Lethal Weapon First Impressions
“IA confiscated my weapon until I’m cleared from the bank, so if we want to kill somebody, it’s on you big guy.”
I find myself in the awkward position of liking this pilot. Personally, I’ve got to admit I wouldn’t have called this. I didn’t think the trailers for this show were all that promising, and having McG tied to the production can easily swing either way. Conversely, until earlier this week I had only watched fragments of various Lethal Weapon movies on TV, so I can’t say I had a strong connection to the franchise. Having now watched the first film in its entirety, I can safely say not only do I think the decision to develop this series makes a bit of sense, but I’d be willing to say I think the film is a bit overrated. I mean it isn’t bad, but was this show really worth the outrage?
Now don’t mistake my enjoyment of this first episode as some form of overwhelming praise. It’s okay. The comedy mostly worked for me, and the mystery, while moderately predictable, at least had me engaged. There are still some elements that fall flat though. The initial tragedy the drives Riggs to the brink might have been better left unseen. It is shown in the first few minutes, but it feels a bit on the nose to have his pregnant wife die on the way to the hospital. From an emotional standpoint, it almost works, but there is always the voice in the back of my head going “This is a little too contrived.” Fortunately, once the pilot gets properly underway, it seems to find its footing. I had heard the concern that, outside of an R-rating, it might not be possible to handle Rigg’s suicidal tendencies properly, but I actually feel the show handles that aspect quite well. If anything I think the show might handle it slightly better than the original film, but I think that element will largely come down to personal preference. If anyone is curious as to my thoughts regarding the original Lethal Weapon film, I’ll be covering it during this week’s TV & Movies Podcast (I will place the link here once it goes up).
I was initially uncertain about the casting, but, as I have already implied, I feel Clayne Crawford does a decent job as Martin Riggs. The approach that the show takes is to have the character less directly suicidal and instead make him more flippant towards the idea of death. The reasoning behind this decision works for me, and in some ways this feels more natural for the character that they establish. I was initially skeptical of the casting of Damon Wayans Sr. as Roger Murtaugh, in part because he gives off a sense of youth, even though he is not only older than his character, but also older than Danny Glover was in Lethal Weapon 4! Seriously, I mean this as a compliment; he is carrying his age really well. The same goes for Keesha Sharp who plays his wife. I didn’t believe either of them were playing close to their age until I looked it up. The show in comes up with a creative counter for Wayans’s sense energy and vigor by making it so that Murtaugh is recovering from a heart attack. It is a nice character flourish that I appreciate, as it informs his more measured and cautious approach (Well, cautious when compared to Riggs).
On the production side of things, it is a little more of a mixed bag. McG directed the pilot, and he actually makes sense on some levels because his style of direction has an 80’s action movie quality to it. There are some scenes that come off as too silly for the show’s own good, specifically a chase scene that, via bizarre editing, somehow works its way into the Grand Prix. It is made all the more bizarre due to the fact that the inclusion of Formula-1 race cars adds absolutely nothing to the mix. I mean this in a literal sense. The chase scene could have played out in exactly the same manner without involving a racetrack. The editing, as reference before, does leave something to be desired, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it terrible. All in all, this is a fun, if moderately simplistic, pilot, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be tuning in for at least a few more episodes.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- Jordana Brewster has a recurring role as a psychologist, Dr. Cahill, though she only appears briefly in this first episode. She is best known for her role in the Fast & Furious movies, though she also had a recurring role in the McG produced series Chuck as Jill Roberts.
- The police chief, Murtaugh’s former partner, is played by Kevin Rahm who previously appeared in Mad Men, Desperate Housewives and Nightcrawler.
- I should add that I haven’t seen the second Lethal Weapon film. I understand it has a decent reception and may potentially be considered better than the first film, but I simply haven’t gotten to it yet.
- I do like the song “Youth” that shows up in this episode, although it’s only used briefly towards the conclusion.
While not an exceptional or groundbreaking piece of television, Lethal Weapon provides a fun diversion that makes good use of its leads and evokes some good chemistry from the duo.