These days there are dozens of crime dramas out there, ranging from “CSI “to “NCIS “to “Law and Order”. Not to mention that all three of those franchises have multiple spin-offs going. In the ensuing shroud of gunfire, suspect chases, blood spatter, and interrogations, they all tend to blend together into one giant show. Flip from “CSI: NY “to “NCIS: Los Angeles “and you might not notice a difference until you recognize the change in location. With such a high saturation of these types of television shows, one would think that there’s no room for “Southland”. But this series continues to break from the mold that so many of the others continue to employ.
Last night’s episode of “Southland”, titled “Punching Water,” was a strong follow up to its season premiere last week. As the characters continue to deal with their own problems that were established or revisited in the season opener, episode two introduces a few more. The most important (and unfortunate) of these additions is the return of loud-mouth Dewey. He’s back from rehabbing his alcohol addiction, but being cured hasn’t made him any more bearable. The chief partners Dewey up with John in the hopes that he can straighten him out. Meanwhile, a rash of gang-related shootings puts a serious damper on Martin Luther King Day. When the bodies start piling up, Detective Salinger rallies the troops and sends the entire force out on a mission to crack down on the shootings and find those responsible. The closing minutes of this episode deliver a twist concerning Sammy, but I’ll leave that for you to find out. All I’ll say is that I hope it’s a good enough reason to say goodbye to Tammi – I’m not a big fan of hers.
“Punching Water” was a really great second episode and another example of why “Southland” is different than cop shows past and present. First of all, there is a heavy use of strong language, a good portion of which is bleeped out by the sensors. Some may say that it’s a cheap ploy, but I honestly think that the colorful words add to the realism and keep you more in the moment. The actors and creators of “Southland” have always talked about striving for the truest depiction of what LA law enforcement must go through, and I think including the foul language is part of that. Don’t tell me that real LA cops yell “crap!” during a chase or call suspects “jerks.” When we get emotional or excited, most of us swear or drop an f-bomb. So do the cops on “Southland.”
Another thing that I’ve noticed about “Southland” is their mixture of humor and action. I love how an episode can change from amusing to dramatic in the blink of an eye. One minute, you’re laughing along with a group of cops joking around with one another over lunch, and the next minute you’re in the heat of a car chase. This sharp transition also keeps the audience on their toes – at times I want to laugh but I’m afraid that the moment I let my guard down to do so, somebody is going to get a bullet in the head. And that makes for some edge-of-your-seat viewing.
Bottom line: Episode 2 of “Southland’s” third season is another action-packed and dramatic outing that showcases how the series differs from the rest of the pack. The show isn’t perfect, but it shows a lot of promise and could, with time, end up being one of television’s best cop shows.