Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Southland “Phase Three” Recap & Review

Photo from TNT

As I was watching a new episode of Law & Order on NBC on Monday, I had a nice laugh when I saw TNT airing a commercial for ”Southland”. It was almost as if TNT was rubbing it in that NBC decided to drop Southland in order to make room for Jay Leno at 10:00, a move which failed NBC miserably. But TNT - you know, the “we know drama” network - knows drama when they see it, and they picked up Southland. The first new episode of Southland on TNT, “Phase Three” certainly delivered the drama. If you are used to cop shows with lots of glitz and special effects (think the CSI franchise), then Southland may be a shock for you. But, if you like your crime dramas a little more on the realistic side (think the Law & Order franchise, but much more tense and tight) then Southland is right up your alley. Even if you had never seen an episode of Southland before, “Phase Three” did a fine job in establishing the key players and make viewers want to see more of them, and even care for them.

Things are a little unsettled not only in the city but with the Southland police force. Gang violence is rising, and the authorities have declared war on it. The episode opens with Office Ben Sherman (Ben McKenzie) in the middle of a brewing riot, and then promptly goes back a little to bring viewers up to speed on just how he got there. It’s not a straight line trip.

Detective Lydia Adams (Regina King) finds that she has a new partner, as Detective Russell Clarke (Tom Everett Scott) is recovering from being shot, and it is a slow go. She meets her new partner, Detective Cordero (Amaury Nolaso) when she finds him cleaning off Clarke’s desk. He is constantly trying to charm her and it is only annoying her. She wants her old partner back. She snips at Cordero the whole time they work the case of a missing elderly man, Cordero at first wanting to hand the case over to missing persons, then later, wants to take the matter to local TV. Lucky for them both that Adams kept the case AND Cordero got his TV coverage, as it helped net the man who robbed, abducted, and left the man for dead. Adams also finds out that Cordero asked to work with her, and got his way because he has “connections.”

Interestingly enough, Officers Sherman and John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) had already encountered that same man that Adams and Cordero were tracking. Earlier in their day, Cooper cited him for an open container. The man admitted he was on parole and was concerned this would mess that up, but it seems that he had walked out of his drug treatment facility and failed to return. The super-cranky Cooper is all over Sherman while he lets Sherman drive the patrol car, making sarcastic comments about Sherman because Sherman comes from a cushy background. Sherman has to see the captain at the end of the day to get signed off on phase two of his training so he can move along to phase three, and it seems that everything Sherman does or doesn’t do grates on Cooper. Since Cooper is hiding an addiction to pain killers, he’s likely testy because of that, but Sherman seems to think it’s just Coopers back that is bothering him.

Cooper is also annoyed at Officer Chickie Brown (Arija Bareikis) because her partner Dewey went off the deep end in an embarrassing stunt with his squad car that ended up being videotaped and put on the internet for the world to see. Cooper believes that Chickie knew Dewey had a problem for a long time and did nothing to help him until it was too late. Cooper tells Sherman that when you know your partner is in trouble, you help him. This sounds like a veiled cry for help from Cooper himself, and hopefully Sherman will see the signs soon before Cooper gets even deeper into drug dependency. Chickie, meanwhile, seems to have a slob of a new partner. He eats on the job and has her drive him to pick up his dry cleaning. Later, when they see a car being driven in a suspicious manner, they try to stop it, but the driver doesn’t seem to be cooperating. When it seems the car finally is stopping, a crowd of people have gathered and as Chickie tries to get the driver to step out of the car. Things don’t go as planned and her partner shoots at the driver, who I think was underage. The crowd erupts and a near riot ensures, her partner heading for the safety of the car and also to get help, leaving Chickie out there to try to battle the heated crowd of people who angry that a cop shot at the car. Sherman and Cooper hear the distress call, and quickly find themselves under attack when they arrive. Sherman gets Chickie, her partner, and the driver in his car while Cooper manages to get to Chickie’s patrol car to drive it out of there. Later, Chickie really doesn’t want to talk about the incident with Cooper, but she does thank him and Sherman for their help.

Earlier in the episode, there was also a very dramatic shooting which appears to be gang and/or drug related. Detectives Nate Moretta (Kevin Alejandro) and Sammy Bryant (Shawn Hatosy) catch the case, which leads them straight into an undercover operation, and someone that Moretta knows is heading the case. Moretta wants to get a piece of that action, and maybe it’s just me, but Bryant seemed a little reluctant.

At the end of the episode, Adams is visiting Clarke in the hospital, and he tells her he was the one who asked for his desk to be cleaned out. When he says he is tired, she makes a quick exit, and then proceeds to cry in the hall, likely with the realization that Clarke will not be coming back any time soon. I hope he will, because I really liked Clarke and likewise Tom Everett Scott. But, Clarke’s injuries have clearly taken a toll, and Adams may just have to learn to cope with Cordero for a lot longer.

A great episode all around, lots of action, lots of drama, lots of interesting characters. You can’t avoid being sucked in. And, a big thanks to TNT, who aired the episode twice so there is no excuse to miss it.

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Shelly said...

I really like Southland, and it was a great idea on TNT's part to re-air the original eps before starting on the new ones.

A couple of questions though. Have we heard how the ratings have been so far on TNT, and have we heard if TNT had ordered more new eps to be aired at a later time? And are there six new ones to air on TNT now? Eight? I can't remember.

I admit I'm confused as to why the other cops are upset with Chickie because she didn't turn Dewey in sooner. If he'd been a "dirty" cop, there would have been hell to pay had she turned him in (the blue wall and all), but she didn't, possibly hoping he'd get help on his own, and now she's a scum because she waited? Doesn't make much sense to me...

Thanks for the recap.

I Like to Watch TV said...

TNT has only committed right now to air the 6 episodes that were supposed to air on NBC. I can't find anything where the committed to any more at this time.

They only drew about 2.5 million viewers for their TNT premiere, not a great number. But, they are up against a lot of other stuff airing on the networks and cable at that time. I hope that TNT sticks with it, because the show really is great. A show like AMC's Mad Men isn't a huge draw but picks up more every year and gets rave reviews. Hopefully, TNT will look past the raw numbers.

Shelly said...

Yeah, unfortunately, there's a lot of good stuff on Tuesday evenings at 10 p.m. eastern, both on cable and network TV.

That doesn't sound like a good number to me either, but do you know how it compares to their other dramas like Leverage? I'm sure it's a smaller number than watches the Closer each week, though.

Thanks! Here's hoping it's around for more than just five more eps.