Last week's episode of The Rookie "Greenlight" was intense. The stakes were high, the action was non-stop, and the ending was heartbreaking. Given the shocking character death in "Greenlight," one would expect this week's episode, "The Shake Up," to address the aftermath. However, when viewers catch up with the rookies of the Mid-Wilshire Precinct, things are largely business-as-usual. In fact, not even new management or mother nature can shake things up. "The Shake Up" was a formulaic, dependable episode of The Rookie. But for the first time this season, that wasn't enough. Calling All Bodyguards: VIP guest casting spoilers ahead.
Tonight, Los Angeles is rocked by an earthquake, and the entire station is feeling the aftershocks. pic.twitter.com/t90LXqI2UD
— The Rookie (@therookie) March 26, 2019
The two major plot points from "The Shake Up" are 1) the new paper-pushing Mid-Wilshire Captain, and 2) Nolan's (Nathan Fillion) job protecting a witness, portrayed by Joel McHale (Community), who it testifying against drug cartels. The earthquake that happens about halfway through the episode brings about two minutes of drama, but is more of a plot device than a major event.
Captain Weatherby (Greg Cromer) is incompetent and cares more about efficiency than efficacy. Sergeant Grey (Richard T. Jones) is put in the position of announcing and enforcing the new Captain's ridiculous and time-consuming new dictates. For someone as dedicated to police work as Grey, the idea is maddening. After Weatherby abandons the precinct during the crisis and wastes resources protecting his own home, Grey gets rid of the new Captain the best way he knows how. He gets Weatherby promoted to a position at headquarters. However, there is no guarantee that the replacement Captain will be any better.
The Weatherby storyline was more about Grey than the new Captain. The writers and show-runners did a great job of character building with Grey in this episode. He may dislike the new boss, but not enough to get himself fired. His priority is, and always will be, his people first and the job second. "The Shake Up" showed Grey in his element, and it was a nice addition to the character's arc. A man who obviously never wanted to be Captain, Grey cares more about the support and respect of his people than awards or accolades. This episode highlights how far Grey has come as a character since the pilot.
Meanwhile, Nolan and Bradford (Eric Winter) volunteer to assist the District Attorney in protecting a dirty Border Patrol agent who has turned State's evidence. The protectee, Hale's Brad Hayes, is lazily annoying. After the earthquake, the cartels attack in a blaze of gunfire but it turns out that the cartels are actually trying to rescue Hayes, not kill him. Nolan and Bradford get their revenge, however, when they use the witness as bait to capture the cartel hit squad.
The Hayes protection plot is pretty average fare for The Rookie. There are some good action scenes and quick thinking by both Bradford and Nolan. However, Joel McHale is just really playing Joel McHale, and the guest appearance doesn't add much to the episode. Honestly, the most interesting part of the protection detail story is the fact that Nolan's new girlfriend Jessica Russo (Sarah Shahi) helps him secure the gig.
While the job goes well (despite almost getting him shot) the experience leaves Nolan feeling inferior as a rookie dating an expert former federal agent. It is starting to look like writers are taking the Russo/Nolan relationship to the land of "a man can't handle being in a relationship with a more successful woman." That trope is so tired it is practically comatose. How about they try the groundbreaking depiction a man that is proud to be a supportive and loving partner to a kick-ass woman?
Also seen in "The Shake Up": Chen (Melissa O'Neil) fighting with her therapist father (Jim Lau) about the interaction of law enforcement with mentally ill individuals and West (Titus Makin Jr.) being a jerk to his boyfriend Gino (Cameron J. Armstrong). The Chen storyline was interesting, and gave us some background into her family life. Her scenes with Bishop (the always amazing Afton Williamson) were also pretty entertaining.
The scenes between West and Gino, however, just left me frustrated. West is the only character that seems to be just a passenger in his storylines. He doesn't isn't growing as a person or a character, and it is starting to chafe.
Overall, "The Shake Up" left me with a feeling of disappointment. I don't know how I thought the show would deal with Captain Anderson's (Mercedes Mason) death, but I didn't expect them to just ignore it. Yes, they have a new Captain, and yes, Nolan visits her grave, but there is no onscreen emotional closure. Even Nolan's visit comes on the heels of a gag where a drug addict is robbing his own mother's grave. Everyone on the show has seemingly moved on, while I, as the viewer, felt like I hadn't.
It is possible that I would have liked this episode more if it wasn't the first episode after Captain Anderson's death. "The Shake Up" was a perfectly average episode for a consistently entertaining show. However, the way the show used a significant character death as a throw-away plot point cheapened the episode. I found myself thinking "they killed a smart, intelligent, capable female character in a leadership role for this?"
With several more episodes left in The Rookie's first season, show-runners have time to redeem themselves. Their first opportunity will be next week's episode, "Homefront" which airs Tuesday April 2 at 10PM on ABC.