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Lethal Weapon - Flight Risk - Review - "Sky's The Limit"

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Television can't get enough of dysfunctional fathers. They're everywhere. If your show lacks an inadequate parental figure, and is on broadcast television, then it may not be a show at all. With that in mind, it was a great relief that this week's Lethal Weapon was all about the wrong kind of fatherhood - overprotective dads, kleptomaniac dads, and dads our main character may have killed. It was truly a daddy issues episode for the ages.

In all seriousness, Flight Risk is a lot better than its familiar subject matter suggests. Fatherhood is certainly a played out theme on broadcast television, but the episode finds several new interesting ways to make it feel fresh and interesting. With a strong and mazy case of the week and a cliffhanger that genuinely takes the viewer by surprise, it's a return to form after last week's minor dip in quality, despite some cluttered storytelling in places.

As with Born to Run, Flight Risk is a very case-centric episode. Its central dramatic arc is part of the police work instead of sequestered away, and only links to Murtaugh and Riggs on a thematic level. For the most part, this creates a much more streamlined pace than normal, making room for a case that just keeps on twisting and changing and piling on new developments.

From the audaciously silly opening sequence to the tense final confrontation in the park, the story of Cooper and the briefcase is vintage Lethal Weapon, in that it doesn't really make a lot of sense, feels like about three different episodes crammed together, and sees downtown LA become a literal warzone on multiple occasions. I love it when this show embraces its wacky 80s action-movie origins, and the case in Flight Risk did so enthusiastically.

It also proves to be an emotionally involving story with the twist that Nora the flight attendant is Cooper's daughter, providing a weird and twisted father-daughter parable that links neatly to Riggs and Murtaugh's own side stories. It's a familiar story, but it succeeds by consistently resisting the cliched developments it sets up in favour of something more interesting, from Cooper actually suffering a terminal condition to the instant collapse of their rekindled relationship at the end. The result is a legitimately complex and unusual father-daughter dynamic, one that doesn't need the involvement of Riggs and Murtaugh to be interesting.

A lot of that, admittedly, is down to the sterling guest turn from the ubiquitous Adrian Pasdar, who riffs on his familiar smug snake persona while suggesting something more complicated that lies beneath, but Monica Barbaro also holds up her end as Nora, delivering an unshowy but compelling performance that gels extremely well with the regular cast.

Outside of the case, the story that gets the most time is Murtaugh's conflict with his daughter, and it's a little bit of a space-filler. There are interesting ideas to be found, like the subversion of expectations with Riana being arrested for social activism, it's funny enough, and it ends in a touching reconciliation, but it represents a problem that Lethal Weapon has been having this year, which is turning the Murtaugh family into a sitcom family. The best story they've told this season with the family was RJ leaving for university, which was primarily dramatic and therefore gave the actors a lot more to do than hitting the same old comic beats.

The show seems content with making Riggs the source of drama and Murtaugh the source of comedy, and while that's working well enough, it's a bit simplistic - Clayne Crawford can be funny (and he's been given more jokes this year, which is nice), and Damon Wayons can do drama, but they're only allowed to play out of type briefly instead of for a sustained story. It's a habit that Lethal Weapon would do well to get rid of.

And then there's Riggs, whose story requires a good deal of viewer patience. I was ready to chalk the unfurling storyline of revealing his relationship with his father up as a missed opportunity midway through, assuming this was a one-off, but Flight Risk is playing a longer game than Lethal Weapon typically allows for.

The final scene in Cahill's office is a statement of intent for the next stage of Riggs' story, and it pushes into that story with a twist that comes out of left-field entirely; that the rifle was used to kill his father. It's a compelling note to end the episode on, and suggests a much darker and uncompromising storyline than the staid flashbacks hint at. The implication I got was that Riggs may be responsible, but is that just misdirection? For once in this show, it might take a while to find out.

Flight Risk is a solid, unfussy episode of Lethal Weapon that's rarely spectacular but consistently effective. Murtaugh's story represents the elements of the show that are stuck in the mud, but elsewhere, its storytelling is becoming more accomplished by the minute, both episodically, with cases of the week that set up and knock down involving stories within the hour, and on a serialised basis, with the seeds planted for an exploration of Riggs' past. Lethal Weapon is taking a World Series break now, and so won't be back for at least a fortnight, but it's going into its brief hiatus in a very good place.

Episode Grade: B+

Silly yet emotional case of the week
Great guest performances
Riggs' past

Murtaugh family problems

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