Episode Title: "Hats and Bats"
Writer: Jonathan Lisco
Director: Christopher Chulack
Previously on "Southland:"
In case you forgot, "Southland" is a show about how much life sucks on the LAPD and this season premiere is a fresh reminder.
Last we left "Southland’s" weary collection of jaded beat cops and haggard detectives, Officer Tang (Lucy Liu) was promoted to Sergeant after shooting a kid armed with a toy gun with an orange tip, Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) threw seriously judgmental shade at Tang for said promotion, Sherman (Ben McKenzie) was still trying to mend his relationship with Bryant (Shawn Hatosy) after he accused his partner of planting drug evidence and Adams (Regina King) was failing hard at trying to hide her pregnancy from her partner, Rubin.
In this season five opener, we catch up with all our favorite Southlanders who stuck around (Lucy Liu ditched the LAPD for NYC and Sherlock Holmes on "Elementary). Lydia’s given birth to a baby boy who she regards with detached annoyance while her mother frets over the baby’s every cry. We never got the sense Lydia was cut out for motherhood and the fact that she doesn’t have a picture of her child on her phone suggests she hasn’t taken to it since the birth of her son.
Rubin’s horrified by his partner’s lack of sentimentality, but Lydia doesn’t see a reason to show off her kid. Over the years, we’ve seen Lydia struggle with relationships, both personal and professional. She’s a complex woman who ‘s emotionally guarded and I’m glad the writers didn’t decide that the birth of an unplanned child would suddenly tear down her walls. It also keeps us much more invested in how her relationship with her child, mother and job progresses and how each affects the other. And on a side note, a leaky breast is not a good look for a detective, as Rubin points out. As bleak as this show is, "Southland" can be funny when it wants to be.
As for Cooper, surprise, surprise, he’s a got a new boot to torture. This time, it’s Iraq war veteran. Gary Steele. Despite his military background, Steele’s lack of respect for the job and his fellow officers, make for a bad start of his training period . But after Cooper questions his motivation for joining the force, Steele admits to becoming a cop simply for the pay and benefits. Eventually, he starts addressing Cooper like one of his military superiors, requesting permission to "toy" with a pawn shop owner who asked a friend to help test out a bullet proof vest by shooting him.
While his new subordinate slowly falls in line, Cooper’s personal life is still a mess. When his live-in boyfriend starts bringing up vacation houses and kids, Cooper says he’s happy with things the way they are. When he comes later that night, he finds that his boyfriend’s moved out. And so what is likely another downward spiral begins as Cooper treats his wounds with alcohol. Like Lydia, Cooper is an emotionally detached loner. When Steele asks for advice about the job, Cooper tells him to look at it like a "circus." His choice of words says a lot about how Cooper sees not just his job, but life in general.
Finally, Sherman and Bryant continue to have friction, thanks to Sherman getting a commendation from the department. It also doesn’t help that Tammi is trying to paint her ex-husband as a wife abuser in the midst of a nasty custody battle. Unlike Cooper and Adams, Bryant is an emotional firecracker and he’s as charged up as ever. When an IA investigator apologizes for a botched integrity check which inadvertently involved gang members, Bryant goes off on him. And Sherman gets an earful when he takes a call from his sister about his award while investigating the murder of an elderly woman.
Unlike Cooper, who buries his pain in drugs and alcohol, Bryant acts out. Sometimes that means losing his temper and other times it’s unsung acts of kindness, like, cleaning up a crime scene at an old woman’s house. But the way things are going, straight out of the premiere, he may boil over soon.
On the whole, "Southland’s" first episode back stuck to the status quo. Aside from Adam’s reluctant mommy role, everyone’s pretty much in the same place and going through the same dysfunctional cycles. That said, I don’t mind watching them circle the drain, once more.