‘Southland’ – ‘Graduation Day’: Partners and other strangers

Senior Television Writer
03.08.11 31 Comments


As I’ve written in the past, I’m not a huge “Soutland” fan, enjoying certain aspects (Cooper and Sherman, the stories that are just about the culture of the LAPD) while finding others (the cases the detectives work) a chore. (Plot is definitely the show’s weakness, and the detective half of the show is, by design, more plot-driven than what the uniforms are doing.) But I enjoy it enough that I keep watching the random episodes TNT sends me, including tonight’s season 3 finale, and I have a few thoughts on it coming up just as soon as I answer my partner’s phone…

Variety published a story last week suggesting that TNT is likely to order a 4th season, so “Graduation Day” shouldn’t have to serve as a series finale. Still, the hour hedged its bets. Sherman finishes his training period, and (in a very good scene for Ben McKenzie) finally gets Cooper to admit he has a problem and seek help about both his back and his painkiller addiction. Sammy gets closure with Nate’s killer, sees his ex give birth (to a baby he gets to name after Nate) and decides it would be healthier to get out of the gang unit for a while. (And in the law of economy of characters, he and Sherman wind up partnering up for now.) And while Lydia and Ochoa don’t completely settle the matter of one partner sleeping with the other’s son, they at least seem on the road to working things out. Even Chickie returns for a happy ending, with the chance to transfer out of this division and the hell away from Dewey (who’s still sober but also still empathizing a bit too much with other addicts he meets).

And because the hour was mostly focused on these partnerships, and the way the characters relate to each other, I found “Graduation Day” to be one of this season’s strongest episodes. If/when the show comes back for a 4th season, I’ll be curious to see how Sammy and Ben work as partners, for instance; as badly as Cooper sometimes thought of his young boot, he also recognized Ben’s skills and grudgingly developed respect for him. Is Ben starting from scratch now? And if Ochoa can’t deal, will Lydia also be breaking in a new partner soon?

Mainly, I’m curious how fans of the show felt about this season, the first one produced specifically for TNT. When I wrote about the episode where Nate died, some of you complained that the show had changed too much due to the reduced budget. Now that we’re all the way through the season, are you still frustrated? Happy that it’s still around? And what tweaks, if any, would you like to see assuming season 4 happens?

One thing I’d like to see: how Lydia, the archetypal Cop Who Cares Too Darn Much, deals with getting a rep as the sort of gunslinger she never wanted to be. Between the shootout at the end of season 1 and the incident with the spree shooter last week, I imagine she would have quite the legend building around her, and it would be something she would have less than no use for.

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