Southland: The felix paradox

LAPD officers are trained to safeguard the lives and property of the people they serve. While most threats are external, the most dangers come from within.

The Felix Paradox, in short, is the name given to the effect(s) seen after a major police operation (a large drug bust, etc.) results in a rise in crime rate instead of an expected decrease in criminal activity. The name originated after California law enforcement busted drug kingpin Felix Mitchell.

Mitchell was huge in the drug world, raking in close to a million-dollars per week in drug sales alone. After Mitchell’s arrest, he was sentenced to life in prison and was sent to Leavenworth, where he was stabbed to death his first year there.

Mitchell’s funeral was covered by national news media who broadcasted images of the thousands of people lining the streets of Oakland, waiting for a glimpse of the horse-drawn carriage carrying the drug dealer’s body. The carriage was followed by a long, long line of Rolls Royce limo’s. It was a pretty elaborate affair for someone who could probably be credited for fueling the crack cocaine epidemic in the U.S.

It was shortly after Mitchell’s grand send-off that smaller drug dealers and gangs began the violent battles for control of the void Mitchell’s death left in the drug trade—the first Felix Paradox.

By the way, a criminal’s funeral is a great place to fish for wanted suspects who turn out to show their support for their fallen comrades in crime. And that’s exactly what we saw last night. Even Shaquille O’Neal, one of Coop’s old buddies from “back in the day” showed up, hoping to snag a wanted thug or two.

The real story last night, though, was the danger within the ranks. And there were plenty of landmines to duck and dodge.

I’ll start by mentioning Ben, whom we saw at the tail-end of a “sleepover” with girlfriend #2, the sister of the bad guy. Then, he has an argument with Brooke that resulted in their breakup. Brooke, however, doesn’t let him off the hook that easily. In fact, Brooke quickly let Ben know that she intends to inflict a great deal of physical harm to him should he choose to stick to his decision about a breakup. I believe the delicate little flower’s lady-like words were something to effect of, “I’ll f*** you up.”

But Ben’s troubles go far deeper than girlfriend woes and a craving for a little side dish of danger to whet his sexual appetite. He’s worried that Sammy’s good-guy conscious will cause him to lose his job as a cop if IA investigators discover he lied to protect Sammy. Well, coming clean about a lie would certainly be easier to stomach than what he did last night, which was nothing short of criminal conspiracy…an honest-to-goodness felony of whopping proportions. Not only could this cause the loss of his job, it could also earn him his own private room at the state penitentiary. I also fear that we’ve seen the beginnings of Ben McKenzie’s exit from the show. I saw several walls last night and there was handwriting on more than one of the surfaces.

Sammy, on the other hand, is miserable. He’s in the clear with IA and it looks as if his custody battle has been won. However, he’s a basically a good guy and he’s basically a good cop, and he’s having a difficult time with the fact that he told a lie to the IA investigators. And, I believe the only thing preventing him from coming clean is that Ben’s involved and Sammy doesn’t want to betray his friend and fellow police officer. I wonder how this will all play out in the next two episodes. I’m betting that Sammy spills the beans, paving the way for McKenzie to devote his time to the new show. Of course, at least half of the cast seems to have other offers on the table, so I’m figuring we’ll see a few more paths paved, and soon.

Shawn Hatosy’s nose-to-nose scene where he backs down two-ton Strokeface was priceless. It also shows exactly what officers face on a daily basis. More often than not, police officers are outnumbered, and they often face insurmountable odds. Crooks are heavily armed these days and they’re not afraid to shoot a cop. Therefore, exhibiting a command presence is often the best means of talking your way out of a sticky situation. Sometimes, just showing that you mean business is enough, and Sammy certainly showed Strokeface who had the larger set of…well, you know what I mean.

I did see one problem with Sammy’s confrontation with Strokeface. And it was one that could definitely cost an officer his life. Sammy had Strokeface turn toward the police car and place his hands behind his back. Well, Sammy searched Strokeface before cuffing him. This was a bad move for a couple of reasons. One, when Sammy leaned over to check the pants leg he was off balance and unable to watch the suspect’s upper body. Also, just the sheer size of that guy should make the arresting officer want to get the cuffs on as quickly as possible, especially since Sammy and Ben were outnumbered. So, cuff first, then pat down. We saw Cooper do this correctly later in the show.

Oh, the discovery of the drugs and gun’s in the little girl’s house…it was indeed a legal entry. They had no idea if something had happened to her parents or guardian, since they’d found her wandering the streets alone. So to enter the home looking for adults and the possibility that someone had been injured, sick, or worse, would be considered exigent circumstances…an emergency. Sure, once they discovered the stash they should back out and obtain the proper paperwork (search warrant, etc.). The entry, though, was definitely legal.

– Lydia and Ruben work the murder of the sergeant’s son. This is a tough pill to swallow for any cop. Without going into detail, I’ll say that I once had the unpleasant job of telling a fellow officer about the suicide attempt of his wife. And, I was nearby when she pulled the trigger of her husband’s service weapon, close enough, in fact, to hear the gunshot. Thanks to the speedy response of EMS and some pretty quick first aid until they arrived, she didn’t die that time. Sadly, after two or three more attempts she finally succeeded.

Anyway, working a case involving someone you know personally can be pretty darn emotional. We saw that last night with Lydia and Ruben, when words were said that were probably best left unsaid. But things happen. Cops are human and they have human emotions that shouldn’t be kept bottled up. Unfortunately, many officers do conceal their feelings until they sometimes boil over. But, cops are a tough breed, and they understand what their peers are going through. Hurt feelings don’t usually last too long in a cop’s world. However, I can’t help thinking about the level of animosity that will develop between Ben and Sammy. Theirs is nothing like the little tiff between Lydia and Ruben.

You know, Lydia’s a bulldog. She keeps digging until she works out all the angles, and she always seems to make us feel as if she’s doing the right thing, even when it’s not.

– The scene where Coop and crew team up with ATF to raid a drug dealer’s house was pretty darn realistic, from the yelling of, “Police, search warrant!” to the break and rake technique of shattering windows and clearing away glass to provide both a distraction from the team’s true point of entry, and to allow outside officers to cover any suspects in the various rooms of the house.

I don’t think I could come up with an accurate count of the number of search warrants I’ve served over the years. What I do know is that each one is different and officers never know what to expect on the other side of the door. It’s extremely dangerous, and it’s certainly not a job for the faint of heart. This was a great scene that really took me back to “the day.”

Earlier I mentioned Cooper properly handcuffing and searching a suspect. This occurred as he and Hank caught up to a wanted suspect at the cemetery. The two officers approached strategically, followed by Cooper ordering the man to his knees. The man obeyed the command and placed his hands behind his head, interlocking his fingers. Coop was right, the guy knew the drill.

Cooper approached the man while Hank covered him. Cooper used one hand to grasp the man’s interlocked fingers. He used the other to retrieve his handcuffs and applied one cuff to the left wrist. Copper then brought that hand down to the small of the thug’s back. At the same time he used his other hand to bring down the crook’s other hand where he clicked the other cuff in place. THEN, after the bad guy was secure, Coop went about the task of patting the man down, checking for weapons.

So where are we headed on this journey with LA’s finest TV cops? Have we seen the beginning of the end? It sure looks as if the process of dotting the i’s and the crossing of t’s is in full swing.

Ben has evolved into someone who’s no better than some of the scum he’s arresting. Sammy’s on the edge of ending his career by coming clean about the lies he told IA investigators. He’s also coming unglued at the seems, thanks to Ben orchestrating a B&E at Sammy’s house. An incident that resulted in a serious assault on Nate’s babysitter.

Lydia meets her old partner in a restaurant. A partner in more ways than one, I believe. This scene had a Soprano’s feel to it, like we were about to witness a permanent fade to black.

Hank is a lonely man who lives with his family, only in his mind. The reality is, he’s a very lonely loner, like many cops who are almost ready for that drive down the long dirt road that ends with the kiss of a gun barrel.

Cooper. What can I say here other than he’s a survivor who wants to leave this world better than it was when he arrived. And I don’t doubt that he will. Not for a minute. He’s a take charge guy who knows the ropes so well that the entire squad depends on him. They also look up to him as a role model. They see in him the cop they’d like to be. So, if the show makes it to a 6th season, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Cooper sporting another stripe. That would certainly be the way someone like him should enter retirement.

One thing I really appreciate about all the actors on this show is how well they carry themselves. It can be pretty easy to lose track, even if it’s just for a moment, that Coop and crew are actors, not police officers. They each wear the gun, badge, and uniform like they’ve been doing this sort of thing all there lives. They actually walk the walk and talk the talk.

Again, these actors are stellar, and I truly appreciate the hard work they put into bringing the lives of police officers into living rooms all over the world. This is how it’s done, folks.

One last thing…I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with a few of the Southland actors over the years, and it always amazes me to hear how much they adore their fans. And the spark and excitement I saw and heard during the first season is still there today. They’re a great group of extremely talented people, from the show’s creator on down.

Anyway, let’s end the week with a statement from the Southland sergeant. It’s quite appropriate for this day and time, with all the troubles facing today’s law enforcement officers.

“Being a cop doesn’t keep you immune from the s*** of the this world.”

Amen, brother…

  1. Jeff Dunning
    Jeff Dunning says:

    Thank God this show came along, I was having withdrawal symptoms from the ending of “The killing” and “The Wire”. I focus so when on, I forget where I am.

  2. yupac
    yupac says:

    How about that white rapper, Lil Nuts? He was way cool…and funny. Why does this show introduce so many really interesting characters that never show up again? Don’t these cops ever see the same people twice?

  3. Geoff Lin
    Geoff Lin says:

    I appreciate the fact that many of the extras are off-duty police officers.

    For the show, I think Ben is slow moving disaster in the make. In Season 4, he’s decided on what kind of cop he is going to be. One who thinks that ends justify the means. Bad times, are brewing.

  4. Tim
    Tim says:

    There is a long bloodline of police in my family. This is the best behind the scenes police drama since Hill St blues portrayal of cops and their personal lives. I have read this show averages about 2 million viewers a week. It has terrific acting as you say you almost believe these actors are real cops. it would be a crime if it is cancelled. Whoever decides to drop this show at TNT showed be fired.

  5. Jerzygirl45
    Jerzygirl45 says:

    This is my first time here. I really appreciated a review from someone’s who’s actually gone through the same kind of situations. It gives me a new respect for police officers, which sadly, seems to be in short supply these days.

    Take care.

  6. Julie Dolcemaschio (@AuthorJulieD)
    Julie Dolcemaschio (@AuthorJulieD) says:

    This: Oh, the discovery of the drugs and gun’s in the little girl’s house…it was indeed a legal entry.

    I thought as much. Also, the character of John Cooper is one of the best I’ve seen on TV in a very long time. Michael plays the character with such integrity. I would hate to see the show end, and I would miss him in particular. Watching him last night as he decided to settle for NOT being alone anymore was rich and heartbreaking. I really had some mixed emotions about that scene, because you know he will never truly be happy.

    Anyway, always great to have your take, Lee.

    J

  7. Gotaway
    Gotaway says:

    It’s a show about people who happen to be cops. I knew a gay cop. He was white and was as muscular as Coop. He use to joke with me that if he had to do it over, He rather be a florist. He averaged an IA complaint almost every year,He was always arresting somebody. I see him making an arrest while I was going home,working and that comment he made was when I was on my way to court. This is great TV, up there with The Wire. HBO,Showtime or Fox should snatch this show up since they air The Following. It’s gritty, painful and hurtful to people who know anything how foolish cops can be. I know because I framed someone. It’s become way better than Thirdwatch ever was. The characters suffer consequences for crossing the line like real life.

  8. Sunnie
    Sunnie says:

    Great review, I love this show, it is my all time favorite. I grew up wanting to be a cop, I was involved in several police/youth programs in high school. I also served in the Army Reserves for 8 years, until I got ms. Do you do an email sign up, Id really like to read this more?

  9. Melanie Atkins
    Melanie Atkins says:

    I hate to see this show end. This was another great episode and your recap made it come alive for me again. I’m scared for Ben. Can’t wait to see what happens next time.

    Hope you’re able to see better today.

  10. Rob
    Rob says:

    When Dewey asks the undercover Mexican Narco Det. to stop by his house on the way home and mow the lawn I laughed. When the Det. shot back “I was there this morning trimming your wife’s bush” I roared. When the handcuffed suspect laughed and the Det. smacked him in tbe head, I fell of my chair.

    I truly love this show, but it is developing the “Third Watch Syndrome” wherein every character is in a crisis mode at the same time. The home invasion by Sammy’s g/f’s hermano was weak. A gangbanger home invader took a kid’s piggy bank and a camcorder and left 2 shotguns in the hall closet??

    I unfortunately suspect that this show is winding down. The location shooting is expensive and the cast is big. If it’s going to end, I hope it ends strong and honestly.

  11. 1015 Adam Henry
    1015 Adam Henry says:

    Brilliant cameo by Shaq. For me, that made the episode. Another element of the show that I enjoy is the trash talking among colleagues. That’s reality.