Friday, December 30, 2011

Ben Sherman: The SouthLAnd Character That Has Changed the Most

The article below was written a little over a year ago.  This is an updated version that now includes Season three.

The first time I watched 2x06 "Maximum Deployment" I was startled by the growth of Ben Sherman since 1x01.  I had seen the little signs of growth all along, but in that final episode his character's growth was front and center.  The following are some of the scenes that demonstrate the progression of Ben's character.
In episode 1x01 we first see Sherman following Cooper, carrying all their gear, and taking a few running steps trying to keep up with Cooper.  Sherman is in a long-sleeve uniform shirt, tie knotted tightly at his neck.  He can't read Cooper yet and heads toward a different patrol car, before realizing that's not the one Cooper is striding toward. As they pull out of the parking lot, Sherman is wide-eyed as he looks at and listens to his TO.  Sherman remains wide-eyed and silent, listening but hardly speaking, throughout the episode.  The few  responses that Sherman makes end with "sir". 
Cooper constantly picks at him, calling him Richie Rich and Tori Spelling; questioning Sherman as to why he decided to become a cop and whether he is capable of doing the job.
Even after Dewey yells at him, Sherman is able to react to Dewey being shot by killing the banger without hesitation.  His skill with a gun is instinctive and deadly. Cooper is impressed and recognizes that this is something Sherman didn't just learn in the academy over a period of a few months.
Cooper taunts Sherman about where Sherman learned to shoot. For the first time we hear Sherman challenge Cooper and say, "Why don't you shut the hell up sir."
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Sherman is obviously in shock after taking someone's life.  He listens intently as Cooper gives his, "Cop or Not," speech.  Later, at the hospital, he sits down wearily.  He has had a rough first day.  Yet, as Sherman talks with the girl whose brother was shot, his instinctive need to take care of and help people comes out.  "You need me to do anything, can I check with anybody about anything?"  
When the girl asks him if he's a cop, he hesitates slightly, and you can see him think about the day he's just had - plus Cooper's taunting and the "Cop or Not" speech.  Has any of that made him change his mind about becoming a cop? No. Not at all.
So he responds, "Yeah.  Yeah."
In 1x02 he is still in his long-sleeve uniform shirt, but he is a little more relaxed; actually grinning and rolling his eyes over something Cooper says.
At Dewey's retirement party, Cooper asks Sherman about his, "deep, dark, Beverly Hills secrets," and Ben responds with an abbreviated (we now know) version of what happened to his family.  As Chickie and Sherman leave the party, she asks him about where he was when his Mom was attacked.  Ben avoids answering by saying that he has to get home.
By the time the third episode starts Ben is a little more loose and is kidding with Cooper.  We see a few smiles and some sideways rolls of the eyes toward Cooper.  This is the first time we see Sherman's running skills.  He's still absorbing huge quantities of info and demonstrates this by knowing exactly where he is after a foot chase. 
Sherman is standing up for himself more when Cooper picks at him.  Cooper again asks him about why he learned to shoot.  Ben responds challengingly, "How'd you learn?"  When Cooper asks Sherman if Mommy beat Daddy,  Ben is fed up, "Man. What is it with you?"
Cooper and Sherman bond a little bit as they share a laugh over handcuffed-to-the-wall Dewey.  And Sherman shows concern for Cooper's back for the first time.
As they go through the "Garbage Calls" episode, you can tell that Sherman and Cooper are more comfortable with each other.  Sherman is beginning to interact more with the contacts they make, "Who takes the cat?"  And he gives the radar kid a dollar while he and Cooper both laugh.
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Ben confronts his Dad when he finds his Dad at his mother's home.  His dad goads him and Ben is so furious over the whole situation that he backhands his father before Cooper races in to break things up.  Back in the car, Ben's face is stoic and he's staring straight ahead. Cooper tries to get him to talk about it, but Ben is having none of that.  Instead he steadily challenges Cooper about his problem with his back.  If he gets Cooper defensive, that will deflect the conversation away from Ben and Ben doesn't have to talk about his own problems.


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Ben visits his Mom, finding the back door ajar.  His Mom's a little careless, considering she was raped in the past.  She is also, as Ben called her earlier, a little dippy. She tells Ben that he is sooo uptight. Ben sits there with his arms crossed tightly, his jaw clenched so hard he can barely get the words, "I'm uptight?" out of his mouth. 
Ben listens as Cooper advises Chickie about Dewey and his drinking problem, "Bottom line, I'll cover you as long as it doesn't cost me my job or land me in jail."
Sherman has definitely loosened up a bit as he and Cooper discuss Sherman's girlfriend, Cooper's agave garden wall, the kind of music Daisy plays,etc.  Ben tries to delve just a little deeper into Cooper's private life.
Ben has passed Phase 2 of his training and is now starting Phase 3.  This means he gets to drive the patrol car.  He shows a big grin when Cooper tosses him the keys and says,"Cool."  Cooper, of course, has to take him down a notch, which causes Sherman to give him a massive eye roll.  
Sherman has really come a long way since the first episode when he was only a month out of the academy.  He has come to understand Cooper’s gruffness.  Most of the time, if Cooper is giving him a hard time, Sherman sort of smiles and rolls his eyes.  He expects this now; he’s used to it.  He understands it for what it is.  He still takes Cooper seriously; he still respects Cooper; but he doesn’t let it get to him like it used to.
Sherman doesn't understand why everyone is giving Chickie a hard time over turning Dewey in. Cooper's response:  "Gotta be able to trust who you work with.  She rode with Dewey for years.  She knew he needed help.  She waits until he flips the car to say something?  Nah. Your partner's in trouble you find a way to help him before it gets out of control."  I have a feeling Ben will be reminding Cooper of those words in the near future.

Cooper offers Sherman some Ambiens for sleep, and Ben forcefully says, "I don't need any of your pills."  Later he apologizes to Cooper for insulting him about the pills. Not quite ready to push that.
Now he has to have dinner with his 2 half-sisters and Ward.  They have no idea what he has seen and their questions are both insensitive and voyeuristic.  They couldn't demonstrate any better that they could ever be any kind of support for him.  His Mom has already proven that as well.  And we all know about his Dad.  The only person (that we know of) that ever gave him any support was the friend's dad who took him to the shooting range.  But there was, and is, no one for him at home.
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He goes to the firing range because he's comfortable there.  He knows what he's doing and he knows that he's good at it.  And maybe if he practices enough, he will save the next helpless victim.
Ben is on his own for the first time.  He razzes Cooper, calling him Dad, when Cooper starts giving him training reminders.  Every contact Sherman makes that day needs saving.  The boy whose sneakers are wrapped around the overhead lines and whose father is making him wear women's underwear as he mows the lawn; Stella, whose former lover is too possessive to let her go; and Jane the girl with Asperger's.
Sherman is frustrated with the boy's situation in that there is nothing he can do to help the boy. He is joyous when he finds Jane.  But Ben couldn't save Stella.  His frustration is taken out on Stella's murderous ex as he punches the ex after he is handcuffed. Which is completely against police policy.
He turns to Cooper, his TO and mentor to try to help him sort this thing out.  I think Ben is a little startled at himself that he hit the guy.  He has more control than that - he knows what's right and what's wrong.
Ben stands in the street below and looks up at the sneakers as Cooper rolls up in his Challenger. He's come to help out his Boot and try to teach him a lesson at the same time - you can't save everyone.  They unconsciously mirror each other as they stand in the street and then sit at the curb. 
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Ben and Cooper seem very easy with each other as they drive out to visit Dewey and attend a funeral. Other than Dewey's retirement party many episodes ago - we haven't seen them together off-duty. Ben is using Cooper's first name for the first time. He's tries to calm John down when John gets mad at Dewey.
At the funeral, Ben is again silent and wide-eyed as he takes in everything.  On the drive home, when John comes out to Ben, that says that he trusts Ben and that while they are still TO and rookie, Ben is starting to become a dependable friend.
Then we have the last episode of Season 2. Ben jumps out from behind the shadow of Cooper and takes the lead in their partnership. Cooper, Ben, and Chickie are patrolling the streets looking for the Canyon Rapist.  A woman flags them down, saying that she locked her keys in her car.  Cooper immediately goes into smart-ass mode with her.  Sherman gets out of the car, comes around to Cooper side of the car and says, in a reprimanding way, "John. There's a rapist on the loose. Pop the trunk."  Cooper actually looks chagrined as Ben helps the woman get in her car.
Ben goes into full-on rescue mode when he discovers the baby of the victim of the rapist is still in her car. Running full-tilt uphill, he is so relieved to see that the baby is fine.
Next we see Ben talking on the phone with one of his sisters, making sure she knows about the rapist.  Chickie tells him, "You really want to get this guy."  Ben thinks about it and then tells her, "My Mom was raped."  Ben watches as Cooper gets a pain pill from a friend of Laurie's at the hospital.  But as Cooper and Ben leave the hospital, they automatically fall into step with each other.


Chickie, Ben, and Cooper come across a car that matches the description of the Canyon Rapist.  Cooper designates Chickie as contact and himself as cover.  Chickie is tentative with the driver, and with a glance from Cooper, Ben takes over contact. When the car comes back with no wants and warrants, and the guy does not fit the physical description of the rapist, Ben wants to let him go.  Cooper thinks they could still get him for lewd conduct, but Ben says no way.  If they take him in for lewd conduct, that will take them off patrol for an hour or so.  An hour where they can't look for the rapist.  Ben snatches the driver's license out of Cooper's hands to give it back to the driver as Cooper tells the driver he's free to go.
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Contrast this last scene with the first scene of the Pilot Episode.  Amazing.
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Season three:
Sherman learns that the single, most important event in his life, did not happen the way he thought.  What Ben had thought was a violent act of rape, turned out to be consensual.  The event that formed the very basis for being who he is - a promising LAPD rookie and an untiring defender of women - was now shattered.



Ben is still making rookie mistakes, though.  He gives a death notification to the wrong person; he tries to protect a woman involved in a domestic abuse case, but it turns out that she is the instigator; he turns his back on a dude that he’s pulled over, and the dude runs off, etc.
As the season goes on, Ben begins to take more responsibility as Cooper spirals downward.  Not what your average boot has to do.  And Cooper is getting more irritable, condescending, and downright mean by the day.
By the last several episodes, Ben is virtually carrying an increasingly over-medicated Cooper.
Police officers depend on their partners for many things.  But most importantly, they have to be able to trust their partner for back-up.  By the last episode, Cooper is no longer able to be trusted with that responsibility.
After Cooper is unable to give Ben back-up; Ben calls Cooper a “fucking goddamn useless training officer... a fucking menace.”  Showing a responsibility to both the force, his FTO and the FTO’s new boot, Ben gives his FTO an ultimatum.  Either let Ben take him to the hospital for rehab that night; or Ben will ask the watch commander to give John a piss test.
Again, compare the meek Sherman that rarely talked in the Pilot Episode, to the confident Sherman, screaming an ultimatum to his FTO, Cooper, in Season Three.  What a change!






1 comment:

  1. And then he became a total asshole in season 5

    ReplyDelete