Cops are often asked if they believe they’re doing God’s work. Officer Ben Sherman is just trying to do the job without losing his soul.
All cops burn out. That was the message delivered in the pre-shift briefing, or “muster” as it’s called in some departments. But, no matter what you call the meeting, the message remains the same. It’s a tough job that can wear you down. Down to the core if you’re not careful. All that built-up tension and stress has to go somewhere. After all, you shake the soda bottle, and you shake it, and you shake it, and then when the top finally pops off…well, we all know happens. And it’s a mess.
Speaking of a real mess. Ben Sherman reached that rookie fork-in-the-road and definitely went in the wrong direction, taking a left when the scarecrow pointed right. And Ben’s unfortunate choice has led him down a very lonely and dangerous road called “I can save the world all by myself.” Had he chosen, instead, to go right as the dimwitted talking mattress had suggested, by now Officer Sherman would have been a well-adjusted and productive police officer who still shines his shoes and polishes his badge daily, much to the delight of his superiors.
Instead, we see a rookie who’s speeding down the road to unemployment, and possibly wearing handcuffs. His shoes are scuffed and the sheen is fading from his badge. It happens. Officers often find themselves standing at the fork in the road, forcing them to make a decision between left and right. But all they have to do is listen to the scarecrow inside their head. He always knows the right way. Never buck the scarecrow.
This week, actually, we see each of our teams—partners—facing that fork in the road, with each of them up against different, potentially badge-dulling decisions.
Cooper’s guts are churning over the issue with Tang. She covered up something that really needed no cover. He can no longer trust her. But the worst part of it all is that he hasn’t come forward with the truth, and that’s what wearing the badge is all about. That’s really what’s eating at John Cooper. It’s his own integrity he’s questioning, not hers. He already knows what she’s all about.
Using a lie—almost killing an innocent person and then covering up the act—to advance your career. Yeah, that’s disgusting.
Cooper is later seen with his sponsor, who asks him, “Still thinking about it (the drugs and his addiction)?”
Cooper responds, “Every minute of every day.”
Cooper asks, “Ever get over that?”
Sponsor. “No, but it gets easier.”
How true. Drug addiction is not like a cold. You don’t get well after you fight off the sickness, you just don’t use drugs. But you’ll always want to.
Michael Cudlitz does a wonderful job of playing the troubled John Cooper. If I didn’t know better I’d think he’s really a reincarnated drug-addicted veteran cop. There are parallels between his character and some real life cops that are, well, they’re simply uncanny.
Lydia and Ruben catch a case where a pregnant nanny fell to her death from an upper tier in a parking garage. The case was unusually weak for this series, with no real closure for the viewers. But the scenes weren’t about the case. Instead, it was yet another incident designed to further the storyline regarding Adams’ pregnancy. And we did learn the father’s name this week, Terrell, and that Papa “T” is a married man.
I still say this particular storyline is a slight hurdle for the show. It slows the episode to an almost standstill every time we see it. Yes, I know that female officers do get pregnant and they do have to work around the pregnancy while continuing their careers. But that’s in real life, why insert that into what’s always been an extremely action-packed TV series. Still, Regina King is a fantastic actor who does a great job with what she’s given. Don’t get me wrong, the writing is solid. Excellent, even. I’m just not a fan of the direction they’ve given Lydia to travel. Any other show, yes. But not for Southland. However, some viewers may love these scenes and what they bring to the show.
Tell you what, though, I have a perfect scene in mind for Lydia. Cheo, you listening??
Sammy and Ben – Ben’s traveling down the “save the world” path and he’s dragging Sammy along with him. However, Sammy’s only there to pick up pieces and clean up the mess Ben’s leaving in his wake. In fact, Ben’s on such a destructive path (beating up/assaulting a pimp, punching a teenage girl, sleeping with every badge bunny with a pulse, etc.) that Sammy’s forced to give him the “I’ll pull you to safety but stop kicking while I swim,” speech.
During Sammy’s speech, he pointed out the things an officer stands to lose by not following the rules and living up to the standards that go hand in hand with wearing a badge. He said, “I’ll back you up punch for punch, bullet for bullet. But I’m not going to give you my house. I’m not going to give you my pension. And I’m not going to give you my freedom. Don’t ever do anything like that again.” So you see, police officers have a lot more to lose than just a job when they break the rules. One wrong move and they could lose everything.
And let’s not forget the stellar performance by Ben McKenzie. He’s truly bringing us a very complex character and he’s delivering him to us in large servings. Great, great job.
Compelling moments during this episode:
– The woman/rape victim realizing she’d shot a man who was simply trying to give her the set of keys she’d dropped. He was not stalking her.
– The teenage girl forced to work as a prostitute to survive.
– Tang using her “shooting gone wrong” to impress the panel during her promotion-to-sergeant interview.
– Sammy facial expressions. No words could have better described what he said to Ben with that face.
– Dewey’s comment to Tang – “If you can live with it (the shooting and the lies) nobody can stop you.”
– Cooper looking on during Tang’s sergeant interview.
– Sammy and Ben searching the vacant house. They both took a glance down before climbing the stairs. No tripping. No noise. Never give away your position.
– Sammy’s favorite line, repeated by Ben, “Who wants to go to jail; who wants to go home? We’ve all said that at least a thousand times, and it usually produces excellent results. There’s always someone who’d rather give up the goods than to go to jail.
Southland is definitely a character-driven show. I think you could hand this cast a handful of furniture store going-out-of-business-sale flyers, telling them that’s the script for the next episode, and they’d turn those few silly words into a gripping, compelling story that would keep us all coming back for more.
I’ll say it again, this is the best, most realistic cop show to ever hit the TV screen.
* * *
Registration for the 2012 Writers’ Police Academy has officially begun.
Space is limited to the first 150 people to sign up.
You don’t want to miss this action-packed weekend. Besides, where else could you go to play cops and robbers with Lee Child!