Episode TItle: "Code 4"
Writer: Will Rokos
Director: Felix Alcala
The episode opens on Bryant (Shawn Hatosy) waiting outside an emergency room and then cuts to twenty hours earlier. The Morettas and their houseguest, Bryant, get ready for the day ahead. The two detectives head to the scene of a shooting, where they find a father dead in a parking lot after buying a birthday cake for his son.
Sherman (Benjamin McKenzie) and Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) check out a domestic violence call where the rookie fails to control the female in the dispute, who ends up severely injuring her boyfriend/husband. Cooper has some stern words for his partner after the incident.
Adams (Regina King) supervises a pair of incompetent detectives handling a drug-related shooting. She delivers the news to the victim’s sister and nephew, whose only concern is getting back his PlayStation. However, the shooter later reveals to Adams that the nephew is the drug-dealing mastermind behind the execution-style shooting.
Cooper has Sherman take lead for the day and then proceeds to watch him bungle every call they take. It seems that Sherman’s finally got a handle on things when his childhood Karate lessons come in handy when dealing with a crazed man in his underwear. However, Sherman fails to properly strap the man into the gurney and he leaps onto the hood of Cooper’s patrol car. Later, Sherman confronts Cooper about his incessant hazing but Cooper promises to keep it up so long as he’s partnered with the rookie.
Moretta (Kevin Alejandro) manages to get a statement from a reluctant witness in the parking lot shooting. Thanks to her statement, Bryant arrests the gang member responsible for the shooting. However, on the way home the two drive through a rough neighborhood and Moretta’s car is hit with a bottle. He gets out of the vehicle despite Bryant’s better judgement. The situation seems to be under control after Moretta talks to the group but as he turns to get back in his car, he’s struck down. Bryant attempts to stop the assault and shoots one of the thugs. However, later at the hospital, Moretta is pronounced dead and Bryant attempts to console his hysterical wife.
"Southland" was quietly becoming one of my favorite shows of the moment but "Code 4" made it official. I’m not a huge fan of cop shows but I do appreciate grade A direction and writing, both of which "Southland’s" third season exemplifies.
What makes "Southland" hold my attention, despite falling into the "cop show" category I tend to avoid is its multi-tiered story telling. "Southland" isn’t a detective show and it’s not a beat cop show, it’s both. When we’re not tailing Moretta and Bryant investigating a drug-related shooting, we’re riding along with Sherman and Cooper as they deal with whatever the beat throws their way.
While I missed Detective Ochoa in this episode, it was nice to see Adams strike out on her own. She continues to prove herself while her colleagues could care less about the pursuit of justice. Her even tempered manner always amazes me in the face of Ochoa, this week’s pair of goofball detectives and her own mother. I can only hope the writers pay off that spark I think I saw between Adams and the crime scene investigator. With all she puts up with, it’s about time she found some comfort in the arms of another.
As for Sherman and Cooper, the "fraternity hazing" Sherman referred to has, indeed, become a bit old. But as long as the rookie continues to screw up, it seems to be necessary. The domestic violence call early on in the episode was particularly effective at demonstrating just how green Sherman really is. He seems to have recovered from last week’s tragic shooting at the restaurant, his meltdown/beatdown on a domestic violence call and his mother’s confession regarding her rape, but I can’t imagine it’s all completely forgotten. Only four episodes in, we’ve got plenty of time to touch back on those raw wounds.
Bryant’s preoccupation with his soon-to-be ex-wife continued to get in the way of Team Bryant/Moretta but the drama may be cast aside now that he’s lost his partner. The death of a series regular is a major move on the writers’ part but it feels right for a show that never turns away from the inherent ugliness of its subject matter. Where does Bryant, who’s lost his partner, best friend and wife in one fell swoop, go from here?
As this third season kicks into high gear, I’m reminded of another cop show I made an exception for, "The Wire." The connection feels more like inspiration than imitation. "Southland" may not aim to take on all that "The Wire" did in its portrayal of Baltimore but that’s quite alright. Sometimes the real intrigue isn’t found in a vast conspiracy but in the mundane details of routine police work, as plain as day no less unsettling.
Crave Online Rating: 9.5 out of 10.