I don’t usually review (or even watch) “Southland” episodes, but with the State of the Union pre-empting most of my Tuesday shows, and some hype for the episode from people I follow on Twitter, I decided to give “Code 4” a shot. Some thoughts coming up just as soon as I get my PlayStation back…
I feel I didn’t do a very good job with my review of the start of season three, in that I again talked about the parts of the show I like (Cooper and Sherman in the car together) and the parts I don’t (the detectives) without really articulating why. When Fienberg and I then discussed the show on that week’s podcast, I was finally able to put the “why” into words: specifically, that I think the show does a very good job at depicting cop culture, whereas its plotting rarely rises above the generic. And the detective end of things, by the nature of that job, means there’s a lot more plot, whereas the uniform cops can just banter in the car or get embroiled in brief, colorful incidents.
“Code 4” tried to add more of a human element to Sammy and Nate’s case, first with Sammy screwing everything up because he’s distracted by this mess with his wife and her lover, then with Nate trying to appeal to their witness by telling her about his daughter. The Sammy end of things worked fairly well (it helped that his irritating wife was much-discussed but never actually seen), and illustrated the idea that while the cops want to treat their job as a higher calling, there are days when it’s just a job, and they can be distracted from something simple like covering up the dad’s body because of problems at home.
Nate’s big scene was less interesting. And by that point, I had figured out that he was probably going to die – the Twitter hype plus my knowledge that Kevin Alejandro was no longer a regular, due to the reduced budget and his “True Blood” commitments, tipped me off – so the scene to me mainly screamed, “We want you to remember some personal details about this character whom we haven’t always serviced well so you’ll feel bad when he dies 10 minutes from now.” If you didn’t realize that’s where the episode was going, your mileage may have varied.
But if they had to get rid of Nate, the actual death scene was a pretty effective way to do it: just a random conversation with some gangbangers that went south in a hurry, and that left Sammy in a nighmarish position where he was alone, surrounded by bad guys, and not able to just start shooting all of them (other than the one who went for Nate’s gun). A real nightmarish sequence, well-played by Shawn Hatosy and staged by director Felix Alcala.
Still, even with that scene, my interest still largely lay with the scenes about Sherman and Cooper, and when I watch the show in the future, it’ll be for them. But I’m curious what everybody thought both of last night’s episode and Nate’s death, and about how this first made-for-TNT season is going so far.