SOUTHLAND: 4.02 “Underwater”
Since the move to TNT, and the slimming down of the cast, Southland has shifted to focusing more often on the day to day experiences of its four main cast members, and less on overarching or deeply personal stories. Underwater was a very good, “daily event” focused episode in which we saw a good bit of weird stuff through the eyes of Cooper and Tang, most notably:
- Naked guy casually jogging down the street.
- A woman hit by a car and killed; her head winds up caught in the car’s wheel well.
- Meth head running down the street while on fire. He apparently burst into flames while watching porn in an X-rated video store.
- Giant roidhead guy shrugging off a taser shot and facing down three cops at once.
- Crazy old lady with two guns and a bulletproof vest shooting at her neighbors and the cops for no good reason.
All these weird, dangerous situations pop up suddenly, but in a way that’s not contrived at all. It really drives home to the viewer that cops out on the beat face all sort of weird, bizarre, dangerous situations that suddenly interrupt their lunch or their daily banter with their partners, or any other routine moment in a normal looking day.
Sammy and Ben spend most of the episode teaming up with two other beat cops, one of which is an even greener rookie than Ben. She makes a mistake and lets a suspect escape, and while Ben, Sammy, and the rest eventually find him, he nearly takes off Ben’s head with a baseball bat in the process. I liked the explosive anger Ben shows towards the woman who was sheltering the suspect; Ben’s always viewed himself and his fellow police officers as helping hands in the community, but the woman he argues with looks at them more like an invading force than anything else. The conflict sets up a nice scene in which Ben, Sammy, and the two other cops share their reasons for becoming police officers. Ben, of course, was driven by idealism, but his idealism is fading fast, as we certainly see when he loses control and punches out the fifteen year old girl who spits on him in the parking lot. Unfortunately, the girl’s friends caught everything on video, so I have a feeling that we might see Officer Sherman show up on YouTube in the next few episodes. It will be interesting to see how Ben reacts to to some of this negative attention.
I wonder if Ben’s experience on the streets will turn his idealism to cynicism. We see from Lydia’s plotline that even though she’s been through a lot, she is not a total cynic and still believes that the system usually works. Disposing of the evidence in her murder case, as her new partner subtly hints at, would be wrong; it’s not her job to decide a suspect’s fate, no matter how much she might understand his reasons.