Episode Title: ‘Punching Water’
Writer: Cheo Hodari Coker
Director: Christopher Chulack
Apparently in the middle of a crime scene, Detective Adams (Regina King) shoves Officer Dudek (C. Thomas Howell) after he calls her "baby girl." Flashback to thirteen hours earlier, a gangster by the name of "Frosty" is found dead from a gun shot wound, allegedly shot a rival gangbanger who goes by the street name "Nobody."
Meanwhile, rookie Officer Sherman (Benjamin McKenzie) is dropped off at the precinct by the older red head with the Porsche. It turns out he’s not the only cop she’s taken home, in fact Sherman’s fellow officers, including Brown (Arija Bareikis), refer to her as the "den mother."
After eight months off duty, recovering alcoholic Dudek is back, riding with Officer Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) and praising the tenants of sober living ad nauseam. Detectives Adams and Ochoa (Jenny Gago) investigate a domestic murder/suicide case. Although the case appears rather straightforward, Adams wants to investigate, while Ochoa already considers it wrapped.
Detectives Bryant (Shawn Hatosy) and Moretta (Kevin Alejandro) learn that "Frosty" was involved with "Nobody’s" cousin, thus prompting the shooting. Soon "Nobody" also turns up dead, as well as a handful of innocent relations to the two gangbangers, culminating in a drive-by at young girl’s coming of age party, before MLK weekend is over.
While searching for the casing from the AK-47 used for the drive-by, Dudek dismisses the shooting, urging Adams to "keep it real, baby girl." They get into a shoving match which is quickly broken up. After chasing down a suspect who tips Bryant and Moretta off to the drive-by shooter, known as "G-Ron," Adams and Ochoa question the heartless killer. He shows no remorse for killing an innocent child.
Bryant heads home after a long weekend of busting gangbangers to find his wife’s photography instructor waiting in front of his house, to come clean about their affair.
"Southland" is as painful to watch as it is pleasurable. I encourage anyone contemplating a life on the force to watch an episode, as there’s no glamorization going on here. Even poor Ben Sherman’s dalliance with the red haired cougar proves to be tainted – by just about every cop in the precinct who’s had a turn with her. Nope, there’s no allusions of grandeur in Southland, just the relentless beat of shootings, stabbings and if you’re lucky, a beer to wash it all down with at the end of the day.
The pair who stand out so far this season, and particularly in this episode are Ochoa and Dudek, two screwed up human beings who have no business carrying a badge.
While Dudek makes light of brutal gang murders, in between sexist barbs at his fellow officers, Ochoa only seems concerned with clocking out at five and hitting up the weekend sale at Nordstrom. I’m not sure what’s more disturbing, the lackadaisical attitude these two share or their partners’ continued tolerance of it.
What worked especially well in "Punching Water," and in the series as a whole so far, are those scenes that highlight the mundane, pointlessness of police work from time to time. Dudek and Cooper pull over a minivan that safely seats seven, jammed with eleven Mexican musicians en route to a gig. Cooper insists on making the additional four take a separate ride but Dudek, who’s got the group performing for him on the sidewalk, wants to give them a ride. In the end, it doesn’t really matter but the weight of Dudek and Cooper’s relationship is felt heavily here, leading Cooper to ditch his partner during a convenience store stop later that night.
How an officer with the kind of mouth Dudek has remains on the force is a bit of a mystery. His off-color comments aren’t reserved just for the guys, as we’ve seen with both Adams and Brown. In fact the character is a bit too over the top at times but C. Thomas Howell seems to be doing the best he can with a role that’s often dips into the absurd.
As for Bryant, he’s taking fire from all sides. After spending a day pounding the pavement in search of a phantom AK-47 and butting heads with Ochoa over profiling a shooting victim, he’s welcomed home by his wife’s lover, who has the audacity to wait for him in front of his own home.
Turns out her interest in photography, which Bryant encouraged with the gift of a new camera, led her into the arms of her teacher. I only wish we got to see more of the relationship between Sammy and his wife. Outside of jokes made at her expensive in the precinct, It’s easy to forget she exists until he heads home at the end of the day. But perhaps that’s the point.
Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10.