Southland: Let It Snow – A Review
Well, for months we waited to see the SouthLand officers hit the streets of L.A. again, and did they ever hit the ground running, literally. I had high expectations for this third season and once again, creator/writer Ann Biderman delivered the goods. Of course, the cast, crew, and other pros associated with the show all pulled their weight, and then some. The season opener was superb. A cut far above all other cop shows.
I like this show for several reasons. One…they get it right. Two…I’ve had the pleasure of being in contact with Michael Cudlitz (John Cooper) for quite a while and he’s the real deal. In fact, Michael called me last summer—it was a rainy Saturday afternoon—, and after chatting for just a few minutes I sensed that he’s a hard worker who’s extremely dedicated to his craft, the show, and to his fans. But what impressed me most about Michael is his desire to portray real-life police officers as accurately as possible. And that quest for accuracy seems to be a common thread among everyone involved with SouthLand.
Anyway, that’s a little tidbit of inside information. Now on with the review…
“Police officers often find themselves frustrated by the limitations of the legal system. Sometimes cops have to improvise…”
The episode opened showing the sharp contrast between the health and vigor of a new, young police officer (Ben easily running up a long, steep flight of stairs) as opposed to the older, seasoned cop who’s showing the aches, pains, and battle scars that come with years of working the streets (John grimacing with acute back pain). This “in with the new and out with the old” transition is one that remains unspoken among the ranks. And it sneaks up on you. One day you’re chasing a shoplifter down a back alley while the “old guys” watch from the seats of their patrol cars. The next day you suddenly find yourself sitting in your own car watching the rookie chase and tackle a purse snatcher. This is a real part of police work and Southland is the only show on TV that “knows” and shows that part of the life.
– Two detectives are shown shaking down two young gang members. Their pat down techniques were textbook, and they both looked very natural and relaxed during the search. In fact, they looked like they’d been doing this sort of thing for years.
– Cooper, while investigating a missing person case, sees the victim’s purse hanging in her locker at work. Instantly, he knows the woman is missing. He says, “Women don’t leave their purses.” This was a good observation. And it’s true. Find a purse, call the detectives. Because you’ve probably got a case.
– Detectives were questioning witnesses and generally poking around for evidence when one of the investigators asked Cooper and Sherman to give someone a ride home. Well, that sort of thing happens all the time. Detectives often ask patrol officers to do leg work for them.
– The scene where the K-9 searches for the missing woman was pretty darn realistic. Dogs are quite anxious to please their handlers. They’re trained that way. Doing what they do is a game to them so they get a little excited when they think they’re about to “play.” The dog’s nose in the air showed he was searching for the scent, or that he’d already picked up on the scent of the woman. Great scene. I’m partial to dogs anyway, since I had the pleasure of working with two of the coolest police K-9’s ever.
– Two bodies found beneath a highway overpass prompted the detectives to turn to the local patrol officer (Chickie) for answers to their routine questions. Detectives realize that no one knows a particular area better than the patrol officers who work it day in and day out. The uniforms know all the regular crooks, and they know where they eat, sleep, buy their drugs and booze, and they know where they hide out. This conversation was on the money.
– The Southland crew used cop-slang phrases, such as “snitch killing,” “light them up,” “the shakes,” and “call the W.C.” And their use of of those terms and phrases roll of their tongues as if they were part of their everyday vocabulary.
Snitch killing – to kill someone who provides information to the police.
W.C. – Watch Commander. A watch commander is the officer in charge of a particular shift. Also known as the OIC.
Light them up – initiate a traffic stop by turning on the blue lights.
The shakes – people (usually street people) who have been searched or questioned (shaken down) while seeking information about an incident.
Officer #1, “You find out anything?
Officer #2, “Nothing from the shakes. But I did find a bullet casing on the ground.”
– Cooper quells a tense situation in a store where an irate customer is arguing with the clerk over a three-dollar difference in a refund. To settle the dispute Cooper reaches into his pocket, pulls out three one dollar bills, and gives them to the customer. As they say…been there, done that, and I’ve seen many other officers fork over a few bucks for various reasons. By the way, Cooper carried his money in his pocket, folded. Not in a wallet. That’s the way many police officers carry their cash. It’s tough to carry a wallet in a uniform pocket. Seems like it never fails to catch on items hanging from a gun belt. Also, you’re forever getting into scuffles and you simply don’t want it fall out of your pocket while you’re rolling around on the ground fighting with a combative pickpocket. Good detail.
– Speaking of details, the firefight in the street was incredibly accurate, from the dull pings heard when rounds struck the patrol car to the way these guys hold their weapons. Great scene. I did, however, worry about Ben confronting a shooter after he’d removed his vest. But, I believe it would have played out just like that in real life. This was a nice, tension-filled scene.
– Lydia asked the murder suspect to remove his shirt so she could examine his skin for scratches. Another good detail. Cops do this all the time and it pays off.
– Lydia said, “I believe in hope.” She was referring to the hope she had for finding the missing woman alive. I think all officers hang onto that hope until the last second because their ultimate goal is to protect people from harm. To find someone alive and well makes an officer feel that it was worth the effort and that they performed well.
– The two detectives who questioned Reyes, the man responsible for the deaths of the two guys dumped under the bridge, found themselves in a situation where they were surrounded by bad guys and were about to be on the receiving end of an old-fashioned beating. Instead of standing their ground and going toe to toe with the over-sized thugs, they decided to get in their car and leave. Smart move. A dead hero is still dead.
I could go on and on about why SouthLand is so realistic, and it is, but I’d like to leave a few accolades for the next episode. Wouldn’t want to swell their heads too much. How about you? What did you see right, or wrong, in this episode?
I think I’m going to check to see when this episode is on again and study it better. I should not have deleted my DVR.
I know several times in cruiser shots, I’ve seen “BALLISTIC PANEL” on the inside of the cruiser doors. I’m reasonably sure that’s a newer thing by Ford, in the last 5 years or so. But I’ve heard of the vest trick before, and I went through the academy in 92 and was out of the job by 95, so I think that trick isn’t all that new.
That bank robbery reminded so much of footage from the 1997 North Hollywood robbery. The sound work was great too, from the rounds impacting the cruiser to the echoes of the full-auto fire.
I also notice the detective tuck in his tie. I was a great detail for a writer to know.
I wondered about them all taking their vests off. I didn’t realize that they used them to block the windows. I will say that shoot out scared the daylights out of me and I was just watching it on TV.
Impressive show, that’s for sure.
Mack. Sure, I think they’d have a bit of trouble with the traffic stop, but the arrest for murder really wasn’t related to the stop. The murder charge would stand.
There was no rule or law broken when Ben let the woman off the hook for her traffic violation. And neither of the two offered anything in exchange for not issuing the summons. It’s the officer’s choice to write or not. Yes, I think “something” was sort of implied, but…
Now, was it unethical? Yes.
I’m going to ask Michael Cudlitz about the vest thing. I’ll let you know as soon as I hear from him.
A great show to start the season with. Thanks for your analysis and that of other responders; I missed a number of details.
It was nice to see Chickie confident and back in control.
I have a couple of questions:
Lydia and her new partner stop and arrest the rapist before they get the test results. It was only a matter of minutes but If a sharp defense attorney checks the time-line, could this get the arrest thrown out because they didn’t have cause to stop him?
How much of a no-no would it be for Sherman to hop in the car with Porche Woman. He did let her go at a traffic stop.
Using the vests over the side windows of the cruiser to protect the driver was impressive. Have you heard of anyone trying this?
What I found most interesting about the shootout scene was how much differently I experienced it after going through the firearms training simulator at Writers’ Police Academy. In the simulator, I was surprised at my physiological response to what is basically a big video game – and I got the same reaction when following Sherman on the foot chase around the corner. Sweaty palms, fast heartrate, etc. – very good from a TV show.
Great observations, Bob. There’s a good reason why the bit players do such a good job…many of them are real cops from the area, which explains a lot of the realism. Cool, huh!
Another great episode, really. I have to agree with everything you’ve got here, Lee.
-Ben’s pause before he went around the corner after the last robber was great. And the look the robber gave at the last moment, the ease with which he pulled the trigger, all mimicked a video I saw of a similar event. A guy in custody (unsearched) did the same thing in an interrogation room. Excellent acting, even by the “bit players.” I like the still you’ve got from the foot pursuit. Ben’s showing great trigger discipline, and I think Ben’s character would. The entire cast shows character-appropriate weapons work, I think. The shotgun cop when they go back to Reyes’ garage was spot-on especially.
-When Sammy and Nate are checking the bodies, Nate tucks his tie into his shirt, so it won’t contaminate the scene or get stained. Very nice detail.
-Loved the scene between Regina and Tom Everett Scott. He really misses the street, you can tell. He really misses his partner as well.
-I really like the interplay between Ben and John, especially the little bit of arguing they do at the bank robbery.
-The only real error I noticed was the scene where they look in Reyes’ car trunk. The bloodstains were too small and too red. They were checking that car at least 36 hours after the shooting. I was under the impression that the two bangers were shot somewhere else, loaded in the car, and then dumped. There should have been a lot more blood. Even if they had just been beaten, then tossed in the car, the stains should have been much darker brown. They had the same issue in the last episode of Season 2, when Nate’s daughter still had wet blood on her 10 or 11 hours after she was splattered. I know it’s much more dramatic when there’s fresh blood, but it still nags at me. Then again, if this is the biggest problem I’m finding, that says a lot.
-Southland had the first 3 or 4 pages of script from this episode posted on their Facebook page. It was very enlightening to me to read that, then see the finished product. I think that says a lot about the way the show’s creative staff is handling the social media side of things. Very engaging.
Looking forward to next week!