The Rookie s1 ep 20

I had something else planned. This was going to be a quick post to say that The Rookie had become one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2018/19 season: I expected a Nathan Fillion vehicle, and I got it, but what I hadn’t anticipated was that good writing and an excellent supporting cast would turn the show into much more of an ensemble piece. Like Unpopcult favourite 9-1-1, it’s a show about decent people (mostly) trying to do their best in difficult circumstances, and every now and again it packs a solid emotional punch. Looking forward to season 2, I was going to say; and some particular praise for Afton Williamson and Eric Winter, both combining intensity and humanity in their roles as training officers.

And then… well. Last week Williamson announced that she was leaving the show. Uh-oh, I thought; there’s probably another shoe to drop. And, sure enough, Williamson has now clarified that she quit because of racial and sexual harassment, and the unsatisfactory response of the show’s hierarchy – specifically show runner Alexi Hawley – to her complaint about both. (It should be said that the racial harassment came from the show’s “hair department”, per Williamson, and the sexual harassment is alleged to have come from a “recurring guest star”, rather than any of the show’s regular cast or crew. I can think of two obvious candidates, and a third possible, but it would be unfair to name names.)

The production studio now claims to be investigating Williamson’s allegations, and it can be said with certainty that we haven’t heard the last about all of this. As ever, I don’t pretend to know the truth, although it might reasonably be said that there would be little obvious reason for Williamson to walk away from a gig of this nature unless the working environment were, indeed, toxic. So I’ll just say that (a) there are one or two people here, not necessarily accused of any personal impropriety themselves, who need to speak up; (b) this is a huge loss to the show, because Williamson was close to being the MVP; (c) I now wonder whether s2 will actually happen; and (d) this sort of shit is why we can’t have nice things.

The Rookie s1 ep 1

On the day of his divorce, construction company owner John Nolan (Nathan Fillion) is at his local bank in a small town in Pennsylvania, in order to drop his wedding ring in a safety deposit box. Nolan is, perhaps, a little sad-sacky, but still looks like Nathan Fillion. Anyway, just as he’s on his way out two gunmen burst in, and Nolan finds himself in the middle of an armed bank robbery. 

He handles himself pretty well, and, nine months later, he’s starting a new job, as the oldest rookie in the LAPD. He’s joined by fellow “boots” Jackson West (Titus Makin), the cocksure son of a senior LAPD officer; and Lucy Chen (Melissa O’Neil), who makes her first arrest on her way to work on day 1. Each of them is assigned a training officer; Nolan gets the ambitious – but apparently supremely competent and fair-minded – Officer Talia Bishop (Afton Williamson). On the other hand the watch commander, Sergeant Grey (Richard T. Jones) has already decided that Nolan is a “walking mid-life crisis” who will endanger the rest of his cops, and needs to be driven out.

And we’re off. The Rookie adopts the same sort of approach as 9-1-1: cases arise, are dealt with, and we move on. Small plates. Tapas TV, if you will. Fleeting use of bodycam footage gives it an air of verisimilitude. In the course of his first day Nolan will be hazed and humiliated, will encounter his first save and his first death, and will be hit on by a “badge bunny” waitress. And while I was working out who to ship him with – Talia, maybe, the bank manager in the robbery scene, or someone we haven’t seen yet…? – the show pulled a neat little twist on me. Well, I was unspoiled, and I didn’t see it coming. 

‘The Rookie’ is very much a vehicle for the considerable charm and likeable screen presence of Nathan Fillion, designed to appeal to his fan base. Even the name – Rook(ie), Castle – acts as a subliminal reminder of his last big TV hit. There’s a consequent danger that he’ll overshadow everyone else in the show, but I thought that the supporting cast was efficiently and effectively drawn; I already feel that I’m sufficiently familiar with all of them. Obviously, ‘The Rookie’ isn’t going to shake your world. Equally obviously, I liked it.