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Lethal Weapon turns to surfers and sleep deprivation to deliver one of the season’s most enjoyable episodes.
This Lethal Weapon review contains spoilers.
Lethal Weapon Season 2 Episode 7
Lethal Weapon is a show of many extremes and as a result of this it can sometimes be difficult to please its audience. It’s a series that constantly wants to push things over the edge when it comes to both comedy and drama and it usually has to find some middle ground as a result. The best episodes of Lethal Weapon are the ones that figure out how to balance the show’s duality and it’s typically done so well that it’s hard to even notice. “Birdwatching” is an example of when this show fires on all cylinders and puts all of its pieces in the right places.
While many places in the world are now beginning to feel the chill of winter blow in, Lethal Weapon knows that it's time to do the opposite and embrace some surf, sun, and homicide! The LAPD suspects foul play when the body of Kyle Kennedy, a surfer, is found dead on the shore. It’s not long before the Shore Boys, a “surf gang” who are “gnarlier than your average crew,” become the prime suspects in Kyle’s death. Just to hammer that point in here, a surf gang is the basis for this episode. Oh, and if you think that this show is past indulging in surf lingo for healthy spans of time, well then you don't know Lethal Weapon.
“Birdwatching” has a lot of fun with all of the surfer tropes, but it also leads to some welcome character development for Bowman. Apparently Bowman used to be quite the surfer, which is fairly awesome news. Not only that, but the dude fucking punched a shark. Well…he punched some kind of porpoise. Every new detail the show reveals about this recent addition to the cast is pure gold. Bowman’s already ready for his spin-off.
Riggs’ traumatic childhood and his grab bag full of daddy issues have had a strong focus over the past few episodes. These glimpses into Riggs’ past help reveal some fascinating details about the boy that’s hiding under Riggs’ tough exterior. “Birdwatching” continues to build on these ideas when Riggs finds himself plagued with a wealth of nasty nightmares.
The ways in which Lethal Weapon flashes back to Riggs’ childhood always feel a little awkward. Clumsy pieces of exposition such as this are hard to naturalize, but Lethal Weapon slowly gets better in this department. Nightmares might be a fairly lazy way to get into Riggs’ head, but at least the content doesn’t disappoint. These nocturnal terrors are genuinely disturbing and it’s a bit of a surprise to see a show like this handle horror so well. In spite of all of this, a little bit of a breather from Riggs’ psychological angst could do this season some good. The audience is well aware of Riggs’ pain by now. It doesn’t have to consume the character to the point that there’s nothing left. The depressing note that the episode ends on with Riggs seems to indicate that this self-examination is only getting started.
Riggs just wants some drugs so he can knock himself out and get some real sleep because his job starts to suffer from his exhaustion. “Birdwatching” nicely connects these dots to the event’s from last week’s “Gold Rush” and the faces from Riggs’ past that paid him a visit. It’s encouraging to see Lethal Weapon not hit the reset button each week and that Riggs’ day-to-day damage begins to stack up. At one point it almost looks like Riggs’ is having dreams about the crimes before they happen. It would be absolutely ridiculous if Riggs suddenly gained precognitive powers and the show took on a supernatural angle, but I’d also surprisingly encourage that bonkers direction.
Riggs can’t see into the future, but his nightmares do make him all twitchy around ravens, as if they’re some portent of doom. Riggs even draws his gun on a raven during one particularly unhinged set piece. It’s a lot to take in, but these moments at least help open Riggs up to the fact that he needs to slow down and get some help. There’s also a ridiculous piece of physical comedy where an espresso machine confounds and embarrasses Riggs. It’s broad stuff, but the show finds the right tone and these beats connect. It’s almost shocking how much material Riggs’ sleep problems open up.
Murtaugh also has his share of problems this week, but unfortunately they’re a lot more reductive. Murtaugh gets to do his best “insecure husband” impression over the new company that Trish keeps. To add insult to injury here, Trish’s new friend isn’t just anyone, but rather NBA champion Scottie Pippen (an affair that Avery and Riggs encourage). It's a lot of fun to watch Murtaugh flounder around Pippin and make a fool of himself. It's one of many humorous moments throughout the episode. Even Scorsese gets some solid zingers in.
Lethal Weapon nails the humor in this episode, but there are some great action set pieces here as well. In particular, there are a number of chase scenes that are quite impressive. “Birdwatching” doesn’t quite get to the heightened point where Riggs and Murtaugh ride a wave as they chase their perp on the water. However, one chase does inexplicably turn into a pursuit on a skateboard and there are other unusual touches that play into the surfer aspect, too. The final burst of action also leads to a really thrilling conclusion. Murtaugh gets to blow up a truck and it’s not even gratuitous! Blowing that truck up saves Riggs’ life in the end.
As Riggs and Murtaugh put together the pieces of this crime, Kyle’s death leads them to a coke ring, the Aryan brotherhood, and some particularly vicious kidnapping and torture. This is a case that starts out as fun and games, but it’s all quite grave by the final act. These bad guys are straight up creepy and a whole lot more intimidating than a simple surf gang.
“Birdwatching” is a very enjoyable episode of Lethal Weapon that finds exactly the right rhythm for this show. Comedy subtly blends into suspenseful drama, all of the character dynamics are in top form, and the crime of the week remains interesting the whole time. This isn’t a case that becomes painfully obvious from the jump and the fact that it’s willing to go to dark places all play in its favor. Every episode of Lethal Weapon should feel as fun and effortless as this one.
Now, let’s get started on that Riggs-centric remake of Cannonball Run. If Always Sunny can do Lethal Weapon, then these guys can give their strongest Dom DeLuise impression a shot.
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