Time to get Lethal again.
IGN – The pilot for FOX’s Lethal Weapon series screened for fans at San Diego Comic-Con and we’ve got an advance spoiler-free review for you. The premiere episode will air Wednesday, September 21st.
Cutting to the chase, I enjoyed the Lethal Weapon pilot more than I anticipated.
Like, I assume, most of you, I was — and for the most part still am — against the rebooting of Lethal Weapon. I’m against most reboots just based on principal, in general, but I can still be wrong – like with Hannibal and Fargo (even though Fargo acts more like a spiritual adaptation/sequel). Basically, there was no point to turning Lethal Weapon into a TV show when the original films are still easily accessible and, in the case of the first two, still hold up.
But I won’t spend this entire review arguing about the actual validity of the show or making a case for or against why it should exist as a thing. It exists. We can’t change that. Let’s see if it works.
And it does. Mostly due to Clayne Crawford’s performance as rambunctiously traumatized cop Martin Riggs. Being a fan of Sundance TV’s Rectify, Clayne Crawford’s casting was the thing that initially caught my interest about this show. He’s so damn good on Rectify — which tonally is very different, of course — that I’ll admit to getting a little excited about hearing he’d be Riggs. And it turns out that excitement was justified.
Now, even if you’re a huge fan/protector/flame keeper of the original movies, you still have to admit that the franchise itself lost its original hook by the third movie. The basic premise of Lethal Weapon is actually a tragic one. Martin Riggs, a cop, distraught over the death of his wife, becomes reckless in hopes of dying on the job. He gets paired with a veteran cop, Roger Murtaugh, close to retirement who wants to play things safe since he’s a family man with everything to lose. And within this lies the ultimate buddy cop duo.
Lethal Weapon didn’t invent the mismatched cops premise, nor did the idea end with the series, but the Riggs/Murtaugh pairing is the most famous example of this genre because of the aforementioned dynamic. Riggs is dangerous in both the sense that he wants to die and he’s a badass fighter – people often forget he’s actually the titular lethal weapon (the films sure did by the time the franchise hit number three). So the series takes the entire story back to formula, to that beginning time when Riggs was still suicidal and Murtaugh was still too old for this s***. And because of that, this pilot works. There’s a sadness to the tale and a bite to the partnership.
That doesn’t mean there’s not plenty of souped-up action and a general “action movie” sense of silliness present, but the spine of this story is still engaging due to Riggs’ tragedy. Things are tweaked a bit for TV, but not too much. In a way, they actually fit the Clayne Crawford casting as Riggs is now a cop from Texas who transfers to L.A. after his pregnant wife is suddenly killed in an accident. And yes, the L.A. transfer itself gets explained and the regional “foreignness” does help accentuate the Riggs character a bit more than expected, and in a good way.
Damon Wayans’ Murtaugh is good, though his arc doesn’t come off quite as strong as Riggs’. Recently returned to duty after a heart attack, Murtaugh not only has his own health to think about but a large family to provide for as well. Granted, most of Murtaugh’s drama gets undercut by the character’s earnest efforts to get his wife to perform a particular sex act for the entire episode, making it clear that, tonally, this pilot is going for playful vibe when it might be served better if it went a bit darker. Having said that though, there’s a particular line that Riggs says, quickly out of nowhere, that destroyed me a little and made me tear up. So it’s because of moments like that, and Crawford’s performance, that I enjoyed this premiere.
The idea of suicidal vs. “playing it safe” has always been the ultimate buddy cop dynamic and Lethal Weapon’s most inventive contribution to the genre. And since this pilot embraces that element, it works well. And Clayne Crawford’s Riggs is different enough, and great enough, that no one has to worry about him trying to live up to or imitate Mel Gibson. Whether or not taking Lethal Weapon to TV is a good idea can be argued elsewhere. I’m just here to say that at least this first episode works.