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Lethal Weapon - Fashion Police - Review: "Inside Martin Riggs"

Lethal Weapon, by design, is a story of two characters. The two men who headline the series might have drastically different lives and circumstances, but this show is primarily focused on what links, and separates them. Each episode, therefore, has split its time pretty evenly between stories for Riggs and Murtaugh, and neither had an individual spotlight up to this point.

This week's episode, Fashion Police, diverges from that formula with impressive results. By putting the spotlight on Riggs' journey first and foremost, Fashion Police managed to deliver some surprisingly affecting drama that was backed up by a healthy dose of heart and humour. It's a rock-solid episode that balances all of its elements delicately, and in doing so pushes Lethal Weapon up another level.

The case of the week this time focused around a drug cartel mixed up with a money-laundering family, and it's certainly one of Lethal Weapon's most entertaining cases thus far, constructed solidly as the true extent of the criminal wrongdoings are methodically peeled back by each new discovery that smoothy segues into the next.

The minutiae of the conflicts going on here are somewhat lost in the wash, but the slightly fudged details are made up for with the addition of a fun new element into the mix, which was the involvement of the DEA, personified here by Agent Palmer, played by guest star Hilarie Burton. It's a change to the formula that enlivens Fashion Police's police work no end while also feeding nicely into the character development going on elsewhere. For one, Palmer slots neatly into a long-suffering role as the most capable agent in any room who's bemused by Riggs and Murtaugh's maverick antics, providing plenty of excuses for both comedy and conflict.

And she also provides a valuable outside perspective on Riggs that's necessary considering how far Murtaugh has been sucked into his world. Through her comments upon his actions that get straight to the core of Riggs' strange behaviour in a way Murtaugh can't, Fashion Police clarifies just how unusual and alienating Riggs can seem to an outside source unused to his ways, and thus adds power to Riggs' own story by illustrating just how far he needs to go.

Riggs' story is the real emotional core of Fashion Police, and it's surprising how much emotional power it wrings out of a back-story that's always felt a little too derivative. It works partially because it explores the specific consequences of Miranda's death in a more sincere light. For instance, the deathwish that's often been played for comedy is used very effectively during Riggs' capture for dramatic effect, providing a twisted spin on the typical interrogation by putting emphasis on just how little Riggs cares for his own life, actively welcoming the opportunity for a painful death. Clayne Crawford continues to rise to the challenge as Lethal Weapon begins to hand him more demanding plotlines, communicating the weary nihilism of someone who can barely bring himself to care about his own life with visceral power.

I was particularly struck by the concluding scene with Riggs and Dr Cahill as a sign of just how Lethal Weapon has matured since the pilot. In that opening episode, his grief was explored in distinctly blunt terms, with dialogue that essentially just spelled out his conflict with no real depth. Here, the dialogue is a lot more affecting because it gets to the core of the themes Lethal Weapon wants to explore while maintaining the sensitivity that's necessary for a plotline like this.

With admissions that Riggs' pain won't go away with time, for instance, or the moment where Riggs politely turns down the opportunity to move on with Agent Palmer, there's a nuance to his conflict and a specificity that didn't exist previously. It essentially sums up why this show works despite its formulaic nature - it's unashamedly warm and compassionate, and places a value on healthy human connection and empathy that not a lot of other action shows can do.

There's an sincere faith in humanity at the core of this show that belies its often glib tone, and it's clear from Fashion Police that Lethal Weapon is becoming much better at channelling that warmth into stories that are genuinely compelling in their own right. This is arguably the strongest episode yet in that regard, deftly balancing tones and stories with consummate ease, and it's exciting to see this show truly make the most of the potential that was clear even from its uneven debut.

Episode Grade: A-

+ A strong character arc for Riggs
+ Interesting guest character
+ Heart and humour 

- A slightly messy case of the week


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