THE ROOKIE—If you are thinking The Rookie is a Castle 2.0, try again. While there are some similarities: a middle-aged man seeks a new direction in life and it’s a police procedural disguised as something else, the two shows are different.
The Rookie is, at its a core, about new beginnings. Many of us have experienced this moment in life where what we set out to do is no longer what works for us. Some of us may seek new opportunities while others may simply keep our heads down in misery. That is what makes the show appealing: can you start over?
The show itself executes (rather, ticks off) all the elements necessary for police a procedural. These are standard and not worthy of a mention. You’ll know them when you see them.
Fillion is likable enough as rookie LAPD Officer John Nolan. Unlike his fellow rookies, he has a lifetime of experience to fall back on to tackle situations that may come up while on the beat. It is a bit of age and experience versus youth and idealism. Nolan knows how the world works—it is not fair and can be cruel, even to those with the noblest of intentions. He has lived life and faced some of its darkest challenges. Against this background, all these make up Nolan’s strengths as an officer. Yet, despite having lived life, there are stumbling steps along the way. Nolan must earn his place to be on the force. And he must take a stand against those who want him gone.
The cast is rounded out with a mixture of rookies and veterans that is a cross-section of what you would find in most police procedurals. The grumpy veteran (Eric Winter), the sergeant (Richard T. Jones) who sees Nolan as the weak link to his officers, the rookie son of a department legend (Titus Matkin), and the dedicated cop (Melissa O’Neil). Also, in the mix, the captain (Mercedes Mason) and two training officers (Alyssa Diaz and Afton Williamson). It’s a diverse cast, with each character having their own issues and struggles which creep into the job—and on the first day.
There are, of course, a few problems. Some of which will be worked out over time.
We don’t learn much about Nolan in the first episode. Other than he’s divorced and has a son in college, Nolan is a blank slate. But it’s clear his background and experiences are the driving force for him to switch coasts and take on one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.
There are a few other issues, such as the cast itself is not gritty enough and this takes away from the plausibility. Walk into any police department in the world and you’ll find a mix of characters. It’s a petty thing to bring up but it does knock the show’s credibility a bit. And before anyone starts with the it’s only TV. Hulu episodes of Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue. Great shows that didn’t feature cover models of GQ.
The lack of gritty-ness look of the cast also transcends into the overall feel of the show which is that it has a real chance to push the envelope of the modern-day police procedural. SouthLAnd was the last show that tackled serious issues facing police departments. If you haven’t checked out the series, please do. Since this is the pilot episode, it would be short-cited to ding the show based on its lack of being edgy. Maybe that’s in the pipeline. One of the reasons why cable and streaming shows receive critical acclaim is that they push the storytelling to make it compelling. And that’s not yet present in The Rookie.
But there’s hope. This show could be the one to solve ABC’s Tuesday night woes.
The Rookie airs Tuesday nights at 10/9c on ABC.