TV Reviews

The Rookie Season 1 Episode 1: Pilot Review

With all the other networks having their own cop shows, and ABC’s Shondaverse not looking to add a police precinct to their lineup anytime soon, they look to this Nathan Fillion-centered drama to fill that quota.

Synopsis: In the premiere, small-town guy John Nolan pursues his dream of being a police officer after a life-altering incident. As the force’s oldest rookie, he’s met with skepticism from some higher-ups who see him as just a walking midlife crisis. (TVGuide)

Writer: Alexi Hawley

Director: Liz Friedlander

Rating: TV-14

Running Time: 43 mins

Airs: Tuesdays at 10pm on CTV (Canada)/ABC (United States)

The premiere starts off with John Nolan (Nathan Fillion) sitting in his pickup truck looking over filed divorce papers. He gets a knock on the side door and is told that the bank is open. He follows the woman to the vault and grabs a safety deposit box where he puts his divorce papers and wedding ring while being unsure on where life will take him next. As he goes to exit, the bank becomes the scene of an armed robbery. As the woman is thrown to the ground, John jumps up to intervene and distracts them with his life story allowing the cops to enter the building and diffuse the situation. This act of bravery gives John the perfect mid-life crisis distraction, join the police academy in Los Angeles.

Cue a montage of all the cast of quirky characters that will soon be the new family in John Nolan’s life. There’s Chen (Melissa O’Neil), a new recruit who takes down a potential carjacker before her first day, Officer Bradford (Eric Winter) who likes to pick on the fresh meat, recruit Jackson West (Titus Makin Jr.) whose father is a decorated officer and finally Officers Bishop (Afton Williamson) and Lopez (Alyssa Diaz) who have a bit of fun with the older rookie on his first day. He is greeted by Captain Anderson (Mercedes Mason) who questions his choice to join the academy before sending him on his way.

At roll call, Officer Grey (Richard T. Jones) starts off with one of many old jokes before introducing the three new recruits to the station and pairing them off: Chen-Bradford, West-Lopez and Nolan-Bishop. Grey pulls Nolan aside after the meeting to say he doesn’t like him. He doesn’t believe in this walking mid-life crisis because it gets good cops killed. He meets up with Bishop whose first order of business is placing a camera on Nolan’s chest. She reveals that her goal is to become Chief of Police and does not want Nolan to slow her down.

The three pairs are sent to the roof to do some safety checks on their cars and weapons before they are sent to a disturbance call. The door opens to a massive man who tells them to go away as his wife stands behind him. Nolan makes some small talk with the resident and manages to pull him away. Bishop talks to the wife while Nolan learns that the man may actually be the victim. Meanwhile, Lopez and West arrive at a burglary call when a woman answers the door in a towel. She says she hadn’t reported anything, but after a window breaks Lopez discovers the other woman fleeing and falling off the roof.

On patrol, Bradford asks Chen why she wants to be an officer before testing her on a tense situation. When she fails, he orders her to walk until she learns. They stop a truck that violates a few laws, but Bradford shows his true nature in some racist remarks and tells Chen that anything could be the truth or a test and she needs to learn that. Nolan and Bishop get another call where a man has stopped traffic and is breaking windshields with a bat. Bradford and Chen arrive to see Nolan talking the man down off the vehicle before he runs off. Nolan and Chen chase the perp through crowded sidewalks and busy streets with Chen eventually apprehending him.

The man’s phone rings revealing that he was going hysterical because he lost his vehicle with his kid in it. With the potential for overheating, the teams split up in search of the boy. Nolan notices some unicorn balloons that the man was rambling about and finds the vehicle. He’s unable to break the window with his baton, but Bishop breaks it open and they are able to save the boy. She criticizes him for his lack of thinking and that he has a lot of work to do.

At lunch, the rookies meet up and give each other a breakdown of their days. Chen opens up about Bradford’s treatment of her. Meanwhile, the officers sit down and Bradford tries to stick a wedge in Lopez and Bishop’s friendship. Lunch is interrupted when they receive another disturbance call from the same house. Nolan and Bishop arrive to find the woman straddling the man’s neck as she repeatedly stabs him with a knife. Nolan manages to get her off and Bishop arrests her, but the man collapses. Nolan does all he can, but the man dies in his arms.

Bishop asks if Nolan is alright and he blames himself for not digging into his hunch about the abusive relationship. Bishop says the worst thing he can do is doubt himself and to act, not think. Grey pulls Bishop aside and asks how Nolan did. She applauds him for jumping right in to diffuse the situation, but Grey says that young rookies are ideal because they are easily molded and that Nolan may not learn until tragedy strikes. He sits alone in front of his locker, reliving the memory of what just happened, before undressing and heading out.

The rookies meet up at a bar where Nolan opens up about seeing someone die in front of him. West explains that he saw a body at a young age because his father thought it would prepare him for the future. A server flirts with Nolan, but he is so distraught by the situation that Chen tells him it straight: there was nothing he could do. As West and Chen head up to do some duo karaoke, the server returns with her number.

The next morning, John awakes at a fancy-looking house where it is revealed he spent the night with someone, but it isn’t the server. It’s Officer Chen. They’ve been having a secret relationship since their time in the academy and don’t want the station to find out. Both of them agree that they are enjoying what they have and want it to last. At roll call, Officer Grey warns the station of a disturbing video he found, which turns out to be Nolan’s chest cam of his chase. After the officers have a quick laugh at his expense, Grey reveals the real reason for the meeting: a man violated his parole and whichever team finds him first will get Superbowl Sunday off.

While Nolan looks into leads that only a detective should follow, Bradford decides to go to the streets for some answers resulting in Chen having to defend herself from a hostile drug dealer. As they take him away, Bradford runs into a woman named Isabelle who asks that they release the guy. She asks him for money and robs him before releasing the drug dealer. Chen questions Bradford’s decision when he explains that the woman is his wife and he hasn’t seen her in over a year.

Nolan and Bishop head to a boxing club that the suspect frequents where the owner explains he hasn’t seen the guy. However, Nolan uses his previous construction experience to point out that the layout of the building is slightly off revealing a circuit breaker filled with cash and weapons. With information on his whereabouts, Bradford and Chen find the suspect with Bishop and Nolan en route. They engage in a firefight with Bradford getting hit. Chen calls it in and fires back at the suspects.

Bishop and Nolan arrive on scene with Nolan racing towards the action. Bradford’s cruiser catches fire prompting Chen to try to drag him away. As the suspect aims at them, Nolan fires at him as a distraction. Meanwhile, Bishop checks on the other suspect who crashed his vehicle when he awakes and attacks her. She subdues him while EMTs tend to Bradford. With the suspect en route, Bishop, Chen and Nolan give chase. He’s cut off by Lopez and West, but in their firefight West is unable to engage allowing the man to escape.

They catch up to the suspect who is holding a hostage at knifepoint. Nolan talks him through the situation and manages to get the guy to slowly lower his knife before he shoots the suspect in the leg to subdue him. He looks to Bishop for guidance and she tells him to call it in. At the station, Grey pulls Nolan aside to chastise him for his decisions and fires him. That evening, the Captain calls Grey into her office and tells him that Nolan’s choice was right and to bring him back. The episode ends with Bishop confronting Chen about her relationship with Nolan and advises her to break off the relationship before it defines who she is while Grey comes to accept that Nolan will be sticking around.

Captain’s Log

  • Will Nolan and Chen continue their secret relationship or will Bishop’s advice get in the middle of them?
  • Will Bradford become a more sympathetic person after his surgery?
  • Will West get over his stage fright?
  • Why is Captain Anderson so high on Nolan?
  • Will Grey and Nolan become reluctant friends?

Overall, this was a decent premiere episode. It’s evident that this show wants to have a lighthearted tone with some drama thrown into the mix which when done well can make for a well-paced show. This episode shows glimpses of that, but the jump from case-to-case and pair-to-pair throughout the episode makes a case-of-the-week format feel like a hindrance to the way this story wants to be told. The cast of characters are what was most disappointing in this episode as many of them were typecasted into specific roles rather than feeling like well-rounded people, making them forgettable in the process. When it comes down to it this show’s main attraction is its lead and he owns it. So long as this show stays away from repetitive old jokes, it could develop into a watchable new series, but these next few episodes are crucial in finding its rhythm and creating a more well-rounded group to follow.

Score: 6.5/10

What did you think of the premiere of The Rookie? Let me know in the comments below!

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