Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 1, 2017)
Nearly 30 years after the first movie became a hit, Lethal Weapon returned via a Fox TV series. Aired in 2016-17, all 18 Season One episodes of Lethal Weapon come to us on this three-disc Blu-ray set. The plot synopses stem from the package’s liner notes.
Pilot: “Ex-Navy Seal Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford) is paired up with by-the-book LAPD detective Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) in a partnership that could be lethal.”
After so much time, we completely identify Riggs and Murtaugh with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, a fact that makes it tough to immediately accept Crawford and Wayans in the parts. I’m sure they’ll make the characters their own eventually, but I’ll need a while to make that shift.
Taken as the expository episode it is, “Pilot” provides a more than serviceable experience. It sets up the characters in a positive manner and shows room for growth. That’s good enough for right now.
Surf N Turf: “When Riggs and Murtaugh respond to a noise complaint, they are drawn into a major case involving illegal gunrunners and advanced military technology that involves Riggs personally.”
After the expository nature of the pilot, “Turf” brings the series to life in exciting fashion. It demonstrates major growth over the first episode and boasts a lot of action and entertainment. If the rest of Season One can be half as good as the excellent “Turf”, this will be a successful year.
Best Buds: “Riggs and Murtaugh follow a violent case involving a drug cartel, theft, two killings and Murtaugh’s old training officer, leaving Murtaugh with a difficult decision.”
I intended to criticize the choice of Wayans as near-retirement Roger, for I felt sure the actor was far too young to pull off the part. Clearly the series needs someone old and droopy like Danny Glover circa 1987, right?
Then I looked up the actors’ ages. Glover was 40 when he shot the first Lethal Weapon, whereas Wayans was 56 at the start of the series’ first season. So much for that potential complaint, as I can’t gripe because Wayans has aged exceedingly well.
Casting questions aside, “Buds” continues to season on a positive note. It doesn’t quite match up with the highs of “Turf”, but it cranks along well and adds to the characters’ development as well. Add in a guest spot from the reliable Ted Levine and we get another solid show.
There Goes the Neighborhood: “A string of neighborhood burglaries hits close to home for Murtaugh and gets personal for Riggs when another break-in ends in a casualty.”
As a story, “Neighborhood” lacks a lot of bite, but the series still develops it in a fairly positive way. While it’s probably the weakest episode so far, it still comes with enough verve and entertainment value to make it a positive show.
Spilt Milk: “When Murtaugh digs deep into the psyche of a Navy SEAL wanted for criminal activity, Riggs’ connection to the suspect threatens to interfere with the case.”
“Milk” enjoys a neat twist with the presence of a “mirror Riggs”. That side of the show leads to a real challenge for our heroes and some exciting material.
Ties That Bind: “When Riggs and Murtaugh investigate the high-profile murder of a young model, they uncover a secret behind one of LA’s wealthiest families – which may have ties to Miranda Riggs (Keesha Sharp).”
The members of the notable LA family offer an easy target and lead to some predictable aspects of “Bind”. A few scenes perk up matters, but this tends to be a less than stellar episode – even an attempt to turn the show into Eyes Wide Shut falls flat.
Fashion Police: “As Riggs and Murtaugh examine the murder of one of LA’s fashion expediters, they follow a trail of evidence that leads them to a dangerous underground DEA investigation.”
Boy – Riggs and the sexy DEA agent sure seem to hate either! You don’t suppose they’ll fall into romance, do you?
As trite as their prospective hook-up may be, their connection adds some spark to the episode. Other aspects lean a little less exciting, but the show comes with enough entertainment to make it a reasonable bounce back after the disappointing “Bind”.
Can I Get a Witness?: “When a casino heist takes a deadly turn, Riggs looks after the only credible witness, an eight-year-old boy (Teo Briones). Meanwhile, Murtaugh pulls some dangerous stunts on a motorcycle.”
The introduction of a precocious youngster threatens to harpoon Lethal Weapon via a heavy dose of cuteness. It doesn’t ruin the episode, but it creates a treacly vibe that doesn’t work for me. Other aspects fare better, but the show doesn’t excel.
Jingle Bell Glock: “The holiday season weighs heavily on Riggs, who flashes back to Christmases with his late wife Miranda (Floriana Lima).”
Though we’ve seen Miranda in minor spurts, “Glock” allows us to get a better feel for the character, and that works well, as the series benefits from her presence. “Glock” throws out some of the usual laughs, but it manages a greater dramatic impact than usual, and that allows it to become a strong show.
Homebodies: “After investigating the murder of a ‘designer drug’ dealer, Riggs and Murtaugh find themselves in a violent turf war between the new generation of dealers and a Koreatown gang.”
After the highs of “Glock”, “Homebodies” doesn’t work as well, but it comes with some good elements. In particular, the inclusion of a “third wheel” in the Riggs/Murtaugh relationship creates a fun dynamic. The main storyline wobbles, but we get enough positive material to make this a largely enjoyable program.
Lawmen: “Riggs and Murtaugh go up against one of their own when the killing of a Texas Ranger leads them to a possible corruption case that is complicated by a dark secret from Avery’s (Kevin Rahm) past.”
That last side of things allows for a supporting character to expand his horizons, and that adds a little spark to the proceedings. Unfortunately, “Lawmen” feels stale too much of the time, so even with the extra exposition about Avery, this winds up as a flat show.
Brotherly Love: “Murtaugh experiences chest pains even after he and Riggs become embroiled in a notorious car theft ring case – and the lead attorney is none other than Trish Murtaugh.”
While the notion of Riggs/Murtaugh vs. Trish seems enticing, it doesn’t work out very well. “Love” plays the theme for too many easy moves, and these leave this as a less than effective show.
The Seal Is Broken: “When investigating a series of violent crimes connected to a church, Riggs faces a moral dilemma when the one-year anniversary of Miranda’s death plunges him to a new low.”
That theme could make “Seal” an episode baked in cheap sentiment, but the main criminal investigation adds spice. Indeed, “Seal” takes on a Se7en vibe that gives it an unusually edgy feel and makes it a nice bounceback after the lackluster “Love”.
The Murtaugh File: “A brutal car crash reveals that Cahill (Jordana Brewster) is the target of a murderous stalker, causing Riggs and Murtaugh to turn the tables and start asking her questions for a change.”
Semi-underutilized, Dr. Cahill gets a little room to shine, and “File” lets her do so fairly well. While the episode leans sappy at times, it comes with some fun moments like the Murtaugh/Riggs battle with a feisty little guy. Though a little inconsistent, “File” usually entertains.
As Good As It Getz: “Riggs and Murtaugh are forced to work with DEA Agent Karen Palmer (Hilarie Burton) to protect Leo Getz (Thomas Lennon), an ambulance-chasing attorney linked to the cartel.”
A character actor previously known primarily for 1980’s Raging Bull, Joe Pesci’s turn as Leo in 1989’s Lethal Weapon 2 helped make him a star. Given the memorable nature of his work in the role, it becomes dangerous to see someone else take on the part.
To Lennon’s credit, he doesn’t attempt a Pesci impersonation – there are connected elements, but Lennon creates his own version of the character. He adds a fun element to the episode and helps make this a solid show.
Unnecessary Roughness: “Murtaugh considers a big change in his professional life, and Riggs contemplates an even bigger shift in his personal life as he spends more time with Karen.”
A few parts of “Roughness” work well – like Riggs’ method of clue-gathering – but other segments fall flat. The romance with Karen could be seen a mile away, and additional trite moments arrive. It’s still not a bad show, but it’s a disappointment.
A Problem Like Maria: “As Riggs’ attachment to Maria increases, so do his impulsive actions, further worrying Avery and Ronnie Delgado (Tony Plana).”
With only one episode to go, “Maria” goes explosive – literally, as it includes a “rocket launcher situation”. The actual plot seems a bit iffy, but the action side of things makes this an exciting show.
Commencement: “Riggs makes a shocking discovery about Miranda’s death that leads him back to the cartel in a desperate search of answers.”
Season One concludes with Riggs in a more dangerous place than usual, as news about Miranda sends him on a mission. This gives us a lot of drama and action, components that allow the year to finish on a high note – and push us toward S2.
Which I look forward to seeing. Like most TV series, Season One of Weapon comes with ups and downs, but it works well most of the time – and definitely exceeds expectations. This turns into an enjoyable series.