After wrapping up an eight-season tour on Castle, Nathan Fillion returns to duty on ABC in a new cop drama from one of the producers of that show. Does this TV vet have another hit on his hands with The Rookie?
The premise of the series has middle-aged John Logan (Fillion) joining the LAPD as a rookie patrol officer. Perhaps the most far-fetched thing about this is the way that other characters repeatedly make a point of specifying that Logan is 40-years-old, when Fillion himself is a good seven years beyond that and, rugged handsomeness notwithstanding, looks it.
On the same day his divorce is finalized, construction contractor Logan endures a life-changing experience as a bystander to a bank robbery. He bravely distracts the robbers long enough for the police to arrive and save the day, which includes rescuing him from near execution. Following that, Logan promptly quits his job and enrolls in the police force, convinced that this is his true purpose in life. The show’s pilot episode details his first day on duty.
Despite the seriousness of his intention and his strong work ethic, Logan immediately draws the animosity of his watch commander, Sgt. Grey (Richard T. Jones from Judging Amy and The Sarah Connor Chronicles), who resents what he represents – a middle-aged loser trying to “find himself” late in life. All of his fellow new recruits are of course much younger than Logan, and so are most of his superiors. Logan is partnered with training officer Talia Bishop (Afton Williamson), a go-getter with aspirations of rising through the ranks to Commissioner. She fears that he’ll hold her back, and pushes him hard, undercutting even his successes with criticisms of his mistakes.
Logan has a busy first day. His first call is a domestic dispute involving a very large, burly man and his tiny wife. Logan suspects that the wife may actually be the abuser in the relationship, but when the man denies it, he and Bishop have no choice but to walk away, expecting to be called back later.
Next, Logan has to talk down a nutcase ranting about unicorns. When Logan learns that the man had a young son with him who may be locked in a car in the day’s 90-degree heat, he searches frantically until rescuing the boy just in the nick of time. Unfortunately, this victory is short-lived. As predicted, Logan and Bishop return to the original domestic dispute address to find the wife repeatedly stabbing her husband. The man dies in Bishop’s hands. He takes this very hard.
We later learn that Logan is in a secret relationship with fellow rookie Lucy Chen (Melissa O’Neil). When Bishop finds out about this, she warns him to break it off immediately.
The next day, the hunt for a fugitive named Lance Selby results in a gunfight in an alley and, finally, with a standoff in which Selby holds a random pedestrian by knifepoint. Logan tricks the man by pretending to lower his weapon, only to shoot him in the leg.
Although capturing a dangerous felon would seem to be another big victory for the aging rookie, Sgt. Grey is furious that he ran off in chase of the suspect, leaving his partner Bishop in a dangerous situation. (She comes through it, but it’s a close call.) Grey fires him on the spot. However, that decision is countermanded by the police captain (Mercedes Mason, rebounding from being killed off on Fear the Walking Dead), who orders him reinstated.
Episode Verdict / Grade: B
Going into it, I expected The Rookie to essentially be a retread of Castle, trading homicide detectives for beat cops. Although the show certainly has a fair amount of humor, it’s also surprisingly dramatic and, at times, even emotional. Fillion’s character takes his career shift very seriously. He’s not the jokey ham Richard Castle was. The pilot episode also spends a good amount of time building up the supporting characters, giving each of them individual story arcs.
The series is a very slick, polished product. It’s pretty entertaining and I expect it to be successful. At the same time, it doesn’t exactly break any new ground that hasn’t already been trod on TV many times before. Frankly, aside from the gender and age difference in its main character, the show reminds me a lot of Rookie Blue, which aired on this same network not very long ago.
The pilot episode also has not one but two instances of police officers shooting suspects without warning (the cops who rush into the bank robbery at the beginning and Logan at the climax), which strikes me as incredibly insensitive and tone-deaf in this age of heightened awareness about police abuses of power.