Public Service Announcement 49 of 2019: Lethal Weapon

The third and final season of Lethal Weapon starts tonight; sans, of course, Clayne Crawford as Riggs. Once again, I should say that I have no view on whether sacking Crawford was the right or the wrong thing to do from the point of view of ensuring a decent working environment. But it seems inevitable that the loss of his mercurial screen presence will have a detrimental effect on the show, which in its first two seasons I thought to be one of the best network procedurals I’d seen in years. Seann William Scott has the unenviable task of replacing Crawford as Wesley Cole, the new foil to Damon Wayans, Jr.’s straight arrow cop. I’ll probably give it a go, but I don’t anticipate further reviews unless this new incarnation of the show surprises me as much as the very first episode did (9pm, ITV).

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It’s the season finale and also, perhaps, the finale for Lethal Weapon as we’ve come to know it. Murtaugh is being promoted permanently to Captain, and keen to remind everyone of that. Trish is just pleased that he’s getting out of the front line. However, he’s immediately in danger when Riggs’s trailer is riddled with gunfire while he’s visiting. 

The understandable working assumption, for what looks like being Riggs and Murtaugh’s last case as partners, is that someone wants Riggs dead. A little brainstorming reveals that the list of people who might be pissed at Riggs isn’t a short one, and the LAPD’s belief is reinforced when the investigation leads them to Grant Davenport (Martin Donovan), a baddie from earlier in the season, whose security is now being provided by Nathan, Riggs’s father.

In fact, though, Murtaugh is the target; it’s connected to Trish’s legal firm, where someone has been laundering money for Nathan’s gang of white supremacists. The stakes get high when Nathan kidnaps Trish and, in response, Riggs abducts Garrett, his half-brother, for the purposes of an exchange. 

Unsurprisingly, it all gets very violent. I’m not even sure whether Nathan ends up alive or dead. In general, though, one suspects that the plot for this episode was sketched out in the knowledge that Clayne Crawford might not be returning for a third season, because the writers gave themselves at least two options for a Riggs-free future: he and Molly are planning to move back to Texas; and he’s shot and, apparently, seriously wounded by his half-brother Garrett. 

Of course, we now know for sure that Crawford has been cut loose, and that the resulting need for a freewheeling maverick in the show will be addressed by the casting of Seann William Scott. A review of Scott’s recent filmography suggests that his was a career which was going nowhere, so being cast as the lead in an established network drama is a remarkable opportunity for him, even if for many of us it seems improbable that the loss of Crawford’s volatile mix of swagger, vulnerability and charm will be adequately compensated for by the appearance of Stifler out of American Pie. (Once again, I should make clear that I have no view on whether Crawford should have been sacked; I’m interested in what happens onscreen as a result.) I may be doing Scott a disservice, in which case I’ll be back with season 3 reviews. But if my fears turn out to be justified, it’s worth recording that the first two seasons of Lethal Weapon stand proud as an example of what you can do with a network procedural when you do it right.

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Avery is away exploring a run for office, so Murtaugh is promoted to acting captain, with full access to the executive floor – which has a breakfast bar! – and the authority to order things like an LAPD Ferrari. (Which, it should be said, is deeply cool.) But he also has a high-profile case to worry about, when Lisa Conlon, the wife of a wealthy Big Pharma guy, is kidnapped. At first it looks as if it’s been motivated by money, but it isn’t.

Riggs, meantime, has managed to get his father moved to a prison closer to home. Which turns out to be handy when there’s evidence to suggest that the kidnappers are members of a white supremacist gang to which Riggs senior has ties, and there’s a deal on the table: if Riggs’s father helps to secure the hostage’s return, he’ll be released. Riggs’s ambivalence about this is clear, but he nonetheless visits his father and obtains information which moves the investigation forward. Leo Getz wanders in and out of the plot as well.

It’s not the best of the season, but it’s good enough: the emotional heft is amplified by Riggs’s discovery that he has a REDACTED; and there’s a delightfully nasty twist in the final scene.

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Murtaugh and Riggs are called out to what looks like a home invasion murder, and find Murtaugh’s old letterman jacket on the premises. He had lent it to Riana, who in turn had passed it to her new friend Phoebe. And we’ve already been given plenty of reasons to infer that she’s not a good influence. But could she also be a killer? Well, no; but she was on the premises with her dodgy boyfriend before the killing, and she did steal some diamonds, which means that some unsavoury characters are after him. Murtaugh tries to investigate while fretting about Riana, who is acting out.

Meantime, Riggs is groping towards becoming a father figure for Molly’s son Ben. As flashbacks to Riggs’s childhood show, Molly is fully aware of the abuse Riggs suffered at the hands of his father, which – rather sweetly – means that she gives him every chance to learn on the job. On the other hand, when Riggs accidentally hits Ben on the face with a baseball, he’s clearly haunted by the thought that he might have inherited his father’s bad blood. It’s a decent episode but nothing special. Directed by Clayne.

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It’s a Leo Getz episode and, as ever, as soon as Thomas Lennon appears onscreen he’s immediately the best comic actor on the show. (Clayne Crawford remains the best everything else.) Much to everyone’s amazement Leo is getting married, and it’s taking place at a hotel near the airport with a “serious rodent problem”. The more immediate problem, though, is that Leo’s betrothed, Nina, has failed to appear. Murtaugh and Riggs discover that she’s an ex-con, and when they get to her apartment they find a dead guy with a stiletto shoe in his head. Doesn’t look good.

Meantime, Riggs and Molly are trying to make it work, although Riggs is convinced that someone is following them. In turn – but without telling her – he ensures that Molly is watched by a couple of police officers, which is how he finds out that she’s met her ex Jake, still on the run and up to no good. And Murtaugh discovers a positive pregnancy test in a bin. He’s convinced it’s Trish’s so it obviously isn’t hers; we’re being led towards Riana, I think, but it isn’t hers either. Tremendous.

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Michael Diamond, a mobster rather than a Beastie Boy, is found dead. Murtaugh immediately recognises it as having the signature of a hit carried out by sniper-for-hire Frankie Kelso, someone he’s been trying to capture for most of his time in the police. (And someone who had the chance to kill Murtaugh, but didn’t, on the day Riana was born.) Kelso is tracked down fairly quickly but, as it turns out, only because he wanted to be: he quickly turns the tables on Murtaugh and takes him hostage, insisting that he’s now a retired sniper-for-hire and that someone is fitting him up. Murtaugh believes him. As, in due course, does Riggs, even after Kelso confesses.

Riggs, meantime, is still fighting his own demons, and specifically those relating to his father, who seems to want to… reach out to him? I can’t imagine how that must feel after the abuse he suffered as a child. Anyway, Riggs actually asks his father for help with the investigation when it appears that one of Kelso’s old contacts was in jail with Riggs père, something for which the latter will suffer, which will presumably heap more guilt and agony onto Riggs’s shoulders. It’s a great episode, elevated by Jude Ciccolella’s pitch-perfect world-weariness as Kelso.

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The episode title, ‘The Odd Couple’, rather gives the game away that one of the week’s plots will be the consequences of Murtaugh sharing Riggs’s trailer while he and Trish are at war. Riggs is keen for Murtaugh to go home; Murtaugh, however, isn’t willing to apologise to Trish, and things are made worse when a murder suspect requires to be arrested at a public event related to Trish’s work. As a result a key client withdraws from a huge deal, although Riggs persuades him to hang around by promising him the best barbecue he’s ever tasted. As this is a reference to Molly’s barbecue, Riggs needs to go cap-in-hand to Molly, who, quite rightly, isn’t in a forgiving mood. There’s an eye-rubbingly absurd stunt towards the end, when Riggs and Murtaugh jump out of a plane without a parachute but manage to survive, which is of a piece with a sparky but ultimately inconsequential episode.

Edit: The latest, and on the face of it most comprehensive, piece unravelling what went wrong.

‘Lethal Weapon’: Inside the On-Set Clashes That Nearly Killed the Fox Series (EXCLUSIVE)