TNT's episode synopsis: "In episode nine, chaos prevails in the city of angels when Cooper and Lucero are kidnapped and held hostage by a pair of tweakers. All of our cops join the frantic search to find their brothers in blue before it is too late. Sammy searches for Strokeface. Ben tries to throw Sammy off the trail while simultaneously dealing with an increasingly irrational Brooke."
Unlike season three's "Code Four" when Detective Nate Moretta was killed and the last five minutes were heartbreaking, brutal and raw, the entire 43 minutes of "Chaos" was starkly...just that.
Kinetic. Frenzied. Relentless. Directed (as always) fearlessly by Christopher Chulack & breathtakingly filmed by DP Dana Gonzales, SouthLAnd paid homage to The Onion Field, a 1973 nonfiction book by Joseph Wambaugh, a sergeant for the LAPD chronicling the kidnapping of two plainclothes officers by a pair of criminals during an evening traffic stop and the subsequent murder of Officer Ian James Campbell.
Even if you had not read any spoilers before viewing, the episode had an unsettling feeling from the beginning; you knew somehow things were not going to end well for Coop and Lucero. First, Coop trusted (or was just exhausted with frustration at the gay "jokes") Lucero enough to come out to him after taking him to a gay bar for drinks. It's not easy for Coop to trust. Lucero was only the second person Coop has worked with that we've seen him come out to; and the first one directly. "I'm gay, moron" Coop says as Lucero begins to acclimate to his surroundings. Lucero seems to be accepting until the awkward scuffle as they leave the bar, Lucero uttering a homophobic slur as they break apart and Coop has a stunned, "I thought he understood and accepted" look on his face. Heartbreaking.
The next morning, enduring an uncomfortable silence while on patrol, Lucero and Coop respond to an unknown trouble call where they find a disheveled looking man banging around an abandoned building. Lucero (and later Coop) make tactical errors; Lucero during a slipshod truck search when he gets head butted with a gun by another druggie and Coop when he steps in front of the first man they encountered. Both officers are stripped, handcuffed, thrown in the back of a truck and driven out to the desert and rushed into a run-down house. The terror begins. Brutal.
Lucero will not be quiet, continually talking to his capturers while Coop maintains a relatively silent, more physical presence. All the scenes that occur at the house are almost too difficult to watch but we can't look away: Lucero is beaten and torched, Coop tries to calm him down and comfort him as Lucero gives up and Coop keeps trying in vain to save them. Lucero is finally shot in the head. Coop is then forced to help dig graves for both of them; Lucero's body being dumped in and Coop pushed in beside him. Since the tweakers are in a big hurry to get away, one shoots Coop but misses, allowing him to crawl out, hobble across the desert to a gas station, and collapse. Only then does he allow himself to lose control. Raw... to the bone.
SouthLAnd did what it does best in "Chaos": make it all so REAL without the bells and whistles. Simple, dramatic storytelling; from Lydia and Ruben's frantic pursuit for leads to Dewey's nervousness, worry and frustration with being virtually helpless to rescue his friends. Even the tweakers portrayed their characters perfectly.
Kudos to Anthony Ruivivar on his guest star arc. Henry Lucero was not a totally charming character but he made us feel what he felt whether we liked it or not. And we felt deeply Lucero's terror, sorrow and screams in "Chaos." Bravo, Mr. Ruivivar.
Michael Cudlitz. If there is a better actor on episodic television, I wish someone would tell me because I've not seen him. Don't deny him, award shows. Shame on you that he's been overlooked this long. Give this brilliant actor his due. He has created and shared with us a wonderfully unique character and unpeeled him layer by layer, this season bringing his best performances yet. Respect that. Honor that. It is time.
- Sammy pursues Strokeface to an impaled on a steel rod end. Ben...come clean before others have to die or suffer the consequences of your lies and actions.
- Brooke is going to blow the entire Alvarado division. Great example there, Miss School Marm.
- Something besides a friendship reconnection is brewing between Lydia and former partner Russell. Look out.
- "I'm a cop." This line has been said by one of our cop characters every season of SouthLAnd, usually in the finale though last season the version was "You're a cop" said to Ben by a hooker. We hear it this season in "Chaos" at the end of the episode repeated twice by Coop. Nice continuation of a single line throughout the series.
As this is my final review of the season (possibly ever), a word to TNT. Thank you. Thank you for picking up this series and helping to develop it into a television masterpiece for all time. Please don't throw it away; every season just gets better. If it's not already, SouthLAnd should be your shining pride. Let this accomplishment and SouthLAnd's unmatched collective talent continue for many seasons to come.
Season finale next week. Hang on. Tight.