Lethal Weapon s1 ep 18

Season finale; it’s a stormer. After last week’s bombshell – yet also entirely unsurprising – revelation that the drugs cartel was involved in Miranda’s death, Riggs might be expected to go full-on apeshit this week. In fact, the extent to which he exercises just a little bit of self-control – while still doing things which should see him, at the very least, expelled from the LAPD and imprisoned for a long time – is a straw to be clutched at if you wanted to argue for his personal growth over the course of the first season.

It isn’t really much of a straw, though. Riggs asks for permission to “question” Gabriel and is refused. As the next time we see Gabriel he’s being transported in a nominally secure vehicle, we kind of know that he’s going to be extracted by someone, and he is. (First rule of TV procedurals – don’t transport your prisoner. Never works out well.) I thought it might be the cartel who had grabbed Gabriel, leading to lots of Riggsian angst about how he got away, but Riggs has taken care of that possibility by snatching Gabriel himself and chaining him up in his trailer.

When the news of Gabriel’s abduction gets out, Avery and Murtaugh debate who it might have been, although Murtaugh almost instantly – albeit privately – suspects that Riggs was behind it, even if he doesn’t want to believe it. He then provides an inadvertent assist (which at first I thought was deliberate) when he reveals that he’s had to cancel a father-son bonding trip with RJ, meaning that a cabin will be empty, and thus steering Riggs towards the perfect kill room. Sure enough, Riggs takes Gabriel to the cabin, tortures him a little (although not very much) and Gabriel admits giving the order to have Miranda eliminated.

Before Riggs can do too much about it, though, Murtaugh turns up, having tracked Riggs to the cabin. And while they’re debating what to do, Gabriel breaks free. (Second rule of TV procedurals – don’t leave your prisoner unattended. Never works out well.) But Murtaugh finds him and shoots him in the chest, leading to Gabriel falling over a precipice. “Nobody can survive that”, Murtaugh assures Riggs, although with half an episode to go we know better. (Third rule of TV procedurals – they’re never dead unless you see the body, and sometimes not even then. Don’t assume they’re dead. Never works out well.)

So, while we wait for Gabriel to re-emerge, there are a few items of business to be taken care of. Murtaugh covers for Riggs on the whole abduction/torture thing, then requests a new partner from Avery. And, using blueberry pancakes as a plot device, Riggs works out that Gideon lied about giving the order to kill Miranda, then deduces that his former father-in-law, LA City Attorney Ronnie Delgado, is working with the cartel. (I always wondered if he was a wrong ‘un.) So when Gabriel reappears – having been tipped off by Delgado – it’s to capture Murtaugh, then Riggs, and tie them up next to each other, in order to torture Murtaugh with those defib paddles normally seen on medical shows. But they both break free, and Riggs kills Gabriel. Probably. Still no body.

The coda to the episode, and indeed to the season, shifts between Murtaugh successfully making it to his son’s graduation, not deterred by recently having received several hundred volts through his pacemaker, and Riggs heading off to Mexico to confront Tito Flores, head of the cartel, and positively relishing the fact that it’s a suicide mission. Murtaugh, of course, goes after him.

It’s a tremendous episode – all that’s missing is Agent Palmer, meaning that Riggs’s STUPID DEAD WIFE is, once again, getting in the way of a PERFECTLY GOOD SHIP – and a fitting end to the first season of the most surprising new show of the year. I really didn’t expect Lethal Weapon to be any good, never mind this good. But it’s delivered on every level: well scripted, acted, and directed; snappy dialogue; great big dumb action scenes; genuine emotion. A triumph.

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