‘Frankie Comes To Hollywood’ Finally Gives Us A Murtaugh-Centric Episode In Lethal Weapon 2.18

by Ben Martin

[PLEASE NOTE: This recap of Lethal Weapon: Season 2, Episode 18: Frankie Comes to Hollywood DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS. It is assumed you have already viewed the episode. If you have not, it is recommended you do so. Episode 18: Frankie Comes to Hollywood can be seen on Fox On-Demand or via your preferred streaming service.]

If you’ve been reading my Lethal Weapon recaps for any relative amount of time, you may have noticed something. That being that as much as I dig the show, there are a couple of trends in the series that I don’t care for at all. For example, many episodes in Season 2 have been very derivative of classic movies in the action genre, cribbing from set pieces within them. Ultimately, I know that such a trend can’t be avoided entirely because old creations inspire new ones and always will. However, letting that happen is something this series should do a lot less. The trend I dislike the most though is one that has run through this series since its inception. In my opinion, many of the episodes aren’t balanced evenly between our buddy-cop protagonists. I find that a lot the episodes in the series thus far tend to focus a little too heavily on Riggs (Clayne Crawford) and not enough on Murtaugh (Damon Wayans). Thankfully though, this episode, Frankie Comes to Hollywood, rectifies this issue.
This episode opens in 2002, when Murtaugh was still a unie on patrol and Trish’s (Keesha Sharp) in labor with Riana. Our younger hero is still ten minutes out when he hears shots fired at a nearby car dealership. Approaching the scene, Murtaugh finds a dead man with fatal wounds in his head and chest. Before Murtaugh realizes it, the man’s killer has the drop on him. As such, the killer tells Murtaugh to drop his gun and get on the ground. Murtaugh does as he’s told; having no other choice. However, as he does he takes the opportunity to try and reason with the unknown man who has a gun to his back. Murtaugh pleads with the criminal, in as a cool and calm a way possible, to spare his life; citing that he has a family. The gunman hears this but says nothing. As Murtaugh waits for the inevitable; he notices that the gunman has tossed his Putnam cigarette butt on the ground. In the time it takes for Murtaugh to observe such; he also realizes that the criminal has spared his life, disappearing into the night.
Fast-forward to the present, and Murtaugh’s dealing with a whole new set of parental challenges. Now sixteen, Rianna (Chandler Kinney) is attempting to get her driver’s license. Thus, Murtaugh is teaching her to drive and it isn’t going very well as Murtaugh’s stressing his daughter out. Though not for long as Rianna suddenly says, “I can’t take this!” With that proclamation she stops the car and abandons the driver’s seat. Unfortunately, she forgets to actually put the vehicle in park. Murtaugh hops over from the passenger seat and attempts to stop the car. Alas, he only manages to slow the car as it ultimately ends up on the curb, against a post. Meanwhile, Riggs is going to visit his father, Nathan (Rex Linn) in prison. He wants to know why his ne’erdowell dad had Ben’s dog killed. According to Nathan, he never meant to have canine murder committed. Instead, he maintains that he, “Asked the wrong people to send a message that he needed to see (Riggs) and they misinterpreted.” Following that, Nathan attempts to apologize for not just the dog, but for everything else to his son. As expected, Riggs isn’t receptive to the attempted amends, telling his father to stay away. His feelings made clear, our hero immediately gets up and leaves the prison.
Later that same morning, another gentleman is found dead in an LA parking garage. The cause of death is once again one bullet in the head and another in the chest. Murtaugh identifies the victim as Franky “The Bullfrog” Diamond, a former west-coast mob capo who went legit a decade ago. As he’s laying this information out for  Scorsese (Johnathan Fernandez) and Bailey (Michelle Mitchenor), Murtaugh notices something else. A Putnam cigarette butt is laying near the deceased. Suddenly Riggs shows up, late yet again and holding the murder weapon, a long-range, bolt-action rifle. Murtaugh tells everyone that he believes the suspect to be Frankie Kelso (Jude Ciccolella), a noted mob hitman. Beyond that, Frankie is also the man Murtaugh encountered sixteen years earlier. Based on this hunch, Murtaugh uses all the means at his disposal; which in this case are vast. After their initial encounter, it seems Frankie became his white whale. For this reason, Murtaugh’s kept multiple notebooks, full of any and all information relating to Frankie. Those copious notebooks don’t do much good, however. Thanks to a BOLO put out on Frankie; Bailey manages to track the hitman to a houseboat on Terminal Island.

The boys, backed by a tactical team head out to Frankie’s houseboat to arrest him. However, ol’ Frankie manages to stay ahead of them as he escapes on his other boat while the house is being swept. Seeing what’s happening, Riggs jumps on a jet-ski in aquatic pursuit. After jumping from the jet-ski on to the boat; Riggs’ dismayed to find that the boat is nothing but an unpiloted decoy. Unfortunately, his partner is making a discovery of his own as Frankie pops up from the backseat of Murtaugh’s car, putting a pistol to our hero’s head. As he forces Murtaugh to drive at gunpoint, Frankie maintains that he did not kill Franky “The Bullfrog” Diamond. To prove his claim, Frankie hands Murtaugh a piece of paper with a number on it. He tells Murtaugh to run the number which will lead him to who shot “The Bullfrog.”

Back at the station, Bailey’s logging evidence as Riggs’ going through the notebooks. Inside of one of them, he finds several notes on someone nicknamed, “The Panther.” About this time, Murtaugh calls in to have his partner run the number. As he wraps up the call, Murtaugh tells Riggs, “You’re the best damn cop I know.” Based on such an uncharacteristic compliment, Riggs knows his partner’s in trouble. The new information keeps on coming. As the team is devising a plan, “The Panther” is revealed to be Danny Mancini (E.E. Bell). To track Danny down, Riggs calls the prison and gets his dad on the line. Apparently, Nathan served time with “The Panther,” who still has a crew on the inside. Riggs, much to on chagrin asks his father to see if he can get a line on where “The Panther” currently is. Nathan agrees to help his son, without hesitation.
It turns out that Frankie already knows where Danny “The Panther” is, though. Thus, he takes Murtaugh along, still at gunpoint to Danny’s pawn shop. Before Frankie shoots his old compatriot in the head, he intends to find out why Danny set him up. Fearing for his life, “The Panther” claims he had nothing to do with the setup. However, he thinks he knows who might be responsible for it. According to the pawn shop owner, a young, redheaded man came in a month earlier, saying he had a job and asking questions about Frankie. He also adds that the young ginger was driving a baby blue vintage car.
The tension is suddenly cut when Riggs comes in looking for his partner. Riggs doesn’t have to keep his ruse for up for long as Murtaugh reveals himself, being held, hostage. Moments later, “The Bullfrog’s” men burst into the shop in retaliation, and a shootout ensues. The boys and Frankie manage to defeat the men, but “The Panther” is killed in the firefight. After the smoke clears, Murtaugh’s free and believes that the man who’s had him gunpoint multiple times isn’t responsible for the murder in this case. On a related note though, it seems that there were consequences for tracking down “The Panther.” Shortly after getting a call from his father to see how things panned out, Riggs discovered that his dad’s been attacked and stabbed by a rival gang. All for asking around for his son.

Family matters at the Murtaugh house aren’t quite that bad. However, they’re not it excellent shape either. Rianna went to take her driving test and failed terribly. The result of which was thanks to her dad being in her head, according to Rianna. Then again, it doesn’t help that the teen also ran over her driving instructor’s foot.
Eventually, Riggs concurs with Murtaugh about Frankie’s innocence after he discovers that the elder, former hitman has macular degeneration in his right eye. Now, the reason that’s a pertinent fact is that whoever is responsible for the murder was right handed and right eye dominant. In other words, there’s no way Frankie could’ve been the shooter. Following this, Murtaugh looks at a video he had made on that fateful night of his daughter’s birth. In the video, he sees a baby blue convertible at the car lot. With a little effort, the team runs the plate of the car through the DMV database. The vehicle is registered to Sam Stoller (Jake Austin Walker), the son of the man Frankie had assassinated in 2002. In the intervening years, Sam had become focused on a singular goal: Avenging his father’s death. As part of getting his revenge, Sam became a sniper in the army; from which he was recently discharged.
Across town at the docks, Sam takes out the officer who’s keeping an eye on Frankie. At the same time, the boys are headed there to save Frankie. As they’re on their way, they lay out what’s happened: Sam killed “The Bulldog” then framed Frankie for it as a means of achieving vengeance against Frankie for killing his father. A vengeance it seems he will know have as Sam has Frankie at gunpoint. The old hitman responds calmly, offering Sam tea. When Sam doesn’t respond, Frankie accepts his fate. The young sniper puts a wounding shot in Frankie’s gut and tapes him to a chair. By the time our heroes arrive, they see not only Frankie but also the sniper who is in position to kill them. The boys return fire and use the car as cover to retrieve Frankie.
Murtaugh drives off with Frankie as Riggs continues to his the gunfight with Sam. As Murtaugh rushes Frankie to the hospital, Rianna calls. She’s about to take her driver’s test again; so like any good dad, he reassures his daughter that she’ll do fine. Once the call concludes, from the backseat, lying there in pain, Frankie says, “You’re a good dad, Roger. Makes me glad I didn’t kill you.” Moments later, Frankie Kelso takes his final breath and passes away. Meanwhile back at the docks, Sam gets down from his perch after assuming that he’s wounded and (for him) hopefully killed Riggs. Unfortunately for Sam, Riggs, as a fellow former army sniper has the drop on him. Whistling to get Sam’s attention, Riggs shoots the gas barrels beside his enemy with a flare gun. Thus ending the confrontation and knocking him out due to the explosion.
With another case in the books, our heroes call it a day. Murtaugh goes home to find that Rianna is now a licensed driver. Not surprisingly, he reacts the way most dad’s of new, teenage driver would. That being one of shocked and silent acceptance. Riggs however, is from home as he heads to Amarillo to check on his father. As he stands there, seeing his father unconscious and in bad shape, Dr. Stone (Romi Dias), the head prison physician, offers some advice. She says, “If it were my father, I’d get him out of here at all costs.” With that professional opinion hanging in the air the episode ends, leaving Riggs to make a decision.
In my estimation, this episode put things back on track. After finding the last few episodes of this season to be a bit weak, I was delighted with “Frankie Comes to Hollywood”. All the proper elements were on point. The action was good, and there was just the right dose of comedy mixed-in as well. More importantly, though, it had a strong emotional core; which only makes a story work better in general. Moreover, though, this (as my recap title indicates) this episode is very focused on Murtaugh. For me, this is something that doesn’t happen nearly enough with this series. Perhaps I’m not being critical enough, but I don’t have any criticisms for 2.18. In fact, I think it’s one of the better installments in this show thus far. We’re down to only a few remaining episodes in Season 2. I can only hope that these upcoming episodes are as strong as the one that’s just been recapped!

Lethal Weapon airs on FOX on Tuesday nights.

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