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Lethal Weapon - Ties That Bind - Review: "Welcome Back"

In a time that's dark, confusing, and doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense, there's something to be said for the power of comfort food TV - the type of purely escapist television that doesn't aim to challenge the viewer's perception of the world, or hit them with dark explorations of the human condition, but instead simply leans on a reliable formula and a set of great characters. That's absolutely the case with Lethal Weapon, and I'd imagine that's why so many viewers have taken to it -in a world of increasingly experimental and ambitious TV, here's a genuinely good show in which you know what you're going to get every episode.

Lethal Weapon returned yesterday off the back of a three-week hiatus (thanks, World Series!), and in that time it's safe to say the world has changed enormously. Yet within three minutes of Ties That Bind, it's easy to forget all that. It's not significantly stronger than any of the previous five episodes, and doesn't break much new ground for the show, but it's nonetheless a good instalment that exudes the easy confidence and likeable warmth that Lethal Weapon has made its trademark.

Ties That Bind's case of the week centred around a wealthy LA family's creepy, murderous habits spilling out into the open, and it's a case that's entertaining but reasonably slight and lacking in genuine twists. It's as fun as ever as it packs in plenty of enjoyable interplay between Riggs and Murtaugh, and the closing stunt of the car flip was a neat way to deliver on Lethal Weapon's traditional quota of action-movie craziness, but it's perhaps one of the more predictable cases we've seen.

The choice to dial back the mystery element and frame the police work as more of a hunt to gain evidence by naming the suspect very early on is interesting structurally, but it does mean that Ties That Bind can often feel like it's a little mechanical, dutifully providing obstructions and minor challenges for Riggs and Murtaugh to delay a conclusion that's more or less inevitable from the start.

As has often been the case with this show, it's with the characters where Ties That Bind really shines. Riggs' story was the obvious highlight for once, because it managed to finally find a different and compelling way to explore the death of his wife (who I now realise is played by Floriana Lima) who's currently starring as Maggie Sawyer on Supergirl!) through the introduction of her best friend, Rachel. Previously, Miranda was defined solely by the pain her death had caused Riggs, which always meant that Riggs' grief was a bit thin, stemming from a figure who never felt like a person with her own life, so it's a smart choice to introduce someone else affected by the grief from her passing.

It not only dials back Riggs' man-pain a notch by allowing the focus to broaden out beyond him, but it also benefits Riggs himself because his grief is much more tangible and easier to sympathise with when we recognise Miranda as someone with her own friends and inner life. The scenes between Clayne Crawford and Elizabeth McLaughlin convincingly capture a sense of history and shared sorrow, and they help to push forward Lethal Weapon's ongoing effort to broaden its scope beyond the ideas and conflicts introduced in the pilot.

Murtaugh's story of the week is less substantial, and somewhat messier, but the intent throughout is recognisable and eventually coalesces into an excellent conclusion. Damon Wayans is great at playing an incredulous Murtaugh, but the more comic side of the story as Riggs gaped in shock at the idea of his daughter dating someone and sending them photos was definitely the less successful of the two. It's not the comedy that fails, necessarily, more the awkward attempt to come to a moral about women's right to share their bodies that's stuck between the old-fashioned sitcom values of 'cover up!' and the more progressive, feminist feel of the scenes between Trish and Riana, and thus fails to make any coherent point at all. There's a clear attempt to come to a positive message on the issue, but it's limited by the show's earlier attempts to make light of it, which is a shame.

However, the emotional core of the story as Murtaugh and his daughter came to an agreement was undoubtedly strong. Divorced from the politics of it all, it's a story about a worried father coming to realise that he's always going to worry, but shouldn't always translate that worry into action, and that's an ultimately poignant message that really speaks to this show's unusually positive depiction of a family that, for their squabbles, ultimately love each other and support decisions they don't necessarily agree with.

It's with this final scene between Murtaugh and Riana that Ties That Bind where Lethal Weapon's value to the procedural genre is clear. It's not innovative or subversive, instead choosing to staunchly stick to its traditional set-up and deliver classic cop-and-family drama with as much heart and warmth as it can muster. That's a very simple formula that's never going to lead to complexity, but as this week's episode shows, perhaps Lethal Weapon doesn't need complexity to excel.

Episode Grade: B+

+ Good Riggs story 
+ Murtaugh and his daughter's relationship explored
+ Great stunts

- Predictable case of the week
- Confused messaging with the photos plotline

About the Author - Louis Rabinowitz
Louis is a British online writer who enjoys a huge variety of TV, especially all things superhero and sci-fi. His favourite show is, and probably always will be, Doctor Who, and other favourite shows include The Flash, The Walking Dead, Mr Robot, Breaking Bad, Fargo, Prison Break and a whole lot more, all of which he is probably emotionally invested in a bit too much. He'll be reviewing Lethal Weapon in the fall!
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