The LETHAL WEAPON pilot is fantastic example of moving a property from the big screen to the home screen. This story rests on the shoulders of two cops from different emotional worlds fighting for a world they both care about. I didn’t like it, I loved it. This show isn’t about fancy moves and deadly shots. Here, love is the lethal weapon.
Daman Wayans plays the experienced LAPD detective Roger Murtaugh. He’s just returning to active duty from medical leave. Murtaugh recently celebrated his 50th birthday but suffered a massive heart attack when his wife went into labor with their newest baby. He wears a heart monitor and has to keep his pulse at a resting level. No excitement for him. Wayans is fantastic as Murtaugh, he delivers a layered character; cop, husband, father. He’s no superhero, Murtaugh has real world vulnerabilities, fears, and drives.
One of the first questions I ask myself about show is, whys is it fun or entertaining. Here, the answer is Wayans. He has the comic’s skill of blending humor and drama so they feel real. Danny Glover was a great Murtaugh, he established the character. Wayans has more to work with and plenty to give. He’ll wear Murtaugh his own way and take the character to a whole new level. This was a great casting decision. If for some reason the story isn’t working, they can always just set the camera on Wayans, he has that kind of power.
Murtaugh’s world is filled with beauty. He has a sexy, insightful wife, Trish. They parent two lovely, but challenging kids and a very cute baby. This is what Riggs’ world would have been like if it didn’t go off the rails. Every time Riggs sees Murtaugh’s family, he’s reminded of everything her ever wanted, and everything he has recently loss. There is a great scene where Riggs kind of invites himself in for dinner. It’s part of his duality. Caught off guard, he gravitates to the loving warmth of family. Otherwise, his grief constantly calls for him to be alone with his gun. He enjoys Murtaugh’s family but aches when Trish asks him about his own wife and child. Crawford is good in this scene, but it’s also an important beat for Murtaugh, a crucial reaction shot is needed and Wayans delivers. This sequence is really the heart of the show and why people will tune in every week. Murtaugh’s got two grown kids and a new born. Is there room in his struggling heart for broken widower?
Martin Riggs is a Texas cop with a Navy SEAL resume. He receives a call from his wife while engaged in high speed pursuit. Miranda is in labor and asks to meet him at the hospital. When Riggs arrives, the nurse notifies him Miranda and their child were killed in a traffic collision. Clayne Crawford has his work cut out for him. Riggs is shattered by the loss of Miranda and child. He lives with an unhealthy death wish. Riggs wants to die, but he can’t bring himself to pull the trigger, Miranda would be ashamed. He moves to Los Angeles so she can be buried close to her family. Her father is a powerful political figure and gets Riggs instated at LAPD; Murtaugh has a new partner.
Box office may pay off on casting chemistry but that isn’t enough for a television show, there needs to be character chemistry. Riggs loves his wife, misses her, and wants to be with her again, but he still has a deep sense of duty. He lives to honor her memory. Murtaugh may be a good detective, we don’t see enough in the pilot to know, but we do see that he is well liked, by colleagues and his kids. He’s obviously a good father and loving husband. Murtaugh’s sense of love and compassion links him to Riggs. He may growl about his need to remain calm, but he cares about this wounded soul.
The supporting players are diverse but didn’t get much screen time in the pilot. Jordana Brewster of Fast and Furious plays the department shrink assigned to monitor the mental health of Martin Riggs. Johnathan Fernandez plays “Scorcese” the crime scene scientist. I’m sure we’ll see a bigger contribution from these characters moving forward. Tony Plana has an interesting role as Miranda’s father. This is something we never saw in the movies and I hope we see more of in the television series. Riggs can barely face his father in-law when they meet in his office. Again, it’s smart story chemistry. Riggs can’t escape his life until he actually does run out of life.
Lethal Weapon makes a number of great decision in its pilot. It doesn’t get so involved in a complicated crime or fancy police work. This story pounds on the stakes, in this case, a child is kidnapped to leverage the victim’s wife for drugs he stole for his boss. Riggs won’t kill himself until he’s saved the kid, something he couldn’t do for his own. Murtaugh won’t let Riggs face the baddies alone. There are shootouts, chases, fights, explosions, and the requisite barking police captain. This show delivers the entertainment you expect from the Lethal Weapon brand.
Season 1, Episode 1 (S01E01)
Lethal Weapon airs Wednesdays at 8PM on Fox
Eric lives in a world where the television is great, the smiles are warm, the pizza is hot, the puppies are playful, and the zombies are slow and meander while he reloads.
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Eric Rodriguez | Contributor