Well, you guys. We did it. As a collective audience we FINALLY sent the networks a loud and clear message: “WE WANT ANOTHER MEDIOCRE COP SHOW ON TV!!!!!!” And guess what? WE GOT IT. HUZZAH!
If you couldn’t tell I was being facetious above, I was. The TRAINING DAY TV series you never knew you wanted (because you didn’t want it) is here and it’s on CBS, so you know what that means: sudden and jarring spikes in volume randomly so that you have to hold the remote and constantly adjust for the entire time you’re watching. (Seriously, does this happen to anyone else? It’s not just me, right? RIGHT?!).
Here’s what happens in the first 30 seconds of the series premiere. There’s a terrible voice over as we see shots of a hazy Los Angeles, saying something that so desperately wants to sound cool but actually kind of made no sense. Then we are in the middle of a domestic dispute in an apartment, where our hero, Officer Kyle Craig (Justin Cornwell) and his partner break in to save the day. A crazy man has a child hostage while a wife and other children cry helplessly. Almost immediately a gas heater falls over and breaks, leaking gas everywhere. The crazy man fires his gun, igniting the air in the apartment on fire. Kyle grabs a baby and dives out a glass window with the baby to his chest, flames erupting out after him. Again, this is the first 30 seconds.
We then go into a flashback to when Kyle was a kid. His dad was also a cop. In his garden, he’s teaching Kyle a lesson about being a man; it’s not how tough you are, he says. Tearing stuff down is easy, but building it up, that’s hard. We need to try and leave the world a little better than we found it. And every other cliche you can think of a cop dad imparting to his child.
Back in present day, the news is casting Kyle as the “heroic cop who saved a baby.” We see Kyle has a pretty wife, who warns him, even though he just saved a baby from an explosion by jumping out a glass window, that he has a blind spot He’s chasing his father’s ghost. Kyle agrees, and says whoever killed his dad has a ten-year head start. Just then, Kyle gets a phone call from the Chief of Police to meet at City Hall, and to wear something presentable. I wonder what this is about!
When Kyle meets with the Chief, she discusses with him the “Alonzo Harris” scandal from fifteen years ago. The writers want you to remember that Alonzo Harris was the character from the original Training Day movie that Denzel Washington won the Best Actor Oscar for. I guess they also want you to remember that Denzel Washington, nor Ethan Hawke, have anything to do with this TV series. Anyway, the Chief tells him that after that scandal the murder rate in Los Angeles soared. Now she needs Kyle to go undercover and stop a rogue cop from becoming the next Alonso Harris. The scene is super rushed. Like, they’re even talking unnaturally fast for a TV show. And why did she choose Kyle to go undercover as a rookie trainee (thus “Training Day” get it guys?) when he is not all over the news as a hero cop? None of this really makes sense but, in the interest of getting this hour of television over with, OKAY!
We now meet Bill Paxton’s character Detective Frank Rourke. At the police station, he gets a kid to help him steal from the snack machine with his tiny little kid hands. The kid, named Alan, is bruised and beat up. Frank tells him instead of coming running to the cops he should take a look-out job with a gang. That’s when he reveals he’s a cop. He takes Alan under his wing, drives him home. “Get to school, it’s better you’re not here for this next part,” he tells the kid, then before the kid can even turn his head away from looking at him, Frank takes out the biggest gun I’ve ever seen in my life. He fashions a molotov cocktail and throws it in a house causing a huge explosion, and starts gunning down the guys that run out, clearly part of some drug operation. “This franchise is closed due to fire code violations,” he snarks. He takes a bag full of money as they scramble to get away.
Later the fire chief is asking him about how things went down (clearly he’s going to find that a freaking Molotov cocktail was thrown in the building) but Frank doesn’t seem to worry. He’s a corrupt cop. Nothing can touch him! He’s introduced then and there to his new trainee, Kyle Craig. They drive away from the scene together, with Kyle noting that somebody is in the trunk. “You’re gonna make a fine detective,” Frank snarks. “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” plays as the drive. SIGH.
And they’re off on their first mission together. They get caught between two feuding Mexican drug lords trying to kill one another off. Menjivar (aka Blow Torch Bob) just got released from prison. Enrique Rios had taken over while Menjivar was gone. Now that he’s free they are going to need to duke it out. These people also apparently have no fear or regard for American police or the repercussions of killing them, firing away at them in huge shootouts across the city. I live in this city and I’m pretty sure if any one of these single scenes happened anywhere around town it would be national news and I would stay indoors for a few years just to be safe.
The rest of the episode plays out as you’d predict. Frank and Kyle get caught between the two feuding sides, and Frank is able to outsmart everyone using his corrupt cop ways. It’s complete with cringe-worthy cliche hard-ass cop lines, such as “You’re not pushing a patrol car anymore, Dorothy,” and “You wanna chase monsters, you better become one yourself,” and “At the end of the day, somebody gets eaten.” Do better, writers.
But there are also some surprisingly original moments. But unfortunately, they come off like they are trying to compensate for the cliches and taking it a little too far. For instance, they introduce a baboon that hates Daft Punk. That’s not a metaphor or something, it is a literal baboon who goes all aggro when Daft Punk is playing. Late in the episode, Frank uses said baboon to intimidate a bad guy into giving them information. The thing screeches viciously in his face as “Get Lucky” blasts. Okay.
The saving grace of the entire episode is I kind of liked how it ended. It’s revealed that Frank knew Kyle’s father well (they were great friends) and knows a little more about the circumstances of his death than Kyle does, but just barely. Piecing things together, Kyle figures out his dad was trying to send a message with his last action (writing some letters and numbers down which Kyle believed to be a partial license plate, but turned out to be a Bible verse about a garden). In the garden we saw them tending in the flashback earlier this episode, Kyle digs up a box with a key in it. What is it to? We don’t know. Kyle and Frank now need each other to solve the mystery of a shared loved one’s death. Kyle needs Frank’s guidance. And Frank, as Kyle puts it, needs someone to hold the lantern for him as he goes darker and darker, or he’ll lose his way. Kyle tells his wife that helping Frank feels like what his father would wanted. “So what are you gonna do, rehabilitate this guy?” she asks. He looks to her. “I’m gonna train him.”
OOOOH, TWIST. Who is REALLY training WHO in Training Day? Okay, but really, it makes a little more sense this way for Kyle sticking with Frank and his crazy tactics, so I’m glad they added this little character motivation at the end. It’s the reason this went from a D to a C. Hopefully it will pick up with the forthcoming episodes.
Season 1, Episode 1 (S01E01)
Training Day airs Thursday at 10PM 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 Gulyas is a veteran TV reviewer whose methods of writing TV reviews are questionable, if not corrupt.
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Paul Gulyas | Contributor