Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Good Guys: "Cop Killers"

Illustration for article titled The Good Guys: "Cop Killers"

"Cop Killers" isn't the best episode of The Good Guys, but there's plenty of fun to be had during its running time. In particular, I liked the job the episode did of shuffling the cards in the deck, so you never quite knew which one would be played next. When Liz tells Jack that the man from internal affairs (played by Joshua Malina, in a bit of inspired casting I'll get to in a moment) can't find out that the two of them are dating, it's obvious that he'll find out at some point. But when he DOES find out, the whole plot point has been pushed so far into the background that most viewers will be forgiven for having forgotten about it entirely until Jack hands Mr. IA (whose name is James Guthrie, I may as well point out) his cell phone … which just happens to have a photo of Liz and Jack in a warm embrace as its wallpaper. It's a fun moment, where a scene you think is going to be about one thing (Jack holding firm in protecting Dan) turns out to be about something else entirely, and moments like this were sprinkled throughout the episode.

The Good Guys is a dead show walking at this point, and it knows it. The kinds of things it does in "Cop Killers," like blowing up Dan's trailer (shot from several angles, of course) or pulling all of the characters together into a big group hug at the end and abruptly having Ruiz embrace Dan's policing philosophy, are all the sorts of things that a show nearing its series finale would do. In some ways, "Cop Killers" gives off the feel of a show that's been running for seven years and is nearing the end and wants to give us a nostalgic look back at the show that was. (I mean this as a compliment.) The very structure of the episode itself, which involves a case that returns to haunt Dan, is nostalgic at its core, even if on the posited long-running version of The Good Guys, the case that returned might have been one that had actually been featured prominently on the show. Still, you can't have everything, particularly when you're leaving the air after only 20 episodes.

Another point in favor of "Cop Killers": the guest casting is very strong. I mentioned Malina above, but it's impossible to state just how bizarre it is to have him wandering around the Good Guys universe. The show has done plenty with the idea of Dan and Jack pushing the more "normal" cops to their limits in trying to understand how these guys get results. But this is like the ultimate expression of that. Malina's screen presence has always been a little stiff, and the episode uses this to its best advantage, bouncing all of the other characters off of him. This isn't the funniest episode of The Good Guys, in terms of dialogue, but it IS funny, simply because it's so strange to watch Malina have to interact with these people. It's like he's wandered in from another series entirely (perhaps The West Wing?) and can't quite comprehend the idiots he has to put up with. (Speaking of which: This should give fuel to the joke that this is all a fever dream Josh Lyman is having on his death bed, as one of his old White House colleagues returns to hang out in a very different capacity. In short, this is all Josh Lyman's flash-sideways.) Naturally, Dan saves Guthrie's life, so Guthrie stops looking into the mysterious case of the exploding van (and Dan's involvement in same), but if this show were going to run for another season, I'd want Guthrie to come back for another guest shot. He was a lot of fun.

The rest of the guest cast worked as well. I'm still not sure why RonReaco Lee and Angela Sarafyan are basically regulars at this point, but they both play their characters well, and I liked this episode's insistence on the idea that Julius, despite being a former criminal, is just as much a member of the team as anybody else. (If they're going to keep shoehorning him into storylines, they might as well keep upping their justifications for doing so.) The other major guest parts involved a couple of mad bombers who get out of prison and undertake the murder of Julius as their major goal, since he ratted them out to Dan 11 months ago. The man pulling the strings is Dean Norris, better known as Hank from Breaking Bad, and he rips into the role with relish, as if he's just happy to be playing something that's not so weight-y, even though it's a relatively small part. In addition, one of our two bombers is Malcolm Barrett, who played Lem on Better Off Ted, and while it's weird to watch him try to be vaguely threatening, it's still nice to see him pop up on TV somewhere. To a degree, seeing these three actors made me wish I was watching The West Wing, Better Off Ted, or Breaking Bad, instead of this show, but I like this show well enough to enjoy seeing actors I like on it, and it's easy to see why so many solid guest stars like to be on the show for an episode or two: It has to be a lot like playing cops and robbers.

Finally, I'd just like to note that one of the pleasures of this show is how nice it LOOKS. Even when the scripts aren't up to par, the direction of the series is a lot of fun to look at. And when there's a halfway decent script to play around with, as there was tonight, the direction really adds a lot to the proceedings. Check out that opening car chase with Julius, which is nicely shot and tightly edited. Or check out the show's use of Dallas locations, which has always been good, but seems like it's been getting better in recent weeks, the more the producers get to know the city they're shooting in. Even something as relatively simple as the group hug scene at the end, which is a scene that's been in a million TV shows before, is bolstered by nice directorial choices, like how the framing makes sure Hodges is almost always in frame with a part of the group he'll never be a part of, even if he's the type of cop we'd expect to be the hero on a show like this. It's all a reminder of a simple fact: The Good Guys doesn't always work for me, but as a Friday night treat, it's often a fun way to cap off the week. Tonight's episode was a nice reminder of why it's too bad next week is almost certainly the last episode ever.

Stray observations:

  • I thought Ruiz's speech to Dan about how he's a good cop was a little heavy-handed and on-the-nose. It's one of those things that might have worked in season seven but felt a little forced in season one. She obviously has a ton of affection for these guys, but I'm not sure I buy that she'd let Dan in on this quite like this.
  • Bradley Whitford's reaction to Dan's trailer blowing up was everything I've ever wanted out of acting (and more!).
  • Next week's episode looks to be a return to the small-scale crimes blowing up into bigger storylines formula the show started out with. Appropriate for the finale.
  • "The years pass, but the mustache remains."
  • "Not a secret, Jack. It's just … something we don't tell anybody about."
  • "That's anger right there."