I would like to preface this article by apologising for the delay in reviewing this beloved procedural. However, I’ve had a hard time with it this year, as I’ve found the show has been very scattered and inconsistent narratively, in ways I never thought it would derail. From a detached and objective POV, I completely understand there are always kinks that need ironing out when a show begins to outgrow its original premise. And I fully acknowledge that with Nolan no longer being a trainee officer we are at that point in the story. However some behind the scenes moves in the show as well as some narrative decisions that have frustrated long term fans have created an even greater imbalance, than the pre-existing circumstances already offer, and that as a fan watching the show I find hard to ignore.
Anyhow, without further ado, let’s get to the thick of things, as we prepare for the S4 finale tonight.
Cast shake ups: the big loss of the show this past year, was Titus Makin Jr exiting sometime last summer, for reasons yet unknown. And take note I speak as someone who spent the better part of season 1 being frustrated and often even annoyed by Jackson. However the growth and evolution the character went through in the show’s first three years, with the highlight of the S3 Doug Stanton storyline, made Jackson not only invaluable to the show, but also integral. His absence is severely missed by me, week in week out. And IMO it’s affecting other characters too. Seeing Lucy for example lose her sounding board, I feel has had an effect on her character quite a bit this season. Sgt Grey not only lost someone he had grown to see as his protégé, but Jackson being out of the picture has taken his father, Commander West, away as well, which was a dynamic that always offered Grey some great material to work with.
Thankfully we have had new and returning characters that have tried to step up to fill the void… however with various degrees of success.
The New? Nyla’s new Rookie, Aaron Thorsen, a rich kid who did a stint in prison for wrongfully being accused for murder, and was later exonerated. In trying to get his life back together Aaron wants to become a police officer to make sure h can prevent the injustice he suffered from the inside. Played brilliantly by Tru Valentino, Aaron has fit easily into in the Mid-Wilshire precinct and has had significant moments with all of our regular and beloved characters already. He is a well thought through and fleshed out character, who felt nicely baked into the show, the moment he graced our screens.
From the returning folk we first have activist James (played by Arjay Smith) who, after the seeds were planted late in S3, gets to properly strike up a romance with Nyla throughout the course of the season. The follow up on those two has been put somewhat on the fast track as the show decided to write Mekia’s real life pregnancy into the story, making James (hopefully) the baby daddy and newly minted husband as well. Lucy’s “puppy” Tamara (Dylan Conrique) has also become much more of a staple of the show this year, as she took up Jackson’s vacant room in the apartment, filling also the role of Lucy’s confidant in some ways. And Brent Huff’s Smitty has too found himself being used as often as possible, providing some well needed comic relief when the situation calls for it.
Lastly we have Bailey Nune, Nolan’s Love Interest of a fire-fighter who he met in the S3 finale and who was invited along to Angela’s wedding as his date. Her portrayer Jenna Dewan, was upped to series regular status early in S4. Unfortunately for the lovely Ms. Dewan, Bailey and the romance between her and our titular Rookie has been one of the more frustrating aspects of the show this season. For the most part the relationship itself feels forced. And as for the character in her own merits… well… the ongoing gag of her infinite hobbies, jobs and her being absolutely badass and perfect at everything is a shtick that has made a big chunk of the audience brand her as a “Mary Sue” or a “Manic Pixie Dream Girl”. These are terms I personally hate, as I find them terribly misogynistic. However, I am sad to say the reasons that have pushed so many of the fans to call her as such, I can’t much argue against. What also hasn’t much helped is that TPTB seem to have a hard time using her organically in the episodes. Most fans joke “are there no more lawyers in the area other than Wesley?” and yes, he is around a lot. But his presence never feels like a quota that needs to be filled because of Shawn Ashmore’s regular cast member status (even if oftentimes that is very much the case). Sadly the same can’t be said for Bailey. Forget the fact that it feels like there are no other fire fighters in LA… it’s starting to feel like there are hardly enough EMTs either as she has popped in for scenes where an ambulance or a medic or a nurse would be more fitting.
There are a couple of more character introductions and reccuring player returns we need to address, and we will discuss them further down, however, first we need to pick up…
Where we left off: The S3 finale along with the premiere followed up and concluded the plot for the overarching bad guy of last year, Angela’s nemesis, La Fiera. Lucy goes undercover in the S3 finale trying to get an in into the drug trade, which is easier with the ongoing drug war. She has Nyla operating as her case officer and Tim spending his time worrying sick about her. All the while Angela, who is trying to not lose it over her wedding getting derailed once again (though she has Patrice, Tamara and Silas stepping up to help Tim, Jackson and Wesley to save the day) and Nolan (who on the side has to deal with ADA Del Monte overcharging a perp for an accident John had early in the episode) run leads on the street. This does lead to Cesar getting killed though. In the end however La Fiera herself caught when she tries to take over his operations, only to stumble in on Lucy. The war seems to be over, and the wedding seems set to be held without a hitch. Unfortunately some of Angela’s grandstanding against Sandra comes to bite her in the a**. So when La Fiera escapes, she kidnaps Angela in a spiteful fit straight out of the wedding venue, in order to steal her baby…
And, as we learn in the S4 premiere Jackson gets assassinated in the process. Everyone is shocked and trying to wrap their minds around what happened reacting in different ways each: Tim and Lucy overcome with grief share a moment, Wesley agrees to do some shady business for one of his more “sinister” and dirty clients, Elijah Stone (Brandon Jay McLaren), in order to obtain intel, John resorts to reaching out to the Black Ops group from 2.14 for help and Grey fast tracks Nolan’s promotion to a P2 in order to be able help. Grey and Chen stay in LA manning home base and searching for Jackson’s killer along with any other useful information the can find, while Nolan, Harper, Bradford and Wesley go to Guatemala to rescue Angela. John gets to make good use of his contractor background in order to find out info about where Angela is being held, Tim and Nyla get to show off their tactical training and Wesley gets to be the perfect decoy. Thankfully no more casulties for our gang as everyone gets home safe in the end, and La Fiera is eliminated. At the end of the episode, we fast forward 3 months as everyone gathers round for Baby Jackson’s arrival from the hospital. The season premiere closes off with Angela taking her little baby boy to his namesake’s grave for a formal introduction and give her fallen Rookie a proper goodbye.
Season 4 so far: The time jump at the end of the season premiere allowed for us to move on a bit from the tragedy of losing Jackson. As such we never really got to see our crew properly address their grief, even though the first few episodes, certainly offered some insight that Jackson is very much missed. In a lot of ways from 4.02 onward the slate feels pretty clean for the season to move along with “business as usual”.
There are scattered references of John still being interested in becoming a T.O., which picked up traction again last week, as his exam is looming. However for the first half of the season he finds himself being mostly interested in Union politics. This leads him to campaign for the Union Delegate position against Smitty and of course, what with him being our protagonist, he wins. This storyline offers some decent comedy (as do most storylines that do involve Smitty afterall), but also some interesting insight into how the force and the Union deals with the the larger LA political scene but also inner department politics. And John having pissed off the Union president in this quest has come to affect his chances at taking the T.O. and probably needing to wait another 2 years (wait and see if our hero manages to beat the oods yet again). On the more personal front his half brother, Pete, pops in again letting us know these two are still in contact and that Pete is still very seriously dating Chastity the stripper. However Nolan’s big storyline of the season is how he’s dived head first yet again into another relationship, this time with fire fighter Bailey. Early in the season she gets mingled up in a serial killer case that John, Angela and Nyla stumble upon, seeing as the killer’s MO involves arson. Even her fire chief is conviently a suspect for a couple of episodes, only for it to be proven it’s his neighbour instead. As things get serious pretty fast between Nolan and Bailey more conflict arises for them when we find out midway through the season that Bailey is married and can’t seem to get rid of her emotionally abusive ex-husband, Jason. As the ex turns out to be a pretty bad guy overall, he does get mixed up in some pretty illegal activities and though he tries to frame Bailey, in the end John helps to clear her name, get Jason arrested and helps put her divorce in motion as well. It’s been smooth sailing for them for the last few episodes with the only shocking development lately being John realising they’ve actually moved in together without realizing (which has been pretty obvious to the audience for a while now).
With John now a P2, Nyla gets handed off another “problematic” rookie when she gets paired up with Aaron, who comes with a lot of baggage. His “no quit-can do”, affable and approachable personality manages to thaw any objections she originally has against him, and for the most part of the season we get to see how her partnership with John, has actually turned her into a pretty amazing T.O. She has a lot to teach to Aaron, and as episodes go by he proves to her that he is worth teaching. More than that she acknowledges he can be a pretty good sounding board, which as her parternship with Nolan showed us is something she needs… and with the way the season has played out for her, she does seem to make excellent use of that, whether it’s taking his input on relationship advice or how she needs to stop beating herself up for past mistakes.
As previously mentioned Mekia’s real life pregnancy has been writen into the show, and as such it has also forced certain plots for the character on the presonal front, and as such we are reminded that having a messy personal life has always been one of Nyla’s more grounding traits. In S3 we saw her get flirty with two men, activist James and a fellow single dad of one one Lila’s classmates. This is a thread the show picked up again this season as she was casually playing the field with both of them (insert “good for her” gif meme). Things however did turn awkward when she accidently double booked a date. The missunderstanding was a good excuse to clear up which of the two she was more interested in though, and for those of you who don’t know the winner was James . All seemed to be going well for a while again there, even things with Donovan being good, but then Halloween happened… and a drunken hookup between the former spouces brought turmoil yet again, especially as they were both seeing other people (Donovan even having bought a ring for his girlfriend). As Nyla ended up avoiding Donovan he in turn went into offense, suggesting to pretty much get full custody again as he wanted to follow his now fiance, Penelope, to a new city. He once again used Nyla’s history agaist her, which resorted to Nyla playing dirty herself, digging up dirt on the Penelope, who used to be an escort, effectively breaking them up, and cancelling the move. Things get even more awkward when Nyla has to ask for help from Penelope for a case, and offering a (half assed if you ask me) apology for playing a part in ruining the engagement.
It is unclear if James ever finds out about the cheating ordeal, but for the second half of the season, and as Mekia’s pregrancy started to be harder and harder to hide, the show has gone all in with the James/Nyla, from her telling him she’s pregnant to them getting married in episode 4.18. I’ve personally been holding my breath, fearing we’re about to get some baby-daddy drama eventually, where the paternity will be questioned. But so far the characters seem to be fully operating under the assumption that the baby is James’, and I certainly hope TPTB keep it that way.
The one absolutely lovely thing that has come from Nyla’s full on belly the last few episodes though, is that the show has put her back in detective duty and paired her off with Angela for a few cases. Watching those two interact on a more regular basis, especially as their hubbies have slowly throughout the season been stricking up a bromance on the side, has been a genuine treat.
Speaking of… Detective Lopez certainly has had her plate full as she tries to balance her career and being a new mother. Her and Wesley missing out on precious sleep while their own baby is sleeping because they got too engrossed in talking about a case is something these two highly devoted professionals would do. I also believe the whole storyline with her pumping and not having a proper place to store the bottles is something that unfortunately a lot of working mothers can relate to. However I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that I feel the time skip really stripped us of the opportunity to see how Angela dealt with any possible PTSD after her kidnapping, which is a shame as it would have been an interesting arc for the usually tough as nails detective. Instead a huge chuck of the first leg of the season consisted of tensions arising in her marriage due to Wesley’s deal with Elijah. Wesley started out trying to keep it all a secret, and not give into Elijah’s threats, his secretive behaviour frustrated his wife. Eventually he was unable to avoid engaging in unethical behaviour, but after coming clean to Angela he agrees to become an informant and help catch Elijah. The plan works but leads to him having his licence suspended for 6 months. And that brings a different set of marital problems between the two, as Wesley’s aimlessness, puts a strain on the structural stability of their home. Mr Evers Esc, a handyman he is not. Thankfully James’ community center has become a safe haven for the show’s wayward lawyer. Still Wesley’s constant quest to beat the system has him even considering switching sides to become a prosecutor in order to maybe start fighting the beast from the inside.
Tim is also adjusting to a lot of changes in his life, now that his promotion to seargeant has finally come to fruition, which also tests his relationship with Lucy. As Tim needs an aide and even though everyone and their mother know this partnership is probably the best Tim has had, he tries to shelter her from taking a step in her career that might look like a demotion if she keeps riding with her former T.O. He goes about it a bit immaturely, and so does she, but in the end they agree to ride together, and as such continue with keeping one of the show’s most popular dynamics fully active. Another upside of this promotion is that we get to see more of Grey/Bradford screentime as the Watch Commander shows Tim the sergeant ropes. And he knows Tim is relieable enough to delegate more responsibility. One such task is convincing to the oldest cop in the precicnt, Jerry McGrady to finally retire. Tim succeeds in the mission, after he gives the old timer one last crack at an unsolved case, which has spawned a city wide treasure hunt. And this is how Sgt.Bradford also gets himself a new love interest this season (effectively giving Rachel the exact same treatment as Gino), when he starts dating Ashley, Jerry’s daughter. While the relationship seems pretty serious, there’s also quite a few bumps along the way as Ashley doesn’t really get along with Kojo (Tim’s dog for those of you who don’t remember), a double date with Lucy and her new beau goes rather badly, when Tim doesn’t think much of the restaurant, and spends more time chatting up with Lucy than his own girlfriend and of course the revelation that after a long day of Lucy teasing, Tim is pushed to have the “marriage and kids” talk with Ashley, only to find out they don’t actually see eye to eye on that front either. It is interesting how in every one of those situations Lucy was involved (even the Kojo thing, seeing as Ashley did reach out to her to get some insight on how to deal with it).
On another note Tim’s troubled childhood also got addressed this season, far more prominently than previous years, as we got to meet his sister and his abusive father, who we learn is dying. Little sister Jenny visits in an attempt to push Tim to help her sell their childhood home. She confronts Tim about him pulling away from her and Tim argues his case of not having the same fondness of his childhood that she does. Personally, to me it felt rather insensitive and somewhat dismissive of Jenny to push Tim so much, when clearly he still carries so much of the trauma, but I can understand her need to want her brother back in her life, and I’m not surprised Tim caved and seemed willing to help mend their relationship. I do certainly hope to see her again in future seasons. Who we can never (and probably won’t see again) is Tim’s dad who though terminally ill still has a hold over him. As Tim and Lucy investigate a weapon that was found in the house during the renovations they connect it to an unsolved murder of one of their neighbours, whose wife Mr.Bradford was having an affair with. When confronted, Tim’s dad admits to the murder but as Lucy and Tim dig deeper they find out it was the wife who killed him. Tim’s dad simply covered for her. Tim visits his father in hospice one last time to deliver the news that they arrested his former lover, and without any forgiveness in sight at least seems to get some kind of closure. Thankfully Lucy is by his side through it all.
Meanwhile even though Lucy has been somewhat stagnant professionally, after seemingly putting her UC aspirations on hold (though her experience did come in handy in one case early in the season) and having instead lobbied hard to be paired off with Tim again, personally she’s been dealing with a lot. The loss of Jackson has clearly hit her the most. Granted Tamara is trying to fill up more than just his room in the apartment, but there are more things that have been troubling Lucy.
For starters Tamara herself, has her on a constant lookout, and as a stalker roamed in their apartment building walls during Haloween and one of Tamara’s friends from the streets was found dead, she still worries that Tamara holds onto a lot of unresolved issues about her safety. Next her parents, and her mother in particuler (always a sore subject for Officer Chen) even though they have not shown up this season at all, are far too prominent in Lucy’s periphery. Starting with the gross overstepping of booking Lucy an appointment to freeze her eggs. After much delibertaion Lucy at least considers in taking up an exploratory meeting. However as the process progresses and she has to fill out some medical papperwork we learn an interesting little tidbit about Lucy’s backstory, in that the man she’s been calling dad (who we met all the way back in S1) isn’t actually her biological father. And while this is information Lucy has obviously grown up with and is seemingly pretty okay about, the fact that she has to explore her roots with the excuse of medical reasons stirs things up for her. When she turns to her aunt for answers, only to find out that her mother had an affair with a patient (who she also finds out has passed away), she is rightfully hurt and indignant, of the hypocrisy of being expected to always be perfect and do everything right.
At least her love life seems to be picking up, when in the second half of the season she began dating a new ADA who’s been roaming around the station, Chris Sandford. Their meet cute comes in the way of some verbal sparring while they argue about an arrest, and further move on their dynamic by debating the ups and downs of the institutions they each represent. In a lot ways it feels like a rehash of the early Angela and Wesley days, but these two are definitely missing that same spark. Also not giving Chris a marks in the plus column is how he handled himself, when Lucy was brought in for some trial prep in a follow up from her kidnapping in DOD. During what was a very emotional episode for Lucy, where she had to face her fears (and giving Melissa O’Neil some of the better material to work with since DoD), Chris obtusely found himself humming “Dream a Little Dream Of Me” because he’d seen Caleb’s tape. Regardless Lucy, soldiers on as she comes to terms with the PTSD triggered by the trial prep and embraces the fact that she is in fact a survivor which is what matters the most. And she is gracious enough to not hold any resentment against Chris.
For his part, Sgt. Grey continues to be the calming force leading our beloved officers, though he too has had his fair share of excitment this season. Talks of his retiring seem to have been put on hold, and instead more excitement has found our squad’s veteran sergeant. Firstly following an altercation with a hitman, after being targeted for being a witness in a case, we learn that in 20 years on the force he now got his first ever kill. He is rightfully in shock and devestated, much like Nolan was back in season 1. Thankfully he has John as his Union Delegate to lean on, who in tunr with Tim’s urgung and guidance, is there to return the favour of the support Grey offered him back after his own shooting. He also gets involved with a Italian poclice officer who comes to town allegedly in search of a runaway criminal. It starts out as a jovial enough parternship, which seems to envigorate Wade quite a bit, only to turn sour, when it’s revealed that our Italian guest is in fact a dirty cop who was more worried his accomplice would flip on him. Well a trip to beautiful Italy might not be in the cards for our Sgt.Grey, but hey! He always has his lovely wife Luna to keep him company, as we were very nicely reminded their marriage is still going strong last week.
The Special episodes: I’ve always been of the belief that a good show is measured by how it handles episodes that break formula. In S3 The Rookie made an excellent case for my theory when it delivered two such episodes: one mocumentary episode (3.07 True Crime) and one episode that was fully from the POV of the real space cameras, most of which are already used occasionaly (3.09 Amber). Because of the success and positive reception of said episodes this season TPTB made the misstep of trying to recreate that exact magic, by delivering identical style episodes, but sadly without the same effect. For the mocumentary episode 4.16 Real Crime the subject matter examined the case of the murder Aaron was convicted for. I will acknowledge that giving the audience a connection to the case, as we had spent the better part of the season getting to know Aaron, and his story bit by bit offered this new character a good opportunity to shine, and he truly did. However some of the peripheral aspects fell short: Wesley talking down the how the police handled the case in France was a rehash of him and Angela talking about it earlier in the season, Bailey yet again popping in by having been a background dancer for a music video of Aaron’s dad and the blantant exploitation of the Tim/Lucy shippers by giving them again a joint interview to name a few. For the most part it felt like the episode had a list of things it needed to tick of in order to be similar to 3.07, and it showed. Alternatively the problem with 4.08 Hit and Run, was that it was an episode that absolutely did not benefit from the real space camera format. It was clear the show simply wanted to do another “city wide perview” episode and I suppose it was the fact that the threat of the attack was pretty big and that the “city wide” search feel was required. But I know I certainly didn’t feel the urgency of it by the way it was shot. Also another negative was that there were strong character moments in the episode, what with Angela dealing with the anger of learning about Wesley’s deal, and Tim’s sister visiting and bringing up traumatizing memories from childhood. However those distorted detached cameras were counter productive to bringing up the appropriate emotions required. Eric Winter and Alyssa Diaz were excellent regardless, but it was unfortunate that the show didn’t support their performances from a technical perspective. I hope the next time TPTB decide to break formula they try something new instead, or at the very least, if they intend to make those kinds of episodes a yearly thing, they be more innovative about it and pick stories that compliment the format.
The 2 parter Backdoor Pilot for the spinoff: A few months ago there was an announcement that our beloved show would be birthing a spinoff. I think as fans we primarily need to celebrate the vote of confidence from ABC this move showcases towards our beloved show… and now that we have done that… we should talk about the planted episodes themselves.
The show will focus around Simone Clark (Nicy Nash), a 48 year old former guidance councelor and the oldest recruit in Quantico. As our crew deal with a bombing which is identified as a terrorist attack the FBI gets called in to help investigate. And Simone gets pulled into the action when, seeing that as fate has it, one of the suspects whose fingerprints were found on the bomb’s detonator, Zeke, used to be one of her students. As she is quickly dismissed by the FBI pros, Nolan manages to spot the value of her insight and has her tag along for the ride managing to catch Zeke. A troubled kid Zeke is only willing to talk to Mss.Clark and we find out he was hired by someone on the dark web to build the detonators. Still this makes Zeke complicit, and it gives us the opportunity to find the “hook” behind this new show. As Simon reaches out to her father to get Zeke some help we learn that she comes from an civil rights activist family, seeing that her own father was wrongfully accused for a crime, and he has not taken too well to his daughter wanting to join the FBI. Even when Simone’s argues that is was an FBI investigation that in the end got him and tries reasoning with him that being an agent will help diversify the agency which could prevent wrongdoings in the long term.
While Angela and Nyla follow up on what looks like an unrelated BnE, the majority of our gang follow the leads to figure out what the terrorist’s next target is: an armoiury from where he successfully manages to steal a lot of explosives. As everyone gathers to figure out what might be the final intended target, Angela and Nyla’s case also comes into play, as their victim, a brilliant but loopy proffesor, had his thesis on trafic stolen, they realise hitting the main highway arteries was the endgame. There is a chace to catch the bombe before they go off, and only getting to stop 4 out of the 5, but what really seems to grab everyone’s attention is that somehow the CIA is also involved in this. When Sgt. Grey and SAC. Garza reach out to the LA Station Chief, they get stonewalled, which only raises suspicions, and forces them to dig deeper. In the end they find out the CIA is way more involved, and the station chief in particular, seeing that this wasn’t even a terrorist attack but a vendetta from a former Russian asset from a unauthorized operation, that was left to dry and whose his wife and child died because the CIA didn’t offer them protection. Simone seems to have made an impression on Garza enough to have his eye on her for the new division he’s trying to start up, and even her dad seems to have warmed up a little bit by being back on speaking terms with his daughter.
Having officially been picked up for next season, we can look forward to see more of Simone, her Dad and SAC Garza (Kat Foster’s Agent Fox will not be moving forward), and the episodes certainly offered a decent introduction to all 3 characters. Overall there were some interesting elements one can look forward to at the very least want to try the show. Niecy Nash is exceptionally charming and with a captivating screen presense, it’s hard to not root for her. But the exposition was a little heavy handed, forced and stalled the overall run of the episode. I understand the necesity of it, seeing that it is a pilot afterall, and getting that stuff in there as a way to get to know our characters and the set up of the show to come is a requirement. But it still disrupted the episode flow of the established show and that needs to be pointed out. I’m still curiuous to see what these characters will be up to next season!
And that’s that for the show so far! Don’t forget to tune in tonight for the Season 4 finale of The Rookie!