LA's Finest Season 1 Episode 1 Review: Protect and Serve

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Protecting and serving never looked so good.

Though LA's Finest Season 1 aired over a year ago on Spectrum, the spinoff from the Bad Boys franchise premieres on Fox this fall, and LA's Finest Season 1 Episode 1 makes the most of its 46 minutes of screen time.

The pilot is everything you could want in an action adventure movie -- high stakes, danger at every turn, attractive-beyond-belief actors.

However, as an episode of television, it does leave something to be desired.

Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba - LA's Finest

The series premiere is rich with action, drama, and suspense, sometimes to its detriment.

While many police procedurals on television skirt the lines of plausibility, three separate shootouts, a kidnapping, and a grenade going off is hardly within the realm of possibility.

And that doesn't even take into account Burnett going fully cocked while "off-duty," from holding Ray and his men at gunpoint to burning down his club.

It just felt like the showrunners were trying to live up to the Bad Boys movie franchise and decided to oversaturate the episode with as much action as they could.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, but if all of the episodes are like this, then it'll get old pretty fast.

Sydney Burnett - LA's Finest Season 1 Episode 1

While the series is billed as Gabrielle Union's Syd Burnett and Jessica Alba's Nancy McKenna taking on the "most dangerous criminals in Los Angeles while skirting the rules and speed limits," that doesn't mean every scene is a life-or-death situation.

It became especially hard to watch during the scenes dedicated to the case of the week.

McKenna: What are you doing anyway?
Burnett: Dating.
McKenna: Online?
Burnett: Don’t judge me just because you’re out of the game.
McKenna: I’m not out of the game. I won the game. I got married.
Burnett: Uh, you did not win the game. The game played you.
McKenna: Well, does the game make you breakfast in bed or fix a leaky faucet?
Burnett: My building has maintenance and food can be delivered. Oh, check that out.
McKenna: Is that a Toblerone?
Burnett: Guess again.

The action sequences, though visually stunning, overshadowed most of the plot, making it difficult to understand what was happening.

That forced the series to insert an expository bit of dialogue toward the end of the episode just to ensure viewers could grasp what was happening in between the repeated shootouts.

At that point, it was too late, and while there were a few standout scenes, most were an unintelligible mess.

Nancy McKenna - LA's Finest Season 1 Episode 1

Where the series did shine was its main characters.

Burnett and McKenna are both compelling, strong women, who each have a distinct voice.

That's not easy to illustrate in a single episode, but the showrunners were hugely successful.

The partners' chemistry was evident from the first scene -- even if it did fail the Bechdel test -- and Union and Alba played off each other flawlessly.

Burnett quest - LA's Finest Season 1 Episode 1

Fans of the Bad Boys franchise will recognize the character of Burnett, but this episode fleshes out her character. 

She's no mere side character or love interest; in this series, she is front and center.

Joseph: These people are dangerous.
Burnett: Yeah, me too.
Joseph: Sherman’s not going to talk. Not as long as Knox is protecting him. You can’t keep going after him.
Burnett: When I’m done, I won’t have to go after him. He’s going to come to me.
Joseph: You’re just one woman.
Burnett: Damn right.

Her "take no prisoners" attitude is evident from the moment she first appears on the screen.

It's clear Burnett is a woman who plays by her own rules and won't let anyone get in her way.

Burnett stop - LA's Finest Season 1 Episode 1

It's a classic action hero archetype, but her backstory is what gives Burnett an edge over the typical protagonist.

Usually, when female heroes go to such extreme lengths for vengeance, it's because they've been wronged in some way, most likely romantically.

It's such a patronizing plot narrative about the lengths scorned women will go to for revenge, so it's refreshing to see Burnett risking everything for something other than a guy or girl.

Her reasons for revenge are like most male heroes, and while hardly original, it's still a nice change of pace.

Joseph Burnett - LA's Finest Season 1 Episode 1

Also added into the mix is Burnett's father Joseph, and the two have a strained relationship, to say the least.

The father and daughter have a compelling back-and-forth that's layered with years of tension and resentment.

Joseph: Your mom took you kids to Miami. I let her. It was a mistake I’m trying to make up for. I wouldn’t be a good father if I didn’t ask you to let this go.
Burnett: Nice speech. You were never a good father.

It's a complicated dynamic that I'm looking forward to seeing, and it should be given its fair share of screen time, as Joseph is the one who's helping Burnett track down Gabriel Knox, the season's presumed Big Bad.

Right now, Gabriel is just a shadow, but the very little we know about him is enough to make you hate him already.

He also seems to have some connection to McKenna, which makes the overarching story arc all the more fascinating.

Burnett and McKenna assignment - LA's Finest Season 1 Episode 1

Burnett is a woman on a mission and isn't going to let anything stop her.

She's willing to do whatever it takes to find Gabriel Knox, and that appears to be the overarching storyline.

Yes, the episode's biggest "twist" came at the end when it was revealed McKenna knew Ray, one of Gabriel's associates.

Throughout most of the hour, McKenna's portrayed as a picturesque, suburban housewife.

McKenna computer - LA's Finest Season 1 Episode 1

Sure, she's also a badass female cop, but while off-duty, she's a doting and supportive wife and stepmother who spends way too much time obsessing over family book club.

She's not exactly the type of person you'd expect to be mixed up in criminal activity.

Ray: What’s the matter? You shy now?
Burnett: I’m a lot of things. Shy ain’t one of them.
Ray: What you think this is bitch?
Burnett: A 380 on your sack, bitch. I want Gabriel Knox. Oh, what’s the matter? Are you shy now?
McKenna: Damn, it’s a party up in here. Everybody’s dressed up. Syd’s got her legs all out.
Burnett: What the hell are you doing here? I got this.
McKenna: Clearly. LAPD, and unlike my partner here, I notified for backup, so if anything happens to us…
Ray: She’s police?
McKenna: Yeah, she’s police. C’mon Syd, let’s go. It smells like sweaty tits and bad choices in here.

However, since this is a TV show, no one is ever who they seem.

So while McKenna's connection to Ray wasn't necessarily surprising, it's intriguing nonetheless.

McKenna arrest - LA's Finest Season 1 Episode 1

Based on their short conversation at the end, McKenna and Ray have some sort of past -- probably of the criminal nature -- but it's clear they haven't been in contact for a while.

McKenna seems to have put that part of her life behind her, but as always, secrets don't stay buried for long, especially on television.

It'll be interesting to see what lengths McKenna will go to keep her past a secret from her family and Burnett.

She doesn't seem like the kind of character to carry out cold-blooded murder, but with Ray and the mysterious Dante holding her criminal past over her head, she'll probably cross some lines.

Keeping Burnett in line and hindering her partner's efforts to find answers seems about right.

Hirsch - LA's Finest Season 1 Episode 1

Lastly, it's worth discussing how this episode reads in 2020.

This series is undoubtedly not meant to be an accurate depiction of law enforcement, but due to recent events, including the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer and calls for defunding the police, I'd be remiss not to bring it up.

Keith: You and me, we have an understanding.
McKenna: Which ended the second your hardware was used on the LAPD.
Keith: You can’t prove nothing.
Burnett: Last chance to do this friendly.
McKenna: No, no, no I got this. See, normally Syd is the one who would lose her cool while I would calm her down, but there’s a kid involved and I’m not playing good cop tonight.
Keith: You’re bluffing.
Burnett: She can’t bluff. It’s a whole thing.
McKenna: You don’t talk by the time I’m done, I’m gonna pull this trigger.
Keith: McKenna.
Burnett: LAPD charts every round we fire, but if one of your guns goes off, accidents happen right…
McKenna: Times’ up.

Police procedurals have a long and storied history of portraying its officers as the good guys.

Even if they cross the line now and again, it's fine because the ends justify the means.

Ben Walker assist - LA's Finest Season 1 Episode 1

Who cares if police officers take shortcuts or don't have a search warrant or probable cause to enter the building?

The important thing is they still managed to stop the bomber from leveling the block or save the child from a dangerous hostage situation.

Over 70 years of cop shows have taught us to valorize the police, so upon watching LA's Finest, nothing seems out of place.

Upon a closer look, though, some problems arise.

Ben Baines assist - LA's Finest Season 1 Episode 1

The main one is McKenna threatening to shoot a guy who sells ammunition. 

Sure, it's a bluff, but it just underscores how Hollywood continues to depict law enforcement as infallible.

McKenna: Look, you don’t have to tell me. What’s going on with you?
Burnett: Five years ago, the DEA had me investigating Gabriel Knox. I was undercover in his organization and my cover got blown. I don’t even remember what happened that night, just what the doctors told me. I was tortured, shot, and left for dead, but all I remember is waking up in the hospital, feeling really empty. I was pregnant.
McKenna: Sydney, you don’t have to.
Burnett: I’m trying to be a person like you suggested. Family stuff, it’s a little hard for me. Knox disappeared after that.
McKenna: You think he’s here in LA?
Burnett: And Ray Sherman knows how to find him.
McKenna: We have to trust each other. No more secrets. Deal?
Burnett: Deal.

No one bats an eye at McKenna's stunt, and even if someone raised the alarm, the police brass probably wouldn't care.

After all, that information led to the eventual rescue of sweet Kyle.

Again, it's not necessarily fair to judge this series through today's lens, but with such a progressive and feminist show, you'd think the writers would at least be cognizant of the world around them.

Burnett and McKenna - LA's Finest Season 1 Episode 1

Well, what about Burnett's actions, then? If McKenna crosses the line, then Burnett blows right past it.

Weirdly, McKenna's stunts are more bothersome than the insanity Burnett pulls.

Maybe it's because torching a club or holding a bunch of guys at gunpoint could never be construed as "acceptable" police practices.

Or it's possible it's because Burnett's actions don't directly connect to her police work and took place while she was off duty.

Whatever the reason, it's easier to accept Burnett's action because in no universe could those be deemed appropriate, whereas cop shows will have us believe certain breaks in procedure are OK now and again.

Fletcher - LA's Finest Season 1 Episode 1

Some stray thoughts:

  • What exactly is the point of the Bens? They don't do anything to add to the story and are just useless fodder. The only thing they seem to highlight is the dichotomy between men and women in law enforcement.

    While that was barely touched upon during the pilot, it'd be interesting to further explore those gender roles, especially when Burnett and McKenna are the better detectives.

  • I get that Izzie is supposed to be this super progressive feminist, but does anyone think teenagers talk like that? Half of the words she uses aren't in a regular person's vernacular, let alone a teenager's. Do the writers know this, or are they just trying to pull a Dawson's Creek?

  • Is it a coincidence that McKenna, most likely a former criminal, married a prosecutor, or is that how they met?

So what did you think, LA's Finest Fanatics?

Will you be tuning in for LA's Finest Season 1 Episode 2?

When will Burnett learn the truth about McKenna's past?

How does this episode read in 2020?

Hit the comments below to let me know your thoughts. If you missed the pilot, remember you can watch LA's Finest online at TV Fanatic.

Pilot Review

Editor Rating: 4.1 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.3 / 5.0 (4 Votes)

Jessica Lerner is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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LA's Finest Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Patrick: Is that my credit card? We gave that to you for emergencies.
Izzie: A draconian dress code policy enforced by a slut-shaming patriarchy enabler is an emergency.

McKenna: What are you doing anyway?
Burnett: Dating.
McKenna: Online?
Burnett: Don’t judge me just because you’re out of the game.
McKenna: I’m not out of the game. I won the game. I got married.
Burnett: Uh, you did not win the game. The game played you.
McKenna: Well, does the game make you breakfast in bed or fix a leaky faucet?
Burnett: My building has maintenance and food can be delivered. Oh, check that out.
McKenna: Is that a Toblerone?
Burnett: Guess again.