It’s Really Lethal Weapon 3, Got It!
Lethal Weapon may not be the show that we asked for, but it’s here, and for all the bitching and moaning from the usual bitchers and moaners, the show won’t cancel out your love for the films they’re based on. I won’t even go so far as to say “if you go in with an open mind” because basing a TV show on an existing franchise pretty much destroys any chance of that happening. What I will say is, if you go in expecting a mix of ALL the Lethal Weapon films, mixed with modern sensibilities, there’s a good amount of enjoyment to be had with the show.
In the opening scenes of FOX’s Lethal Weapon series, we see Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford) pursuing a suspect through the desert, while taking a call for his very pregnant wife. During said pursuit, bullets are flying, his partner is screaming, and the Riggs’ are treating it all like any other day. That is until Mrs. Riggs tells her husband that their baby boy is on the way right now. Riggs pulls over, snatches what can only be described as the .50 Cal from Call of Duty from the bed of his truck and shoots out the tires of the would be getaway drivers from over 800 yards away. A shot that only four shooters in the world could make. We know that thanks to expositional partner that we don’t get a name for. Then Mrs. Riggs and almost born Baby Riggs are t-boned by a freight truck on the way to the hospital. I believe this was roughly four minutes into the show.
It’s at that point that, literally the moment of impact, as a pregnant woman is rubbing her belly, while driving to the delivery room, that you realize Lethal Weapon isn’t going for subtlety. In showing us a brief glimpse of pre-suicidal Riggs life, we had to be run over by TV and drama tropes. It could have been by design, or just a casualty of being a procedural pilot episode, either way the tone was set. Slightly groan inducing, but effective nonetheless. Those moments gave credence to Riggs’ actions later.
The same could be said the Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) who’d been on sabbatical while recovering from a massive heart attack. Which he suffered in the delivery room of his newborn child. Man, the writers of this show hate newborn babies. Anyway, he’s no longer “6 days to retirement” but the central motivation to just make it through the day still presides. He’s got a newborn, and a new lease on life.
It’s when the two conflicting ideologies finally clash that Lethal Weapon works. We find out that Riggs isn’t so much suicidal as he’s mostly just given up. He can put his all into the job, because he knows that it will eventually kill him, and he just stopped caring enough to take any sort of precaution. That outlook actually gives him an advantage in a few cases. It’s his dealings with Murtaugh, a man with everything to live for that you see the seeds of slowly bringing him back from the brink.
If it feels like i’m focusing mostly on Riggs and not the duo, it’s because the show, in an odd mirror of the original film, does just that. We have to see what makes Riggs worth caring about. To his credit, Clayne Crawford truly does make the iconic character his own. It’s not so much the berzerk, spastic rage that had many of hoping Mel Gibson would one day play Wolverine in an X-Men film, it’s just a quiet, nonchalance to his own self preservation. At one point, toward the end of the episode, he delivers a line with so much pain and clarity that you almost just want to let him die so he can find some semblance of peace. It’s also in that moment that Murtaugh realizes he will never let that happen.
Lethal Weapon isn’t great. It’ll likely never be on any #PeakTV lists. The pilot episode plays on our nostalgia and the iconography of the source material. There’s no way they could nail what made the original so great, and it has more in common with the over the top antics of the last two movies as opposed the personal bonding of the first two. Although, having both characters find commonality through personal tragedy was a smart choice. I’m sure the action will tone down a bit going forward. There’s no way they could pull off that Grand Prix set piece weekly, but there is enough here to warrant continued viewings, and that’s all we could ask of any show. For now.