“Cops wake up every morning different from the rest of us. Our worst nightmare is just their Wednesday.”
Wednesday. Just another day for cops. How true. And one particular Wednesday is forever embedded in my mind. It was a hot August Wednesday with humidity so thick and heavy that going outdoors was almost like wading chest-deep into a pool of scalding hot water. It was the kind of hot that makes your sweat perspire.
I started the day as a detective on my way to testify before the grand jury about a half-dozen or so drug cases, a vicious assault, a kidnapping, an attempted murder, and a convoluted murder-for-hire scheme. But I never made it to court. Instead, I wound up in a scary shootout with a 22-year-old man. Yes, instead of sitting for hours waiting to tell a group of grand jurors about crack cocaine sales, a dumb businessman who’d hired an even dumber man to kill his wife, a brutal stabbing, and a young woman who’d been taken taken from her home at knife-point, raped, and then hidden away in locked closet two counties away, I found myself exchanging gunfire—68 rounds to be exact—with a guy who had no intention of surrendering to police.
Unfortunately, I killed the guy. And, like the cast of Southland, I’d just worked another Wednesday.
Ben and Sammy hit the streets running again this year and we first see the fleet-footed duo as they roll up on a man beating a woman. The attacker sees the patrol car and does what they all do…turns and runs. And then, as they say, it was on! The new season of the most realistic cop show to ever hit a TV screen had begun.
Cooper is back on the streets. His back surgery is behind him—pun intended (we saw the scar to prove it)—and he has a new partner, Jessica Tang, played by Lucy Liu. Liu, by the way, fit nicely with the rest of the cast. Her portrayal of a street cop was, well, let’s say she did a great job dealing with the everyday, spur-of-the-moment calls.
She did a fine job of showing what it’s like to be a woman in uniform, dealing with the thugs and vermin of the world, while having to deal with the gender-biased vermin who also wear a uniform.
Tang comes to the show complete with her own baggage and I’m looking forward to the day she has to confront her troubles. Believe me, all cops have those moments where they face a fear or two, and Southland writers somehow know about these hidden secrets, and they’re not afraid to show them to the world.
Detective Lydia Adams finds one of her informants at her front door, asking for help. The woman, a drug addict, fears that the person(s) she snitched on is/are going to retaliate.
Lydia does what we all do, gives in and helps—a place to hide and some money. Well, as always (I’ve been burnt on this one many, many times, but my soft heart wouldn’t let me quit handing out cash hoping they’d buy food for themselves or their kids), the informant spent the money on drugs, got busted in the act, and claimed to be there “working” for Adams, making drug buys. If I had a dollar for every time that’s happened..well, I wouldn’t have anywhere close to the amount of I-feel-sorry-for-you cash I’d doled out over the years…but you get the point. Yes, cops can be a little tender-hardhearted, even though they know better.
Regina Adams (Lydia) does a wonderful job of showing the kinder, softer side of police officers, leaving the grittier side to the rest of the cast. She’s as tough as a nail, a hard-as-steel nail with a soft marshmallow center. And sometimes that’s a good trait in a police officer.
Okay, let’s hit the high points of this explosive episode.
– Cooper and Tang stop a car that recklessly pulled out in front of their patrol car. The driver, a young man, refuses to get out of the car after Officer Tang orders him out. Cooper leans in the passenger window and offers the guys a gentle suggestion, “You can go home with a ticket or go to jail with my foot in your a**.” Well, that’s pretty much how it goes, folks. At some point, after the “pretty pleases” have ceased to be successful, it’s time to take charge. They don’t comply with a lawful order, then it’s time for the “foot in the a**.
My wife rode with me at work one night, a Christmas Eve. I was shift supervisor at the time and received a call that two officers were experiencing trouble getting a man out of his car. He was drunk, disorderly, and refusing to get out. I pulled up, walked over to the driver’s window and asked him nicely to remove his seat belt and step outside. He cursed me a few times and said through clenched teeth, “Make me.” So I did.
Almost in the blink of an eye he came through the seat belt, through the open window—head first—and onto the pavement where I promptly handcuffed him—with him screaming all the way. We didn’t have Tasers in those days, but I’m thinking this guy would have chosen a Taser blast over my gentle but persuasive method of vehicle extraction. Anyway, that’s the next step after the “foot in the a**” statement. And I’m guessing Cooper was one short step away from that little action.
By the way, did you notice that Cooper touched the trunk lid as he approached the car? He was checking to be sure the lid was closed so there’d be no dangerous surprises, such as armed gunmen popping out of the trunk to ambush the officers. Yes, this has happened in the past.
Of course the rude driver’s mother pulls up and handles the situation as any mom would. She got in her grown son’s face and politely told him, “It’s gonna take Jesus and two more white folks to keep me kicking your a**. You might not believe this, but moments like that do occur, and yes, sometimes cops have to physically pull mama away to prevent her from delivering on her promise.
Back to Ben and Sammy. The two are in pursuit, in an alleyway, of two guys shooting it out. One is hit and falls. Ben continues after the last man standing who runs into a school yard and then into the school building. Officers (backup had arrived) remove the children one-by-one as they follow a blood trail into a restroom where a very bloody shooting victim succumbs to his wounds.
I must say that the crime scenes on this show are superb. The realism is at a 10 on a scale of 1-10. For example, in another foot chase, Ben chases a guy who runs out into a street where he’s promptly smacked by a passing box-type delivery truck. The accident scene, although gory, is spot on. These folks took the time to make this scene look as it would in real life. In fact, the effort was extremely realistic, and I’m saying this as someone who’s been on the scene of many, many accidents and crashes.
The cops on the scene, at Ben’s urging, reluctantly attempt to treat the runner/accident victim, which was probably wise, especially since the onlooking crowd was growing upset that they weren’t doing anything to save the dying man. Even though the man had died it was a smart move to take the body away in an ambulance with lights and siren going. Doing so kept the crowd at bay, thinking there was hope. Had they known the man had died, well, there just might have been more bloodshed—the officers’.
And, speaking of the behind the scenes stuff that helps make this show what it is—top quality—is the directing and camera work. The camera is almost like it’s own character. These folks take us with them every step of the way. We are not outsiders looking in. And that’s what takes your breath away and makes your heart pound at the inside of your chest, almost as if it wants to get out and away before something bad happens to the body surrounding it.
Next we find ourselves at the police department when a man walks in with a shotgun and begins picking off officers like targets at a carnival shooting gallery. Ben, Ferguson, and Sammy all begin to exchange rounds with the guy. The scene is extremely intense—hold-your-breath-till-it’s-over intense. And it seems real. Totally real.
Unless you’ve been in a shootout you’ll have to take my word for this one. But here’s what you should do…Turn up your surround sound and replay the scene. Do it two or three times, taking care to watch the faces and actions of the people involved. And pay particular attention to the sounds and to the workings of the weapons, the way the slides move and the rounds eject. THEN, rewind and play it again, this time viewing the scene in slow motion, frame by frame. I promise you, that’s the way a real shootout would seem to you, in slow motion, frame by frame. Sounds muted or dull, with the faces of everyone ingrained in memory.
Yes, this show is the real deal, folks, from the tiniest detail to the hot action scenes. It’s the next best thing to putting on a uniform and hitting the streets in a patrol car. It is intense and the actors take the time to make it so.
So how’s your Wednesday going so far?
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By the way, I believe the precinct scene may have been based on an actual shooting that took place in a Detroit police precinct.