This simply cannot be the way Southland ends. The stellar crime drama brought its fifth season to a close amid rumors that TNT would not be picking up the show for another season and the reality that much of the cast have signed on to other shows in “second position” (meaning they can only do their new shows if Southland isn’t renewed). It’s never a good sign with the stars of a series start making contingency plans.
But again I say “no.” The final image of Southland cannot be Officer John Cooper gunned down by his fellow police officers and grasping for life. Southland has always been emotionally unrelenting. This is not a show where cops make quips over corpses or slyly flirt while solving crimes. The show never turns away from the gritty reality of what it’s like to be an LAPD officer. It is unforgiving in its realism.
And no one has suffered more egregiously than John Cooper. His father raped and killed his girlfriend. He suffered from severe back pain and drug addiction. And, in last week’s penultimate episode, he and his partner Hank Lucero were kidnapped by amped up meth addicts. Hank was killed.
How is John treated this week? His fellow officers pity him. Hank’s wife asks John if her husband was gay since he had gone with John to a gay bar the night before. His old training officer (whose life he saved) wonders why John gave up his gun to the killers. His ex-wife tells him she doesn’t want to have a baby with him. And John channels all of his rage into neighbors who are running a generator too loudly late at night. John beats a man with a gun. The police arrive and shoot him perhaps fatally. It was a brutal ending for one of television’s best characters. Michael Cudlitz once again turned in an Emmy-worthy, tour-de-force performance. He says volumes by saying so little. We learn so much from the pain that radiates from his eyes and the world-weariness of his movements.
“Reckoning” also saw Ben, who began the show as an idealistic rich boy wanting to make a difference, fully become a corrupt cop. While it is a disheartening character arc, it was a believable one. The final scene between Ben and Sammy where Ben attempts to justify his actions as the two men beat each other up also left viewers with little closure.
The one bright spot in these final episodes of the season has been the return of Tom Everett Scott as Lydia’s former partner Detective Russell Clarke. Longtime viewers of the show have long known these two characters loved each other. Their final scene on the beach was lovely and gave hope that Lydia and Russell can form a family.
Southland has cheated cancellation many times. It actually was canceled by NBC before making its move to TNT. Can it be the TV show that has nine lives? I certainly hope so.
Other thoughts on “Reckoning”:
• There were quite a few wonderful scenes. I loved the scene between Lydia and John. We so rarely see these two amazing actors, who have been on the series since the start, interact.
• Michael Beach guest-starred as the Robbery Homicide Division detective. Clearly someone in casting was a fan of Third Watch.
• I hope that if the show returns, Dorian Missick’s Detective Ruben Robinson is made a series regular. He’s a fantastic character.
• Please let this be the year Southland breaks into the Emmy nominations.