This Lethal Weapon review contains spoilers.
Lethal Weapon Season 1 Episode 2
“I miss you too, Rog.”
Lethal Weapon’s second episode thankfully keeps the same momentum and semi-screwball nature that last week’s pilot set as its standard. Not only is there no discernible drop in quality, but if anything the show feels (if only a little) more confident in establishing its own voice. “Surf n’ Turf” kicks off with a charming piece of misdirection involving a naked Riggs which is fun, entertaining stuff, yet I can’t help but feel that this behavior would get Riggs in a little more trouble, or that Beach Cop would at least want to see some credentials. I guess just let Riggs be Riggs. You can’t tame that lion.
This hilarious bender quickly turns into a nightmare though and it’s not long before Riggs is standing up a rack of ribs (ribs!) while melodramatically getting his ribs (and the rest of his body) kicked in and pulverized. I’m definitely on this show’s side more when it’s playing into its comedic sensibilities so this dour turn for Riggs is a bit of a drag, albeit a necessary one. In spite of Riggs’ McNulty-like behavior, this episode does still turn up the humor with much of Riggs and Murtaugh’s repartee being exactly the sort of thing that you’d hope for in a weekly dose of Lethal Weapon. The episode even continually sees them bickering over which classic pairing is the best representation of their partnership. They’re arguing over what’s the best symbol for their friendship, which is truly the best distillation of this team.
I didn’t touch on him at all in the pilot, but I was quite happy to see that Kevin Rahm, or rather Ted Chaough from Mad Men, is playing Riggs and Murtaugh’s superior. Watching him get exhausted from their banter is another welcome dynamic to this series. This all still might be right out of the Buddy Cop Bible, but the show at least tries to make the most out of them. In another humorous reveal we learn that the LAPD’s newest duo has already cost the city a gross amount of money in the meager three days they’ve been working together (the consistent raising of Riggs and Murtaugh’s collateral damage total is also a great gag). As such, they’re penalized by being slotted to non-cases like noise complaints, but wouldn’t you know if this molehill doesn’t start quickly reveal itself as an Everest-worthy mountain.
That mountain comes in the form of an illegal gun running ring, but not just lame ordinary guns, these have the highest of tech in place. Think like black ops shadow government weapons because that’s more or less what’s happening here. Rope into all of this a famous heavyweight boxer, a cavalier assassin, and a pregnant woman whose life is on the line and you’ve got the makings for one of the most exciting noise complaint calls in L.A.’s history.
Hey, did you guys forget that Riggs’ wife died? Because the episode certainly acts like you need a constant reminder of this. I understand that covering pilot backstory in episode two is a normal thing, but we’re constantly getting hit over the head with reminders that Riggs loved his wife a whole lot and that she’s also super dead. These reminders would be a lot less heavyhanded if the case of the week didn’t happen to involve a pregnant wife that’s giving Riggs all sorts of displacement. It’s not that connecting a case to Riggs’ personal life like this is a bad idea–in fact, it’s an inevitable one–but give the viewers some credit that they can connect these dots.
Another healthy chunk of this installment is also spent on fleshing out the humanity between Riggs and Murtaugh’s bond. They have to work together, but they don’t have to understand one another and this episode goes much further in bridging that gap. I maybe don’t need the show going as far as Murtaugh putting a blanket over a sleeping Riggs set to a touching guitar soundtrack, but it’s nice to see their chemistry further improving.
Since this is Lethal Weapon there are some glorious, relentless shootouts that go on this week. This should be a given when you’re dealing with gun runners, but McG is once again in the director’s chair and doesn’t squander the opportunity. Partygoers are getting mowed down in machine gun fire only moments before a frenetic car chase is going on that involves a motorcycle getting wedged under a propane truck and ending the whole thing in a juicy explosion. The icing on the cake is Riggs chewing Murtaugh out for not trying to cause a cool explosion because, oh yeah, they’re supposed to be trying to keep things on a low profile lately. Later on Riggs is flying through an apartment window (“a leaping dive with a twist,” to be exact) like some superhero that’s being thrown from a blast. By the final act they’re detonating literal fireworks to get rid of the bad guys.
What’s a little less successful from the procedural aspect of things is Riggs’ continued therapy as he attempts to open up over his dead wife and unborn child. He’s told that physical pain is easier than emotional pain and that he’s not going to get better unless he talks about all of this. Ironically, you’d think that being told to talk more is the last thing that Riggs needs. This material at least gets a chance to be a little unconventional by taking place in a men’s bathroom and with a flask in tow, but it’s still repetitive character beats. We don’t need each episode to touch on Murtaugh’s trauma like it’s an item on a checklist.
The case of the week is interesting and serves its purpose as much as it needs to here. It mixes things up enough times that it’s not a deeply predictable hour of TV, which is saying more than how a lot of procedurals operate. It’s still a very procedural-y offering, though, but it doesn’t drag, shows off these characters more, and continues to establish this universe. I’m still enjoying this show a lot more than I thought I would (which is to say, at all) so as long as it can continue that trend, I don’t mind if it takes its time in becoming appointment television.
Now, I might not be interested in that barbecued halibut, but I think my microwaved SIM cards are just about ready…