Southland: Failure Drill – A Review

Southland: Failure Drill

“To protect and serve, that’s the LAPD’s motto. But as most cops’ll tell you, sometimes you’re lucky if you can just survive.”

You know, having lived the life of a police officer I’m always looking at the details in “cop” shows. But I’m especially interested because I’m a writer, and because so many other writers turn to me for answers to their police and forensic questions. Well, I’ve put Southland under the microscope for the past two seasons and what I’ve found is a very wellwritten, well-researched show with a cast that’s truly devoted to “getting it right.”

But there’s another aspect of this show that sets it apart from any other TV show, ever. And that’s the actor’s devotion to their fans. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a more approachable and generous group of people. They take time out of their busy schedules to respond to questions on the various social networking sites, and they even participate in live chats with fans. I was even invited to join Shawn Hatosy and C. Thomas Howell in answering fan questions on a Southland chat last week. And Michael Cudlitz is a supporter of the Writers’ Police Academy. They’re simply good folks who crank out excellent episodes each and every week.

Anyway, enough of that. Let’s get on with the review…

Failure Drill – Two shots (double tap) to the chest, and then one round to the head.

Addiction is tough. Living as an addict who wears a badge and carries a gun is pure hell. An actor who has the job of portraying a cop who’s dealing with his addiction, without help and support, has an extremely tough job. Well, that’s what Michael Cudlitz has to look forward to each and every week. And he does it quite well.

Cooper has tried to kick his addiction to pain pills, but his bad back along with the demons in head inside won’t let him. This week he turned to a dealer again to re-up his supply of his much-needed opiates. But he takes far too many and the effect is not very flattering. Actually, the near overdose level of medication in his system clouded his judgment and could have placed his co-workers, especially Ben, in danger. That is, if Cooper could stay awake long enough to do something even more stupid than working the streets with an ailing back while under the influence of narcotics.

Ben plays a good role as a rookie who’s torn between trying to do a good job, being a good cop, and serving as babysitter to a whacked-out training officer. Ben gets emotional when he sees Cooper avoiding his duties to favor his back. He’s also upset at the fact his FTO is zonked out of his mind while on duty, which forces Ben to shoulder a ton of responsibility.

– Ben and Cooper respond to a burglary call. Ben interviews the witness who promptly says the crook broke in and stole her uterus.  Seem silly? Not to every single cop out there. Right guys? I couldn’t begin to tell you how many of those calls are answered each and every day. I’ve responded to many similar complaints, such as “Elvis broke in and is living in my refrigerator behind the milk,” “A UFO stole my cows,” “Archie Bunker is God and he talks to me through my TV, and “I’m secretly married to Hillary Clinton, but she’s mad at me right now. Could you please make her come home? She’s not answering my calls.” Anyway, this was a great scene. A real taste of what patrol officers deal with on a daily basis.

– Ben leads a community meeting on car seat use and safety. He’s never done it before, but with Cooper in La-La land he has no choice. Another good scene. Cops are asked to speak to groups like this all the time.

– Lydia and Josie catch a call where a husband killed his wife and their son witnesses the crime. The boy defends his father, fearing that he and his siblings will be separated if the father is arrested. So, the two detectives spend quite a bit of time trying to help the kids, and trying to get the father to own up to the murder. Happens all the time, and it’s sometimes quite heartbreaking to have to turn kids over to social workers. That’s why many cops do everything they can possibly do to help the kids before resorting to that step. By the way, these two actors were outstanding this week.

– During the interview at the police station, the killer (the husband) asks for an attorney, So  Lydia and Josie stop the questioning and walk out of the interview room. That’s how it works. Once someone asks for a lawyer the questioning must cease.

– Cooper’s drugs were doing a lot of his talking last night, but the scene where he broke a window in the elderly man’s car to make him stop driving away, well, that’s how it’s done when lives are in danger, or when a criminal suspect refuses to get out of a car. Some cops (EMS workers, too) carry a centerpunch for breaking car windows. The officer presses the pencil-thin tool against the glass, pushes a button and, CRACK, the glass shatters. Much easier than swinging a PR-24 (the side-handle baton that Cooper used) 10 or 12 times at the car window before it ever gives way.

– Ben sucks it up and confronts Cooper about his drug problem. Cooper responds with his usual denial, “My back. It’s bad this morning.” Typical addict who has about one flush left before he swirls out of sight at the bottom of the bowl.

And now for the stuff that the edge of your seats are made for…the for real, shots-fired call.

Lydia and Josie find themselves in the middle of a commercial building with a crazed man armed with a a fully automatic weapon. To make matter worse the building is full of scared, running, screaming civilians. And the gunman has already shot and killed a few people. People flood the exits, running for their lives.

But Lydia and Josie thread their way through the mob and enter the building, heading straight into the gunfire. And that, my friends, is what separates cops from the average person. They head straight into danger, without fear.

The two detectives systematically begin searching the building while trying to help the civilians to safety. The gunman fires several rounds in the direction of the officers who immediately return fire. Josie catches a face full of glass shrapnel and has to retreat. But Lydia goes back inside to take care of business. And now’s the time to mention the brilliant directing and killer camera work that makes this show what it is. This scene was good in many ways, but was truly brilliant in one. Perhaps only the people in this world who’ve ever been involved in a shooting would have noticed the sudden calm, quiet, and slowing of time that happened when Lydia saw the gunman approaching.

And when she shot the man with the double tap to the chest I almost found myself telling her, “To the head. Shoot him in the head. He’s wearing a vest.” I knew what was going to happen, but I was that caught up in the scene. I think I was even holding my breath for a moment.

*By the way, this scenario should have been very familiar to those of you who participated in the FATS training at the 2010 Writers’ Police Academy!

I’ve been in a similar situation, so I knew what the characters were supposed to be showing as emotion, and they did, especially Lydia. Great, great job, guys. This goes for the rest of the cast, too. Including poor Sammy who had to suck it up and ask Tammy’s boyfriend for help unloading a swing set for the future Little Sammy. That was a huge step for anyone, and Shawn Hatosy, as usual, used his facial expressions to deliver a few unwritten lines of dialog.

I can’t wait for next week, but I also hate to see Tuesday night arrive since it’s the season-ender. If you love the show please let the powers-to-be at TNT know. Also, there’s a fan chat session Thursday night at 9pm (EST) at You never know which of the stars may show up. See you there.



7 replies
  1. PatMarin
    PatMarin says:

    Great review, Lee. And yes this was an awesome episode. I also held my breath until Lydia when for the head shot.

    One thing I couldn’t get over was Sammy’s wife going from finding out she was pregnant to being ‘huge’ in a matter of a couple of weeks.

    I’m looking forward to next weeks show and can’t wait until the new season starts.

  2. Patsy73
    Patsy73 says:

    I finally signed up “officially” so I can give an opinion on Southland (my new favorite show).

    Every time I look at the picture you put on this sight, Lee, I laugh at Ben losing the baby out of the car seat. Poor guy. But I bet the young mothers loved watching him show them the ropes. He’s definitely easy to watch.

    I, too, am sorry they show is ending for the season.

  3. Andy
    Andy says:

    Thanks for the review – I love Southland, but it feels even “better” knowing that it’s “expert-approved”.

    I do have a question, though, regarding the factory shootout. It was indeed a great scene (yet another of those “raw” Southland moments), but I keep asking myself: Was that how it’s done in reality?
    I know, cops are the people who run towards the action and not away from it, but isn’t there a point where even they fall back and wait for backup? After all, there was at least one totally crazy shooter (could’ve been more, Lydia didn’t know that), armed with an automatic rifle and obviously very willing to use it, in a big factory she didn’t know (as opposed to the shooter, who probably did). On the other hand, she was on her own, without “proper” protection (do detectives even wear vests? Not that it would’ve been much help against an assault rifle..).

    Don’t get me wrong, I admire the work and courage of police officers, but that scene seemed pretty suicidal, and I don’t see it as the duty of any officer to get shot in order to protect.

    Thanks again for all your insights – be it about Southland or not.

  4. Julie Dolcemaschio
    Julie Dolcemaschio says:

    Here’s a question, Lee: The suspect who shot his wife did ask for a lawyer, and the two detectives immediately stopped the questioning, yet later on, Lydia is questioning him, or rather telling him to fess up, while he sits in a jail cell. Is she allowed to do that after he’s asked for a lawyer?

    Also,being a fan of the “love” in ANY show, I adored that the young P2 who asked Lydia out was Josie’s son! I was cracking up, and he wasn’t taking no for an answer. Loved it.

    Thanks for the always spot-on review.


  5. MaryQuinn
    MaryQuinn says:

    Lee – I couldn’t agree with you more about how well this show is written & how good the actors are. When I watch TV, I usually work on something else at the same time. I normally can’t just sit and watch TV. Not the case when I’m watching Southland. I can’t concentrate on anything else because I really get involved in the show.
    I think the last time a TV show grapped my attention like this was the first season of ER.

Comments are closed.