Cops are trained to stay in control, but sometimes even heroes feel helpless.
Sure, they’ve been punched, cut, stabbed, slapped, punched again, spit-on, kicked, bitten, and shot at. But they’re survivors. It’s what police officers are taught to do, and they always come out on top, and they always save the day…well, almost always.
Unfortunately, there are times when a cop’s best just isn’t good enough, and people suffer, or die. Sometimes luck doesn’t come their way. And all the training and experience in the world can’t stop the daily chipping-away of the heart and soul that comes with the job.
Cops know they’ve saved dozens in the course of their lifetimes. But it’s the ones they couldn’t protect…those are ones that stand out the most. They crush the spirit, and they eat away at emotions. And not being able to save everyone is a gut-wrenching feeling of helplessness that’s like no other in this world. Yes, even heroes feel helpless at times. But they hold it inside, maintaining control. Because that’s what cops do.
Like yesterday, when the two-year-old child in Bryan County, Ga. who wandered outside and was brutally mauled and killed by seven pit bulls. An adult at the house fell asleep and was unaware of the situation until it was too late. That’s a scene that the responding officers will forever have etched in their minds. And it will chip away at the shell surrounding their hearts. I know how they felt when they arrived at the scene, because I’ve witnessed similar incidents. Even though there was no way possible of predicting what was to happen, they’ll feel helpless because they weren’t able to save the toddler.
Maybe the motto should read, “To feel absolutely helpless when not fully able to protect and serve.”
After watching last night’s episode, I posted a comment on Facebook that read, “John Cooper wears the weight of the world like a finely tailored suit.” I made the comment because Cooper is stretched nearly to the point of breaking. In fact, most people would have snapped long before now if faced with the challenges and hurdles Cooper encounters as part of his daily routine.
Think about it. How would most people cope with being a mostly-closeted gay man working in a mostly anti-gay job, who’s surrounded by daily death and destruction, and the worst people life has to offer. His dying father despises him so much that he’d raped and killed Cooper’s girlfriend. And Coop’s mentor and friend is suicidal, suffering from relentless loneliness. All this while having to protect and save the world. And Coop does it without exposing the cracks in his armor. Yes, I’d say John Cooper does indeed wear the weight of the world, and he does it quite nicely.
The man who breathes life into John Cooper is Michael Cudlitz, an actor who delivered one of his best performances last night. The scenes with his former TO, Hicks, played by Gerald McRaney (Simon and Simon, Major Dad, and currently the Chicago police captain on Mike And Molly), were absolutely stellar.
Hicks is drowning, and he’s going down fast. His airways are filled with sorrow and loneliness. He’s suffocating with each shallow breath. He’s a retired, widower cop who misses the job and his wife. He feels that his purpose in life has passed, a sentiment shared by many retired and former police officers. Unfortunately, to cope with life-after-cop disease, Hicks has, like many others, turned to alcohol to dull the pain. However, being the handy-dandy depressant that it is, booze has only served to enhance the effects of his rapid journey to the bottom. Cooper takes a stand and vows to save his friend from self-destruction, reinforcing his determination by saying to his old friend, “You are not going out like this, old man. I’m not letting you…I’m not letting you.”
Hicks wasn’t the only burning hurdle he had to clear last night. His sexual preferences are slowly being introduced. His dying father has only words of hatred for Coop, the last words he’ll have to remember his father saying. Although, Coop leaned over to whisper a few words of his own into his father’s ear. Were those words of hate, or did he tell his father that he loved him in spite of his evil? Only Coop knows.
Cooper, still in “save the world mode,” listened as Dewey’s cop-daughter, RayAnn, told the story of how Dewey had once gotten drunk and beat her mother. RayAnn vowed to be a better cop than Dewey could ever be. Perhaps, it is John Cooper she plans to mirror.
And then there was the little boy who was in danger of electrocution. Somehow he’d gotten stuck in a large pool of water that had filled a section of a city street. A downed electrical line made rescue impossible. The child was safe from electrocution as long as he remained standing on a plastic toy (plastic doesn’t conduct electricity. water does). First, Cooper saves the boy’s mother by stopping her from rushing into the water. Next, Coop drives his patrol car into the water and rescues the child.
Well, this is technically possible, as long as the electrically-charged water is at a depth that doesn’t contact any metal car parts. Once it does, the car immediately becomes a conductor of the electricity. That would mean the water could not be at a depth that would touch the metal wheel parts (only the rubber tires could be touching the water). As we saw last night, though, Cooper’s patrol car wound up in water that was definitely in contact with metal parts. Therefore had he or the child touched any part of the car that was made from metal, which they did, they’d have been instantly shocked and/or quite possibly, killed.
Still, this a was scene that showed Cooper once again putting his own safety at risk in order to save someone. But, please don’t try this should you ever face a similar situation. The results are rarely successful.
Ben and Sammy. Now there’s a partnership that shouldn’t be. They’re each dueling with private demons, and their personal lives have begun to affect their police work. They’re both fine officers, when apart. It’s when they’re together that attracts the dark clouds that seem to like the spot above their collective heads. And, when they’re apart, the ominous clouds divide like an amoeba, forming separate trouble-filled cells above each of the two cops.
Ben seems to thrive best when living on the edge. He likes the dark side. He craves action and excitement, and being with a gangbanger’s sister is just what the voodoo doctor ordered. Yes, he loves the bad girls and all the drama that comes with them.
I’ve heard numerous comments over the years that Ben McKenzie is much too “pretty” to play the part of a bad-ass cop. Well, his performance last night should erase those thoughts from the minds of any Doubting Thomas’. The scene where he stood up to his girlfriend’s brother was absolutely fantastic. His nose-to-nose stance combined with a very believable “I’m going kick your a** if you so much as blink” posturing was also on the money. That’s how it’s done in the street, folks. I’m thinking Ben McKenzie has exchanged a punch or two in his day. If not, it was only because his menacing nostril-flaring caused his opponents to back down. Command presence definitely works in more than one kind of situation. Great bit of acting, Ben.
Sammy has changed, and he’s done so with us watching. His love for his kid, Nate, and the rejection he still feels when Tammi left him, are slowly eating away at his core. He’s eroding from the inside out. Still, somewhere in that pot of roiling emotions, he knows the difference between right and wrong. And he prefers to be on the side of “right.” But he’s dug a hole and doesn’t know how to climb out. However, he, like Cooper, has a few flaming hurdles to overcome, such as his lie about the camera to the IA investigators. He wants to come clean, but Ben encourages him to let it go and live with the lie. Sammy, on the other hand, is basically a good cop who merely wants to right a wrong. Doing so, however, could cost both he and Ben their careers.
Sometimes I wonder if Sammy clings to Nate (his son) because he’s a reminder of his old partner and friend, and that being close to the boy eases the pain of Tammi leaving him. I’m not so sure he’s over Tammi, but one thing’s for sure, he feels rejected and a bit less of a man because he couldn’t hang on to her.
Shawn Hatosy has made Sammy what he is—a strong character with many layers. Sammy is a guy you’d want as a friend. He’d be there for you, always. He’d be a great family man. He’d be a fantastic cop. It’s his compassion that makes him do the goofy things he does. I’m convinced that Hatosy brings his real-life emotions to the set, and that’s why he is so darn convincing in this role. His sense of humor is evident when he spouts off lines such as this one from last night. “A bulletproof vest wears Chuck Norris for protection.” I sensed that the real life guy (Shawn) thought the line was funny, and that’s why the chuckle we heard seemed genuine.
Hatosy’s interactions with his fans on Twitter and Facebook, make them feel as if they’re part of the Southland/Hatosy family. He makes people feel as if they’re chatting with the off-duty Sammy who’s hanging out with friends until it’s time to put on the gun belt and badge. Cudlitz is the same. Actually, most of the cast interacts with their fans, even C. Thomas Howell (Dewey). And that’s a big part of the show. Actually, I could see this turning into a cult-like following.
Lydia and Ruben certainly make a great detective team. They feed off one another well, and they’re just different enough to bring a varying perspective to each case they receive. A great pairing like this one goes a long way toward solving cases. If partners are too much alike they could develop a severe case of tunnel-vision, which, all to often, can lead to nowhere.
Lydia seemed like she had all the wind back in her sails this week. Sharing “baby time” with Terrell was a much-needed break for her, and the time apart definitely recharged her rapidly-dying batteries.
Lydia reminds me of me in many ways. I, too, was the detective who’d take the time to lift the corner of a sleeping homeless person’s blanket to examine his shoes. Yes, if there was a haystack and someone told me there was needle in there somewhere, well, I was going to dismantle the thing one straw at a time until I found it. I wasn’t a big fan of paperwork and would eagerly pass it on to someone else who was willing to handle that end while I did the legwork. Lydia seems to like the legwork as well, while Ruben appears to prefer dotting I’s and crossing T’s over trekking through the woods searching for bullet casings.
After witnessing the results of Regina King’s directing abilities, I have to admit, I now see her differently. Well, perhaps differently is not the proper term, because her camera work in the episode she directed was a true reflection of how she portrays Lydia Adams. She’s meticulous and driven toward perfection. We all know the budget for Southland is pretty low, especially for a show of this magnitude and quality, but King took it to another level by using her instinct and drive, and that’s what I see in the Lydia King character—fantastic instinct and unwavering drive. And that’s a reflection of Regina King.
Finally, I’m sure you’ve all noticed that this review is a bit different than my normal fact-checking mission about the police procedure on the show. And I fault the actors, writers, producers, directors, and crew for my deviating from the norm. You see, they all do so many things right that it’s nearly impossible to find something wrong to point out.
Southland is a remarkable team of dedicated people who come together to deliver their best each and every week. And, finally, they were officially recognized by receiving a Peabody Award, an award presented only to the best of the best.