L.A.’s Finest (“Déjà Vu”)

Season 1, Episode 4
Date of release: May 20, 2019 (Spectrum)

Could this episode be the turnaround of the show? While it continued not to deliver any connections to the movie franchise it was born out of during the pilot episode, it was a much better hour than the previous two, making me hope for the best with L.A.’S FINEST, and letting me think that the writers were about to have the Knox story under control, after it was created in a somewhat hurried emergency fashion. In the meantime, the show is slowly removing itself from ever being a crime procedural, as this episode didn’t even have the homicide investigation of the week, and instead focused sorely on the auto shop bust, as well as Syd & Nancy planning to get the case of Fentanyl worth $20 million into the chop shop before the LAPD and DEA bust. So, besides this episode potentially being the turnaround for the show to become better, is it also the beginning of a highly serialized crime story that won’t include random homicide investigation and instead has Syd & Nancy come closer and closer to the ever-present villain in the background named Knox?

And I wouldn’t even mind if L.A.’S FINEST turns into that kind of show, although it will become evident that it wasn’t created as such. Between the order for the pilot episode and the rest of the season, a lot has happened and you might have noticed all of it during the previous two episodes, which is probably why they were so uneven and unnervingly disturbing for a crime procedural created for a broadcast network and now produced for a pay-per-view media company. The good thing that came out of the change in broadcaster is the potential of dark character drama, as evident in Izzy’s arc. Yes, it was disappointing that the episode didn’t make clear who Alice is and why Izzy decided to become this emotionally rich character, but the fact that she became this character after four episodes shows that the writers were interested in something else than just a simple crime procedural — something NBC might never have approved, which means Izzy only gets to exist the way she does, because the show changed broadcasting hands.

The identity and age are unclear with this person.

Now that Nancy knows all about Syd’s nightly hobby of burning down drug clubs and angering high-profile drug dealers, the story of the two central detectives of the show trying to smuggle the Fentanyl to another group of drug dealers was kind of nice. Their initial conflict filled with secrets about their past was resolved, and the two started working together to solve the problem they were thrown into, becoming partners again in the process. Of course, stashing the Fentanyl with a bunch of random amateur drug dealers seems sort of convenient in hindsight, but I did appreciate that the problem didn’t just disappear for Syd after this episode. Instead of staying far away from Knox and all the trouble that come with the anonymous drug kingpin, Syd gets pulled back in, and judging by the way she removed herself from the chop shop, there might even be a way to pin some of the drugs in the chop shop on her. Remember the bluetooth speaker she used to distract the fireman and get out of the garage? Well, that bluetooth speaker will remember Syd’s phone, and all a DEA agent needs to do now is figure out which devices have been connected to the bluetooth speaker, and voila, you might realize that one of the devices is Syd’s iPhone. That is in fact what I was thinking about when Calloway called Syd back into the office by the end of the episode. But instead of pushing Syd into legal trouble, she was pushed into potentially emotional trouble, by having to deal with Knox again.

Izzy’s story could have deserved some explanation though, but with the show’s change from an NBC police procedural to a pay-per-view crime thriller in 13 acts, there is a chance that even Izzy’s story turned into a serialized character arc, and that each episode will explain her growing into a mature character, defining her emotional trouble, with this episode serving as the first act of her great arc. And honestly, I was super happy that she wasn’t out and about doing some weird teenage bullshit. Her trip had a purpose, her effort to get a fake ID in the previous episode had a purpose, and her failed meeting with Alice in a federal prison in this episode had the purpose of giving her a character arc and maybe a more deeper connection with her step-mother, which could also be helpful in the progress. Of course, the writers messed it all up by not immediately going into who Alice is and what the whole trip to a federal prison was about.

Syd woke up into a new life, mourning her previous one.

White Ben’s story was solid as well. The revelation that his wife is currently working on their first baby for the third time gave the man some character depth, and I adored his moment with Syd later, as they turned into baby buddies together and giving the two detectives something to connect over, something they have in common and only the two can talk about with each other. Losing a baby (or in Ben’s case, two) is traumatic enough to build an emotional connection with a friend who has a similar experience in their past, and it does look good for one of the guys behind the two central characters — in a broadcast network crime procedural, they would have just been supporting characters, solving the cases with the lead detective(s) together, barely getting any other kind of screentime. But because L.A.’S FINEST is not an NBC show any longer, the writers were allowed to give one of the Bens this dramatic storyline. I hesitate to even say it, but could L.A.’S FINEST be a wonderful example of how broadcast network crime procedurals should handle some of their regular cast members and the characters they portray?

Flashbacks into how Syd became the woman she is now were inevitable, and I was happy to see that those were delivered after four episodes. And this time around, the flashbacks were distinguishable from the present-time narrative, which is also a good thing. If we got anything useful out of those flashbacks, with the exception of Syd’s former lover, who has now returned to her life again, will have to be seen, but what those flashbacks did at the end was interesting for Syd as a character: Seen as a rock star in Miami, but pulling amateur moves five years ago by getting into a car to see Knox, who probably knew already that Syd was a cop by then, which is why she was tortured and left for dead. Of course, since Knox has never been seen on screen so far, and not even Syd knows what he looks like, all of this can mean that the villain is someone we have already seen. Maybe it’s Syd’s former lover?

Those are baby buddies. They really exist.

Best part of the episode: No fighting, no anger, no disappointment between Nancy and Izzy. No, Nancy was understanding where Izzy came from and what she wanted to do by skipping school and sneaking into a federal prison. That was a nice surprise, and hopefully that will define their relationship for the better.
Worst part of the episode: This is 2019, and men still have to tell women what to do. Syd’s lover five years ago tried to direct her undercover operation, and Calloway in the present tried to take the raid for himself, because he believed he was manly enough to take the lead. And the worst thing is, Syd didn’t even have anything to say about either of those instances, although in Calloway’s case, it was helpful, since she got the time and cover she needed to plant the Fentanyl.
Weirdest part of the episode: I thought Syd hated her father. But three episodes later she asks him to do a favor, to break the law with her, and daddy sees it as an opportunity to rekindle that father/daughter relationship. Convenient storytelling is convenient.
Player of the episode: Joseph Burnett did a good job in being Syd’s go-to guy for doing something illegal, when she needed it done. He didn’t even ask questions, although he was probably happy that he was being asked in the first place.

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