L.A.’s Finest (“Defiance”)

Season 1, Episode 2
Date of release: May 13, 2019 (Spectrum)

And between the pilot and this episode, the writers forgot that the show was an off-shoot of a movie franchise. Between the time it took for NBC to get rid of the show after production of the pilot, and Charter Communications to acquire it and get into the scripted TV business with a series order, the writers got rid of the connection to BAD BOYS, and suddenly L.A.’S FINEST was just another crime show. This episode was even more surreal, because it managed to begin its episodic homicide case 12 minutes into the episode, and barely had more than five scenes to develop over the course of the episode, while the remainder of this hour focused on the lives of its two central characters and their very complex past lives as troubled characters, and both having to deal with those demons from the past now. It seemed like the writers realized, now that L.A.’S FINEST was ordered on a pay-per-view network, they don’t have to make it a crime procedural any longer. No homicide investigations in each episode are necessary to develop the characters or the back story, because now the characters can do whatever the hell they want, without having to be directed by the network executives to investigate random murders. It’s pretty evident how the pilot had a pretty big homicide investigation, because it was a pilot produced for NBC, but the second episode decided not to give a damn about the homicide investigation and instead go straight into character arcs.

Fletcher likes to have some naughty fun during his off time.

And I really have no idea if it was such a good idea to reboot the show this way right after the pilot episode. Not that I mind seeing Syd and Nancy battling their demons, now that they come home to roost trouble, but there is a difference between the first episode not at all going into the back stories of the characters and just tease us with things that happened (Syd’s trauma from five years ago, Nancy’s contact with one of the bad dudes Syd was after), while the second episode goes straight into giving some answers, while also deepening the trouble the two women might be in pretty soon. All of a sudden Nancy has a criminal background, and Syd decided to blow up some drug dealers by torching their club and stealing their drugs, and both women will now have to deal with the wrath of the men they screwed over with their recent deeds. And of course, both Syd and Nancy’s back stories happened to line up quite neatly — the drugs Syd stole happened to be Dante’s, who was Nancy’s boyfriend and criminal partner in her teenage years. Talk about conveniences.

The homicide investigation was a bit ridiculous at times, but that’s nothing new with crime procedurals, who sometimes like to enhance the eye of a victim, who is on camera, just to see what is behind the camera that is recording her (that was an investigative mode on a first-season episode of RIZZOLI & ISLES, and I still laugh myself to sleep over that scene). This episode took and then ate the cake, when it managed to trace three burner phone the serial killer in the making bought for his victims, got one of the potential victims to talk, and then figured out where the serial killer in the making’s car was, simply due to the use of bluetooth. I have no idea how the cops on this show even got to that thought process in the first place, but let me tell you that those scenes were written to quickly finish up with the homicide investigation, because there is no time for that genre stuff in this show that does not air on a broadcast network.

The Bens really try to be the funny dudes, but they kinda aren’t.

Meanwhile, the writers really focused hard on Nancy’s back story, including various flashback scenes of her life with Dante, and making the viewers believe that those flashback scenes were actually part of the current homicide investigation and Dante was actually Eric, and the girl he hung out with and called his girlfriend was the next victim, who needed to be rescued before she also found herself with a bullet in her back. The reveal that all those scenes were indeed flashbacks was a nice one, but in hindsight I have no idea why the writers needed to fool us with those scenes, or why those scenes couldn’t have been connected with some emotional moments from present-time Nancy, who must obviously be distraught by the fact that her past life is about to catch up with her. The only emotional character scene of the episode belonged to Syd, and that happened because she couldn’t stand having to listen to her idiot and loser father, but it was an emotional scene not for Syd’s sake, and instead just to get one of the Bens to her and tell her a random story, which happened to be a funny lie, just so Syd can crack a smile and forget the emotional troubles she just had. I didn’t mind this scene individually, as it promoted partnership between detectives, turning the Bens and Syd & Nancy into best friends, who will always have their back, but in hindsight it seemed weird that Nancy didn’t get the emotional scene she needed, while the flashback scenes demanded for Nancy to be more emotionally distraught than Syd is. Although Syd definitely has all the reason in the world to be a little scared right now — busting up some high-profile drug dealers is not such an easy job to do, not even when you’re a cop with homicide, who was once working for the DEA.

The blind guy versus the tough cop.

Best part of the episode: Izzy might turn out to be a great character. She is a weird teen, as evident during her “playing dead” scene in the pool, but she is also an understanding teen with a cop step-mother, who likes putting “confidential informants” in the trunk, so that her step-kid has room in the back of the car. I was expecting a troubled relationship between Izzy and Nancy, but this episode made it seem like they are very cool with each other, and if it weren’t for Nancy’s troubled past, they might even be best buds.
Worst part of the episode: Turning flashback scenes into “normal looking” scenes, just so you can reveal at the end that those scenes were flashbacks… Yeah, please don’t do that. Just because LOST made flashbacks part of almost every show’s narrative doesn’t mean a police procedural show can fake us out with flashbacks. Although I am now interested whether those flashbacks will be part of the show’s narrative, or if they were only here to explain Dante’s relationship with Nancy.
Weirdest part of the episode: How to investigate a homicide, with three burner phones and bluetooth. Must be easy as hell to do so. I was left behind scratching my head.
Player of the episode: It was difficult to find enjoyment in this episode, so I will give this award out to the genius who had the idea of Nancy and Mr. Magoo pointing guns at each other, as depicted in the above screenshot. I chuckled a bit during that moment.

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