love life or the decision to prioritize your duty over your family.
Furthermore, this episode begins with Cole utterly devoted to the fantasy of Barnes that lives on in his head and concludes with him ready to move on after seeing the truth of who he is. Even when Cole gets rescued he’s unsure if what’s happening is real or some sort of delusion. Most importantly, “Bali” proves that fantasy can become reality, as crazy as it may seem, and that’s something worth fighting for.
“Bali” has the luxury of beginning in an already tense place since Cole is in danger after the fallout from the previous episode. The first half of the entry is very much just a race to catch Cole before something seriously bad happens to him. There’s a certain poetic justice behind the idea that the head of the Vasquez cartel simply wants to get revenge on Cole for killing her husband 15 years ago.It’s a motivation that largely drove Riggs’ actions behind the first season of the series and even though Vasquez is the ruthless leader of a drug cartel, Cole is the bad guy from her perspective. In spite of the synchronicity of this plotting, it’s still a little redundant that Vasquez just stabs and wounds Cole while she shouts at him about not knowing what real love is.
Naturally, Cole’s searing pain prompts more war flashbacks, with these chronicling how Cole and Natalie got to know each other in the first place. This charming love story set against a chaotic battlefield is certainly appropriate given the context of the episode, but it’s yet another piece of Cole’s backstory that doesn’t really feel necessary.
We’ve been given enough breadcrumbs about Cole and Natalie’s past and careers that it was fair to say that she catered to his wounds in combat and the two fell for each other. All these flashbacks point to an inevitable romantic reconciliation between Cole and Natalie and as much as Cole deserves a happy ending, it’d have been nice for the show to find an angle for these characters that’s slightly less predictable.
Vasquez’ various means of torturing Cole, whether it’s tearing off his fingernails or impaling his throat with metal apparatuses, are all rather irksome. Even though Cole is prepared for the gruesome maiming that lies ahead for him, the show doesn’t shy away from the violence in this episode and it’s a lot to watch.
Cole snarks his way through all of Vasquez’ intimidating torture methods, but thankfully she continues to mix things up to at least keep Cole’s abduction exciting for the duration of the episode. She goes for the classic “buried alive” strategy, which significantly ups the ticking clock element of the LAPD’s rescue mission. It also doesn’t help that Maya grows increasingly worried over her father’s disappearance and Murtaugh is running out of excuses to feed her.
“Bali” keeps Cole’s old mentor, Tom Barnes, in the picture, but rather than play him against Cole like it did in the previous installment, it puts him in Murtaugh’s orbit this time around. Barnes works as a complex figure to play against Cole, even though his whole motivation is fairly one-note.
In spite of the downfalls in Barnes’ character, it’s still appreciated to see this season attempt some kind of serialized story. Even if past storylines like Riggs’ reconciliation with his father had their own faults, they at least gave the season a larger story to contextualize itself in. Lethal Weapon absolutely works better when it’s a procedural, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t also strive for more.
Murtaugh is essentially forced to turn to Barnes when he not only faces a homicide that’s connected to the Vasquez cartel, but when it looks like the dangerous organization is also responsible for Cole’s disappearance. Barnes has connections here that Murtaugh simply doesn’t and even though Barnes’ plan to find Cole and Vasquez is risky, it’s better than nothing. What’s refreshing is that much like the more dangerous Vasquez, Barnes doesn’t view himself as a villain. He’s incredibly transparent with Murtaugh and more or less admits to sending Cole into the problem that’s currently stressing them all out.
Barnes and Cole may have history, but he’s still just a means to an end and Barnes makes it clear that no one person is more important than the greater mission. Murtaugh obviously entertains a very different thought process that pushes the principle that your partner’s safety is just as fundamental as anything else. “Bali” operates like Murtaugh’s philosophy is the “correct” one and even though it’s the more altruistic choice, it’d be ridiculous to say that there’s never a scenario where the well-being of the many doesn’t outweigh the safety of a lone individual. Barnes is definitely the bad guy here, but the episode oversimplifies this philosophical debate.
It’s a real surprise when Cole gets recovered at the episode’s halfway mark. Murtaugh and Cole are back together, but the problem then shifts to tracking down Vasquez and the fresh can of worms that Murtaugh has opened by doing a solid for Barnes. It’s also a comforting surprise to see Cole and Vasquez reach a place of trust and understanding as the episode comes to a close, rather than another bloody shootout that has no real weight to it. The decision that they come to reach is arguably the more difficult one.
On the domestic side of things, as the series continues to find different permutations to explore of all the possible conflicts between Roger and his family and Cole and his own, “Bali” decides to finally mix the two together in one big family-sized cocktail of stress. Cole’s abduction provides an ample opportunity for Murtaugh and Trish to finally get to meet Natalie and Maya. Murtaugh even volunteers Riana to babysit Maya during Cole’s absence. Maybe Maya could show Riana how to recklessly run into the line of fire and put her father’s life on the line, as she’s a pro at that move by now.
Meanwhile, Bailey and “The Gute” attempt to work through the honeymoon phase of their partnership and this continues to be the season’s surprise runaway storyline. Lethal Weapon has struggled to bring other supporting players at the LAPD like Scorsese or Bowman to the forefront (although they made a solid go at it with dolphin-puncher Bowman), but they instantly find chemistry between Bailey and her new partner.
I said it last week, but it’s regrettable that — with Wayans’ waning interest in the series — Bailey and Gutierrez couldn’t have just headlined the show and ushered in a female take on the franchise. Frankly, Murtaugh needs all of the help that he can get since Cole is MIA and this trifecta provides a fresh, fun dynamic that helps power through this mission to retrieve Cole.
“Bali” is a little lacking in terms of the action, but the episode finds the time to turn into a complete farce when Cole suckerpunches Murtaugh and stashes him in the trunk of his car. Then Riana happens to sneak out in the vehicle to go on a date. It’s a ridiculous scene and it’s more than a little convoluted that this is the way the episode manages to get Murtaugh to the same destination as Cole and the cartel.
“Bali” is a technically impressive episode of Lethal Weapon and even though it gets a lot done, it still feels like it’s just dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s from last week. It’s a stronger episode than last week’s “Panama,” but this may have been better if they combined that episode with this one, trimmed the fat, and delivered one above-average installment that touches on Cole’s former mentor rather than two mediocre ones that cover the same ground. In spite of this episode’s faults, it does feel like this installment puts a lot of lingering plotlines from the first half of the season to rest. Hopefully this means that the series is ready to introduce something new and exciting to guarantee that they go out strong.
Or, you know, the season finale will center around Cole and Natalie’s wedding…
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.
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