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Lethal Weapon - Jingle Bell Glock - Review: "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year"

Christmas is traditionally a time of peace and harmony, where people put aside their differences and celebrate their common humanity, reflecting on the fortunes of the year that's gone by and the year that's yet to come. It's a little different on TV. Television's version of Christmas is full of peril, heartbreak, emotional trauma and stress, as well as all of the above.

It's no surprise, then, that Lethal Weapon's Christmas episode/winter finale, Jingle Bell Glock, is as emotional and intense as the show has gotten this year. Yet it still finds time amidst the mayhem for plenty of warmth and Christmas cheer, making for an episode that sends out Lethal Weapon for 2016 on one hell of a bang.

Jingle Bell Glock brought Riggs' grief over his wife back to the fore, but it did so in ways that provided a compelling and refreshing new dimension to this story. One aspect that really worked here were the flashbacks to Christmases past with Riggs and Miranda. They were brief but really strong vignettes that leaned into Clayne Crawford and Floriana Lima's lived-in chemistry to effectively flesh out their relationship and what it meant to both Riggs and Miranda.

The Miranda story has suffered from a lack of characterisation at times in which Miranda has just been a cut-out for Riggs to emote at, but Jingle Bell Glock does a good job of establishing Miranda's personality and how well she worked with Riggs, which gives Riggs' pain in the present a lot more power as we can see just how much he's lost.

In terms of the present day, Lethal Weapon pulled off the important trick of providing a case of the week that furthered Riggs' attempts to process his grief, with the appearance of a villain who claimed that he had killed Riggs' wife. Jingle Bell Glock keeps the question of whether Miranda's death was a hit or an accident uncertain throughout, effectively hinting at a wider conspiracy but ultimately going with the more dramatically satisfying solution that it really was just an accident, something that had neither rhyme nor reason.

Clayne Crawford plays Riggs' frenzied intensity well, communicating just how rattled Riggs was by Flores' mind games to really heighten the emotional stakes of the episode. The scene of Riggs raising a gun to his head wasn't necessarily tense, but it was certainly emotionally powerful, and justified by the feelings of utter loss and isolation that Christmas and his confrontation with Flores brought about - there was a real sense here that Riggs had reached his lowest ebb, and Jingle Bell Glock managed to wring a lot of power from the scenes where the extent of his emotional damage was clear.

It also helps that Jingle Bell Glock serves up a solid villain to stoke up Riggs' emotional turmoil. Eddie Flores is the first bad guy to really get under our heroes' skin, and there's a manipulativeness to his character that makes him genuinely imposing, probing at and ruthlessly exploiting Riggs and Murtaugh's witnesses to prove that his threat was just as psychological as it was tangible. Jingle Bell Glock felt a great deal more urgent and tense than a typical episode, and a lot of that is due to a well-defined bad guy who poses a threat that seems legitimately difficult to tackle.

Murtaugh isn't as much of a focus here, but Jingle Bell Glock did hit home with the hostage situation at his house. It's a strong sequence, albeit one that's not particularly tense due to the lack of threat of the hitman that provides Trish with a chance to show off her individual strengths as a character as she cleverly exploits the family's lack of electrical power to allow Roger to get the drop on him.

Jingle Bell Glock puts a lot more focus on the Murtaugh family dynamic to shade in the individual roles that each member plays in the unit, and it brings both tension and warmth by fleshing out a refreshingly harmonious and friendly family unit who genuinely love each other, and wish to bring in outsiders like Riggs to share in their sense of togetherness.

After an episode of tension and peril, Lethal Weapon ends for the year by putting focus on the compassionate core of the show as the Murtaugh family head to Riggs' trailer to share Christmas with him, proving that this show's heart remains in the right place while its storytelling skills go from strength to strength.

Jingle Bell Glock is a rock-solid winter finale that puts a truly satisfying cap on a run of episodes that was better than it had any right to be, prioritising enjoyable character interplay and engaging emotional stories above all to create a formula that's paid dividends throughout. Let's just hope that Lethal Weapon keeps innovating and refining itself when it returns in 2017, because it's absolutely heading into the New Year in the right direction.

Episode Grade: A

+ Strong flashbacks
+ An emotional case of the week
+ The Murtaugh family
+ Christmas cheer

Merry Christmas to everyone!