The latest episode of TRAINING DAY, entitled “Bad Day At Aqua Mesa” is different from every other episode of the series thus far. How? It chooses to put rookie Detective Kyle Craig front and center for once, and making him proactive instead of just along for the ride with Bill Paxton’s much more interesting/charming Detective Frank Rourke. From start to finish it was Kyle spurring on the plot and action, and this time Frank was sitting shotgun.
It was much needed for several reasons. The first being that exactly half of the two leads in the series was dull, uninteresting, and passive. Sure, Kyle has his back story of trying to find his dad’s killer, and of dealing with Chief Lockhart who assigned him spy on Frank from the beginning. But both those plots have been on such a slow simmer that they may not have even exists. I can count on one hand all the developments in those two stories combined over the past nine episodes. Kyle needed to come into his own and have some character development. This episode did just that.
The other reason the show needed Kyle to step up is because, as you may have heard, Bill Paxton sadly passed away a couple months ago and if the series is going to continue (though it’s not looking likely, having been moved from Thursdays to Saturday nights–never a promising sign) you are going to need some very interesting characters to fill the gap that Paxton leaves. Now the writers and producers didn’t know that Paxton was going to untimely pass away when they wrote this episode, but they are probably happy that they did.
The episode revolves around a drive by shooting outside a community center in South Central Los Angeles in which a young teacher named Kelly Price gets gunned down. While attending a sort of community mourning at a school in which Lockhart is giving a speech, Kyle talks to some kids who clearly have been brought up to not trust police. While there they are introduced to a man named Todd Barber who owned the community center and owns lots of property around Los Angeles, particularly a planned community called Aqua Mesa. We also meet the head of Barber’s security, Paul Dinardo, an ex-cop. If you’re a smart viewer you’d know that these guys are the real bad guys the whole time, just waiting for the plot to progress enough to reveal it.
And of course it does. After investigating the warring gangs the Avalon Royals and the West Compton mob, and finding that neither gang is claiming responsibility for the shooting, Frank and Kyle are able to negotiate a deal. Give them twenty-four hours to find who really did it, and if they can’t, then they can start letting the bodies drop. When Rebecca notices that the spray pattern of the shooting looked more like Price was the target than an innocent bystander, Kyle and Frank’s investigation needs to shift focus.
That’s when they get the call that the leader of the West Compton Mob, Raw Dog, has been killed by none other than Paul Dinardo. Dinardo claims he was put on the case by his boss Barber because he felt guilty about such violence happening at one of his community centers. Dinardo tracked down the car that was used in the drive by, only to find Raw Dog trying to torch it to get rid of the evidence. They even find the gun used in the drive by next to Raw Dog’s body with his prints on it. Frank and Kyle know this isn’t true, but Lockhart orders them to stand down and let the community be appeased with the killer being found and no longer a threat.
And it’s Kyle, not Frank, who goes against Lockhart saying he will continue to search for the truth. They head to Aqua Mesa to talk to Barber and find him fielding a sort of town hall with his planned community’s residents. They are complaining about trucks coming and going all hours of the night. This seems fishy so Kyle and Frank stay after hours and sneak into the midst of the construction site. Turns out they are producing cocaine! Unfortunately Frank and Kyle are quickly caught by Barber and Dinardo. Barber explains that poor Kelly Price was int he wrong place at the wrong time and saw what they were really up to. She had to meet her end. But he will be naming a community center after her.
As Frank and Kyle are about to get killed and buried in some cement, Cuddy, the head of the Avalon Royals shows up to do some business with Barber. Apparently he is in on the cocaine dealings. Kyle lets him know that it was Barber who had Kelly killed, and that he’s being duped. Tensions are high and guns are drawn. Frank yells “Bang!” and tackles Kyle to the ground to safety as a huge gunfight ensues. Of course the good guys come out on top, with Frank stopping Kyle just as he is about to brutally murder the cornered Barber with a shovel. They do however let the Avalon Royals nail Barber’s hand to Aqua Mesa’s sign at the front of the planned community. Which was pretty awesome.
Overall, the episode was truly about Kyle’s path as a cop and as a person. Early in the episode his mother tells him that he can be many things–his father’s son, Frank’s partner–but not to lose himself in all that. If Kyle had lay down and listened to Lockhart and not pursued Kelly’s real killer, he wouldn’t have been being true to himself. Same for if he had actually murdered a guy with a shovel. It was a big moment for Kyle. The bigger moment may have come when he finally tells Lockhart that his eyes are open, and she threatens him back saying if he continues down this road, he’ll be on his own. With only one episode left, I think he is going to continue down that path and become the lead character in a network television series he always could be.
Season 1, Episode 9 (S01E09)
Training Day airs Saturday at 9PM on CBS
In Los Angeles, a city where streets are overrun by drug dealers, those who have sworn to uphold the law are breaking them to clean up the streets. Paul is a veteran TV reviewer whose methods of writing TV reviews are questionable, if not corrupt.
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Paul Gulyas | Contributor