Southland: Sideways – A Review

Southland: Sideways

“Even when cops do everything right they can still go sideways. Learning to accept this is a big part of the job.”

There’s lots to talk about this week, and a great deal of the show was devoted to a side of police officers civilians rarely see—the heart.

Take away the gun, the badge, and the uniform, and what you have is an honest to goodness person. And, yes, believe it or not, cops are actually people who bleed, cry, grieve, and laugh just like everyone else. And they hurt when someone else is hurting.

Still, there is a difference. And that difference becomes apparent the moment danger appears. That’s when cops run straight into harm’s way to protect you and me. Who knows why they do it? They’re just wired a little differently than the average Joe and Jane. But, as heroic as they are, and try as they may, they’re going to screw up. They’re human.

And there’s another difference between cops and civilians…when cops screw up it can be big. Really big. And that’s where we begin tonight’s episode, with Chickie and Dewey trying to do right, but…

A man with a knife who runs from the police is one that cops sort of hate to catch because they know what’s waiting for them when they do—the potential to bleed…a lot. Yet, the chase goes on, every time. And that’s what Chickie did last night. But her suspect climbed into a car that started a high-speed pursuit involving several of LAPD’s finest. Pursuit driving is tough. Very tough. Not only does the officer have to maintain control of the vehicle, he/she must maintain visual contact with the suspect, watch out for drivers who cannot hear the approaching sirens, be alert for road hazards, listen to the radio traffic, provide constant communication via radio, and look out for pedestrians…

Dewey’s driving. Chickie’s riding shotgun and is working as the second pair of eyes, constantly vigilant for anything that might happen, including calling off the pursuit if it became too dangerous for her and her partner and for the civilians in the area. She’s also in charge of the radio. Then…BAM! A lady steps out in front of the patrol car and Dewey slams into her while traveling at a pretty high rate of speed. She dies. And here’s where these two cops start learning how to deal with things going sideways.

– Did you happen to notice that neither Dewey nor Chickie wore seat belts during the chase? Quite often, cops simply have to run, jump in the car, slam the shift into drive and go, like a bat out of hell. Seat belts? No time to yank ’em on.

John and Ben spend the majority of the episode attempting to come through on a promise they made to remove a rolling crack house from a neighborhood. However, the order to have it removed has been tied up in a never-ending stream of bureaucratic paperwork—the norm in police work. But John’s been making a real effort to help the community and deliver what he promised. Still, the locals have lost their patience and begin to voice their displeasure, quite loudly.

John tells Ben, “You know what sucks, is that we got the gun and the big stick and they think we have all the power. And then when they realize we don’t they get all mouthy with us. That’s what sucks.”

Great statement. Lots of people think police officers can simply wave a magic wand and make their troubles disappear. It doesn’t happen like that. Not at all.

– Cooper and sidekick, Ben, stop to break up a fight, which eventually leads to the arrest of the two guys. Well, the second the cuffs come out one of the men begins spouting off all the things the other guy has done wrong in his life, such as supplying guns to kids. This, too, was very realistic. People, for some reason, do this all the time, as if telling on the other guy will somehow help them out of their own troubles. Nope. well, not at that time. Maybe later.

– Lydia and Josie respond to a parking lot shooting where the victim was caught in the crossfire between two men who were shooting at each other. He died at the scene. A second victim was on the receiving end of a bullet in the brain. He was able to talk to Lydia and describe the shooters. However, once in the hospital, tests revealed the man had just mere hours to live. Lydia stayed with the man, holding his hand and talking to him, comforting him, and she tried to make his last moments as pleasant as possible.

Well, you know, cops do this sort of thing all the time. You don’t read about it in the papers, though. No, what you see there are the bad things that happen…the sideways moments. Well, these moments of good occur far more often than the bad times. Good job, Lydia.

– Sammy, Sammy, Sammy. you’re coming unglued, Buddy. You need to take a deep breath, stop, and think about your next move. I believe we all know which path your traveling on, and I’ll say this…you should take a detour right now. Sure, he identified the wrong guy in the lineup. He knew it wasn’t the right guy, but he’s so darn desperate to avenge Nate’s death that he’s grasping at anything. Sammy, take a break. Don’t go back to the scene. And do not take this into your own hands. It happens in real life all too often, and the outcome is always the same…BAD. Remember, everyone saw you watching the slimeball talking to his attorney after the lineup.

And going back to Tammy??? Sammy…find someone in your own species.

– Ben, Dewey, Coop, Chickie, and a few others are having lunch together, and while eating they’re sharing blood-and-guts war stories. This is typical for cops. They become numb to that sort of thing after a while. You almost have to to deal with the carnage you see on an almost daily basis.

– Lydia asks Russell to represent her in the hearing regarding the leaked photos of last week’s celebrity murder scene. This is one of the few times that Southland writers hung a flashing red “I DID IT” arrow over a character, or scene. It was obvious from the beginning that Russell took the photos and sold them to the tabloid. And he hung his former partner and friend, Lydia, out to dry for $500,000. As a result, he lost his job and his friend. Money does strange things to some cops. A few have been known to steal from seized drug money and other funds. I think the word “sideways” fits nicely here, too.

– Cooper, upon seeing the mobile crack house still firmly planted where it wasn’t supposed to be, decides to take matters into his own hands. He and Ben enlist the help of a few bystanders and pull the thing out into the street where it instantly becomes a traffic hazard. Now, John no longer needs any paperwork to have it removed. So he calls for a tow truck. Problem solved. And I’ve seen things like this happen time after time after time.

– Lydia says, “Cops are good storytellers.” So true. A good investigator absolutely MUST be able to spin a good, believable tale. After all, it’s hard to BS a BS’er.

Back to Dewey and Chickie. It’s going to be interesting to see how they cope with the death of the woman they hit during the pursuit. Chickie is already having problems (bad CPR technique, by the way) with the situation. She says she should have been a surfer instead of a cop. Cooper steps forward to say, “How many surfers run toward gunfire? Teachers? Bartenders? If not you, who?”

Yep, it takes a special person to run into a firefight. It also takes some pretty darn good acting and writing to get this stuff right time and time again. But these guys come through every week. Every single week.

3 replies
  1. melanie atkins
    melanie atkins says:

    Just got a chance to watch this episode, as I watch something else on Tuesday nights and record Southland. This was a good episode. Maybe not as intense as some, except for the chase, but it was solid. I hated that Russ leaked the photos. Damn him.

    I’m looking forward to next week.

  2. dcfowler1
    dcfowler1 says:

    Solid episode, as always. John Cooper’s status as a P-III+1 senior lead officer is noted by the star under his stripes; In the LAPD, this entails being the senior officer in charge of addressing citizen quality-of-life concerns within his specified patrol area (known as a “basic car”), coordinating community meetings with the police and similar actions. I would note that his efforts to get the crackhouse trailer removed was the first time I had noticed him actually performing SLO duties. Within the context of the show, John has thus far been primarily functioning as Ben’s training officer. – Dave

  3. pabrown
    pabrown says:

    I was reading this with great interest, loving the insight into how real cops live and work, then I came across the line “And going back to Tammy??? Sammy…find someone in your own species.” and cracked up.

    Another great review of a show I wish I could see. 🙂

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