Southland: Thursday – A Review And Recap

Southland: Thursday

After a couple of years on the job every cop has to make a decision about what kind of cop they’re going to be. The time has come for Officer Ben Sherman to decide.

Getting up in the morning, every morning, knowing that part of your job is to carry a gun, can be a bit overwhelming, if you let it. Ben Sherman is one of those officers who hasn’t quite learned how not to be overwhelmed. He’s also hiding behind his badge, using his authority to carry out a mission. Some argue the mission is a deep-rooted issue with his own father. Some say there are other motivators. No matter the reason, though, Ben Sherman is an overconfident and cocky, loose cannon.

Sammy knows Ben is standing at the edge, and he feels responsible. He even tells Ben that he gave up his position as a detective, returning to uniform duty, so he could help younger officers. Ben shrugs off Sammy’s heartfelt words and heads out to begin his shift, and his quest to hunt down “Pimp Ronnie,” the guy whose gunshots caused the car crash that landed Sammy in the hospital. Pimp Ronnie is also the father of the girl Ben so desperately wants to save from a life in the streets (the bad father-figure theory?).

Ben is partnered with Ferguson (LDP himself), who offers Ben a brief lecture about wasting his time trying to save the hookers, but still has no qualms about about joining the hunt for the man who tried to kill two cops (shoot at the boys in blue and we’re coming after you!).

Well, it doesn’t take long before Ben is in a foot chase with Pimp Ronnie. Ferguson tries to get in front of the chase using the patrol car, but he’s not quick enough. Ben doesn’t answer his radio, He runs. Breathing hard. Sucking wind. Faster and faster. Just out of sight of Ferguson, when suddenly a shot’s fired.

Ferguson runs toward the sound and finds Ben standing over a very dead Pimp Ronnie. A gun is on the pavement beside the body. A gun that looks suspiciously like the gun we saw Ben cleaning in the opening scene. A drop gun? Did Ben murder an unarmed man? Revenge for shooting at Ben and Sammy? Or revenge for the way Pimp Ronnie treated his own daughter? The father-figure-syndrome? No matter the reason, it sure looks as if Ben, overwhelmed and overconfident, hid behind his badge and murdered a man. Granted, the man was not an innocent man, but murder is murder.

Cooper and Tang—the tension is so thick between the two that you’d have to use an ax to even make a dent in it. Cooper doesn’t like the fact that Tang will do whatever it takes to come out on top of any situation, including putting Cooper’s life at risk while she plays cowgirl during an intense shootout at a car wash.

And to make matters worse, Tang flaunts her cockiness by tossing the orange gun tip (the one she removed after shooting an innocent kid) to Cooper while the two of them argue outside the bar where a celebration in Tang’s honor is well underway.

Cooper’s one of the original good guys. He’s a cop, with blue running through his veins. He’s the guy who goes home, strips off his gear, and can get a good night’s sleep knowing he did the best job he could possibly do. Sure, he’s got his flaws, but at the end of the day his badge is shining as brightly as it ever did. No tarnish there, no sir.

Lydia (Regina King) delivered a powerful performance off camera last night. We didn’t have to see or hear what went on in that burn victim’s hospital room to know how deeply the interview affected Adams. Her emotional rooftop scene afterward told us all we needed to know. She was keeping her baby and she was not going to let anything happen to it. Not ever. And she proved that by taking a desk job for the duration of her pregnancy.

This was a season finale that really delivered. The show started with a bang and never let up until it ended with a quick one-two punch to the gut. Then, without giving us time to catch our breath, the writers left us with a few unanswered questions.

– Sammy knows, and we know he knows. Once again, Shawn Hatosy said a million words with mere facial expressions. And I don’t think he likes the Ben he’s seeing. And I’m not sure I’m liking what I see either. Ben’s on a one man quest to save the world, but who’s going to save him from himself?

– Cooper has a new boot, a clumsy, new recruit who’s ready to be molded into a real police officer by TO John Cooper. Let’s hope Cooper has better luck with this one. Hey, things have to be looking up, right? After all, Cooper’s got a shiny orange good luck charm on his key chain. What more could he ask for?

– Tang is a sergeant. You know, sometimes it’s the devious and not-so-nice that get ahead. That’s life. Accept it.

The show started on a Wednesday this year, with freshly scrubbed faces and new attitudes. It came to a conclusion on Thursday, with battered bodies and troubled hearts. Will the relationships survive? Should they?

One thing I’m certain of…everyone involved in this show absolutely wants to “get it right.” They want to accurately portray life as a police officer. And they pull no punches. In fact, there was one scene in last night’s episode that summed it all up while using very few words.

Cooper and Tang entered the car wash, knowing there were armed gunmen hiding inside. Extremely frightened customers and workers were running outside to safety. Cooper encouraged them to leave. “Go. Go. Go. Get out of here,” Cooper said to them. And then he and Tang headed straight into the danger. No hesitation. No second thoughts. Because that’s what cops do. They head into danger while everyone else runs away from it.

Will we see the officers of Southland again next season?

I certainly hope so, because this is hands-down the best darn cop show on TV.

Light ’em up!


*     *     *

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28 replies
  1. Stefan
    Stefan says:


    I absolutely agree. One thing that’s important to mention, though, is that while Ben certainly didn’t plant any weapon on Ronnie, there’s still a possibility that Ben flat-out murdered him.


    Ben chases Ronnie into the alleyway. Ronnie holds up his hands (and firearm) in surrender. Ben murders Ronnie and tells FID that Ronnie intended to shoot him first.

    Still, while I’m sure that the situation will be cleared up in the next season, I think the biggest ‘leap’ for Sherman was that he didn’t go out there to arrest Ronnie. What might end up to be an in-policy shooting started out as premeditated murder, and that alone casts a big shadow on Ben’s future.

    “… every once in a while, you get to take a bad guy off the streets for good – and that my friend is God’s work.”

  2. Alex Everett
    Alex Everett says:

    The only comment I have left to add is this: I think the writers set a season 5 up near perfectly.
    Cooper is doing what he does best, without the baggage of a drug addiction following him around; he’ll be the training officer we all know he used to be, and I look forward to seeing it.

    Lydia is going to be an interesting story (but for me the weakest one), as she’ll be dealing with the dual burdens of a demanding job and a demanding kid. Even odds that she gives it up, but that’s just my take, along with my apathy towards that story line.

    What will really shine, for me, is the Ben/Sammy dynamic. It’s evident to most that Ben didn’t plant the gun, at least upon further review. But that’s only because we’re privy to information that Sammy isn’t; he’ll have his suspicions, for sure, and they definitely gel with the path he’s seen Ben taking, as the ‘savior-cop’ archetype (not the ‘rouge-cop’ archetype, sorry Kate.) I get the impression that they’ll still be partners, and at some point Sammy will confront him about the incident.

    The first time I watched the episode, I missed the first 20 minutes; I assumed Ben had planted the gun, simply because of his actions. The second time I watched it, I saw the gun Ben was cleaning, and assumed it was the plant. Once I watched the shooting, however, I changed my mind. Had I not witnessed the events in full, ‘plant’ would have been my first reaction too.

  3. Stefan
    Stefan says:

    Sorry about that, Mr. Lofland. =) But since I can’t take the bullet back, I should also note that after re-watching the episode where Ronnie wrecks Ben/Sammy’s car, he’s firing at them with the same USP. So it’s clearly a personal handgun of his.

  4. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    C. – I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I’ve had to leave “mid-bite” to respond to various calls. Unfortunately, no, there’s no reimbursement. However, I’ve seen a few restaurant owners serve up new meals or save our leftovers after we jumped up and ran out after having a few bites. That’s if we had time to return to try again.

  5. C. Rowley
    C. Rowley says:


    I’ve been a lurker for sometime ever since I was directed here from a link someone posted on IMDB of your blog. It is my ritual afte watching my weekly dose of Southland (I usually have to watch it later in the week) to swing over to your blog to see your take on it. I enjoy your explanations of police procedures and your own antedotes (as well as helpful comments from other former/current officers).

    My question, may seem strange, as it doesn’t directly have to do with the finale, but I see it in almost every episode: Police officers having to throw away their barely eaten, just purchased lunches to take a call (is that the word you would use?). Is there any type of reimbursement or per diem given to officers to compensate for this?

  6. Kate
    Kate says:

    I didn’t read the orange toy-gun cap quite the same way as you did. I saw it as Tang carrying a reminder that she did the wrong thing, and even at this late date still wrestling with herself to confess. Maybe I’m being optimistic, I don’t know, but I think real arrogance would have been to just throw it in the trash.

    I also see Cooper carrying it not as a good-luck charm but as a reminder of how even good people can fall if they let themselves. Don’t forget, Cooper was so far down the rabbit hole he was stealing drugs not just from suspects but from *victims* (rummaging through bathroom drawers at a crime scene a couple of seasons ago). Everyone covered up for him, including the staff sargeant, and he got out of it only because his own trainee finally stood up and called him out on nearly getting him killed. I don’t think that’s an untarnished badge and whatever you think of Tang, she was right to call him out on his moral equivocation.

    I was pretty pleased with the finale, itself, although it was definitely written so they could have a “closure” episode in case they aren’t picked up for another season so in that regard its a little worrisome. Its great to see Cooper back to 100%, I was worried they would play the “relapse” card which would have been hackneyed and really a bummer. Sometimes, its OK to let the troubled characters succeed over their demons — even on a TV drama show. Ben, on the other hand… a fledgling rogue cop? That is simultaneously a terrible shame and a spectacular narrative left-turn.

  7. Rusty Fairbanks
    Rusty Fairbanks says:

    I really appreciate your reviews, Lee. Had to miss Tuesday night’s show (Annual Town Meeting), so had to try to stay awake to see the repeat last night at 11pm (sooo past my bedtime). Totally missed the carwash scene (rats!). My take on Tang: she’s multi-layered. Being female only adds to the conflict. I think she feels remorse for the shooting accident, but understands accidents happen. She has a goal and isn’t going to be thrown under the truck (or let anyone else throw her). I knew a lot of cops like that – both male and female. As far as Ben is concerned: He seems to be on a mission. Question is if it is compatible with the public’s expectation of his badge. Lydia: Good cop. Once she becomes a single mom – life is not going to get better. And Cooper – I am so happy to see how his character turned out to be this year, because last year he could have been equal to this year’s Ben. Different issues but same result. LOVE this show. I have so much respect for the writers as well as the actors. They all should be recognized during the awards’ season.

  8. Wendy Arsenault
    Wendy Arsenault says:

    I think Sammy’s face at the end was more than not liking the Ben he’s seeing. I think he also is realizing that his partner totally has his back, killing the guy who almost killed him. His face to me showed these two conflicting emotions, or rather both deeper realizations living in his head at the same time.

    Also, I disagree with Melissa, who thought Tang’s keeping the gun tip and tossing it to Cooper showed that she wasn’t taking her mess-up lightly. I thought it showed a cold arrogance, and total disrespect for her partner and his morals. She is showing him she is happily leaving him in her dust. The whole episode, she was almost demanding him to take her photos and do her bidding, with regard only to herself.She really showed her true colors.

  9. Ron De Laby
    Ron De Laby says:

    Lee: Some of the names before “says” are pretty faint, some are normal.

    The firefight scene in the car wash was outstanding. Advance and fire until there is no return. Don’t know how we ever got into the fire two and evaluate nonsense, but it could prove to be fatal. Tang’s move was dumb for such a senior officer. Running to help anyone in the middle of a firefight is insane.

    I never thought Pimp Ronnie would have gone anywhere without a piece, so I never read into the shoot as anything BUT clean.

    Lydia’s scene on the rooftop was perfection, right down to the gasp of breath. Perfect response to such horror. It’s not something you ever forget. I had a case with 2 year old girl nearly boiled alive in a scalding hot tub by a drunk boyfriend. You think you can handle that stuff until it happens to you. I was in total agreement with LDP at that time. Fantastic program. Can’t wait for the next series.

  10. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Alex, I’m curious. What’s your background? I know it’s not law enforcement and you’re not anyone who’s trained rookie cops in the field.

  11. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Is anyone else seeing the same thing as Susan? I’ve heard this now from three people. Most people see everything just fine.

    By the way, the only thing we changed was the image, not the buttons (HOME, ABOUT, etc.)

  12. Alex
    Alex says:

    You know everyone’s entitled to an opinion and to agree to disagree, so where you see a “cocky and overconfident” Ben, some of us see exactly the opposite, and see it in body language and expressions and hear it in his voice a real accomplishment for an actor to play that dichotomy, whatever the motivations and actions related to a driving need to protect women and children, especially those who’ve been assaulted and left vulnerable by men, including their own partners or fathers.

    I wasn’t a fan of the Tang character, but I’m glad that she called a spade a spade when it came to hypocritical behavior. Cooper could have killed any number of people, starting with the person he was entrusted with and paid to train at least year and maybe before then and including anyone he came in contact with while under the influence or unable to perform his duties. He would have made those conscious choices. That’s what made the confrontation a standoff. Cooper can get in line ahead of Sammy for the cops who failed Ben. I hope the new trainee is far safer and given the opportunity to learn without the constant threat of being compromised by his TO or having to fend for himself.

    There seems to be quite a bit of research and talk about different guns, not anything identical to what Ben was cleaning, but that’s left to the gray, or that’s my impression. Ferguson has his own guess, Sammy his and Ben knows the truth if there’s a chance to explore that or the writers have the chance and opt to do so.

  13. Christy
    Christy says:

    Lee, Thank you for the additional insight to last night’s episode. I agree with a lot of what you said. The speech by Ferguson took me by surprise – I figure he’d agree with Ben and go after Pimp Ronnie – then to take control of the scene once other units rolled up – priceless LDP! The scene with Coop & Tang at the end was pivotal – really wasn’t sure which way that would go – great acting MC! Bottom line: there is a gray area and a thin line that does get crossed – as you said – it’s life! Keep up the wonder reviews and let’s pray TNT brings SouthLAnd back next season.

  14. Susan
    Susan says:

    The headings on your blog format are too faint. The headlines for the entries, comments, etc. are a very, very light grey that is just barely darker than the background. It is apparently the exact same grey as the background on the boxes on the right side because none of the links in the navigation boxes are visible to me at all. I’ve viewed the site using both IE and Firefox and have the same problem on both browsers.

  15. SaraK
    SaraK says:

    I also agree with Jim D. above. That’s the SouthLand we know and love. Not shoving anything in our faces (well, except for the “Lydia Lessons” this season). Sammy’s and Ben’s looks to each other in the last shot said more than any dialog.

    Lee, thank you so much for your reviews. They add a huge dimension to my enjoyment of the show. Looking forward to many more strong seasons of SouthLand with you.

  16. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    Your reviews are written beautifully. For me, they often evoke a deeper appreciation of the show and the life of a police officer. You do an amazing job. Thanks.

  17. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    I used to write the piece immediately following the show so it could post by 8am. Soon, though, it took longer and longer to write it. So now I scribble my notes during and after watching the episode and then come up with what you see the next morning. I still don’t edit the reviews, though. What you see is a first effort (and I’m sure it shows).

  18. Steve
    Steve says:

    Jim D. – could not agree more. Very well put.

    I panicked at the start of this season when I did not see a new Southland review on Lee’s blog the morning after the premiere, then I realized that I just needed to wait until noon because he faithfully has his review up the next day by noon EST. No pressure or future expectations, Lee ;>). Thanks again for all the insight, and keep up the great work!

  19. Jim D.
    Jim D. says:

    What a fantastic episode, and just a tremendous show. How many other television shows would have used that scene with the burned little girl to tug at the audience’s sympathies? Or had Sammy give a big speech to Ben at the pool party? Instead, the Southland crew uses visuals only and lets the fine work of the actors stand out in those quiet yet incredibly powerful moments. Kudos to everyone involved in creating this series and bringing it to us each week. I only wish we could get more than 13 episodes a season.

    I also hope that the show and all of the actors and creative staff involved finally get some long-deserved attention when the Emmy nominations come around. With all due respect to everyone in this fine cast, the work of Regina King and Michael Cudlitz is eminently worth of Best Actor consideration. And can we get a campaign going to drum up support for a Guest Actor nomination for C. Thomas Howell?

    Lee, thank you for your weekly reviews. As a civilian, I appreciate the law enforcement background you bring to your writing – Southland feels like what a ride-along in the worst parts of L.A. must be like and your insight adds to the enjoyment of this powerful show.

  20. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Elizabeth – Police training is tough. It has to be to produce officers who can take what the streets have to offer on a daily basis. It’s not a guy thing, just a necessary thing.

  21. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    I agree with Melanie about Tang. No, she’s not the nicest person and she is ambitious, but in her mind-and in reality-it was a terrible accident. I agree with Melanie that her holding on to the tip meant something and that tossing it to Cooper meant something too. Like-put up or shut up-it was an accident-do you demand a dirty accident or a clean one? One could argue that she saw nothing wrong in “tweaking” an accident and that Cooper can get a bit carried away with guilt and punishment. To me, it’s part of the amazing depth of these characters.

    Of course, I’ve never been a police officer or undergone the training, but I used to feel sorry for Ben having to put up with all the nasty crap dished up by Cooper. -and it’s clear he plans on training his new boot the same way. Is this a ‘guy’ thing? Ben certainly didn’t seem to come out of his training with any great love or appreciation for Cooper.

  22. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    William. MC is a regular reader of this blog, so I’m sure he’ll see, and appreciate, your comments.

    Stefan – You’re taking the mystery out of this… 🙂 Most people only saw a nickle-plated/stainless steel shiny pistol.

    Melissa – She’s not beating herself up too badly. It hasn’t stopped her from using it to get ahead.

    Emily – I’ll be the first to applaud.

  23. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    Another great review of a great episode. I had a different take on Tang and Cooper’s argument outside the bar – when Tang tossed the orange tip that she’d been carrying, I took it as her way of admitting that she knows she messed up big time, but she hasn’t taken it lightly. Carrying that tip with her has been a reminder of her massive screwup, and that she has been beating herself up enough for both of them about it. YMMV, of course!

  24. Stefan
    Stefan says:

    The gun Ben is cleaning next to his service Glock 22 is a Smith & Wesson 3913, his backup weapon. The one found next to the pimp is a Heckler and Koch USP. Unless Ben was somehow hiding a full sized weapon in his uniform for the duration of his shift, it was a clean shooting.

  25. Emily farnham
    Emily farnham says:

    Agreed i am as you know a fan of police shows amn mysteries. This is truest one ive seen. Lets have a round of applause for southland cast and crew. Lta. Ems

  26. William
    William says:

    Cooper is (in my opinion only) one of THE best characters to come along in any series, cop show or not. Human, flawed, carrying his own demons, but by Christ he’s going to do what Right, not what’s easy.

    Michael Cudlitz lights up the screen every time you see him. I have no idea if this is the perfect melding of actor and character, I don’t know if Cudlitz created Cooper from scratch, I don’t know if the series writers had this all mapped out, or just how it happened.

    What I do know is he is incredibly brilliant in every scene he’s in. I also know, mention SOUTHLAND to a real police officer and nine out of ten times, the first thing they say is, “Coop is The Man!”.

    High praise….

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