Lethal Weapon Ep. 3.6 Takes Inspiration From The Original 1987 Film

by Ben Martin

[PLEASE NOTE: This recap of Lethal Weapon: Season 3, Episode 6: Panama DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS.It is assumed you have already viewed the episode. If you have not, it is recommended you do so. Episode  6: Panama can be seen on Fox, On-Demand or via your preferred streaming service.]

Over its past three seasons, Lethal Weapon has managed to become its own entity. All while maintaining the spirit of the film franchise on which it’s based. Even if you aren’t digging this show as much since Clayne Crawford’s departure as Riggs; you have to admit that this series has managed quite the feat in not being overshadowed by the movies which birthed it. Still, the show does dip into the well of its filmic forebearer a couple of times per season. The episode in recap Episode 6: Panama, is a prime example of doing just that.
This episode opens with a highly-trained thief breaking into a bank with a state of the art security system. Despite all this security, the robber drops right into the bank’s vault, Mission: Impossible (1996) style. By the time the security guard comes back from the bathroom, many of the safety deposit boxes contained within the vault have been cleaned out. Not believing his eyes, the guard attempts to report the theft via his radio. Alas, he only manages to spit out have a sentence before getting pulled up into the air duct by the intruder.

Meanwhile, Wesley Cole (Seann William Scott) is across town having breakfast with his daughter Maya (Shay Rudolph); who is the midst of preparing for her first debate club meeting. However, when she goes to order more food, Cole looks across the street and sees a figure from his past, Tom Barnes (Mykelti Williamson). No doubt,  Barnes showing up can’t be a good thing. As if to make this point clear, we’re treated to a flashback to Panama City, 2004, when Barnes recruited our hero into the CIA. Snapping back to the present, Cole no longer has an appetite and convinces Maya that they should go ahead and leave the bakery.
Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) is also greeted with an unpleasant surprise this morning. Opening the fridge, Murtaugh finds that the milk is all gone. Worse yet, it’s gone because one of Trish’s (Keesha Sharp) clients drank it. See, Trish has started practicing law from home, and this particular client was early for her appointment. Before arriving at the crime scene of the vault heist, Murtaugh convinces Sonya Bailey (Michelle Mitchenor) to run this client’s plate number. Bailey begrudgingly agrees to do so; reminding Murtaugh that she is overworked and needs a partner.

Already on the scene, Cole seems to know exactly how the thief pulled off this robbery; claiming that’s exactly how he would have done it. It turns out that all of this is with good reason as Barnes soon turns up; reuniting with his protege Cole and making Murtaugh’s acquaintance. Taking a respite at a diner, Barnes explains that their suspect is Joshua Wilson (Lindsay Farris), a former CIA operative whom Barnes had trained. Barnes further explains that Joshua’s now a contract killer working for various criminals; however, he doesn’t expound beyond that.
Sometimes doing a favor can get you in trouble. That is precisely the case with Bailey, who got sucker-punched by Trish’s client for running her plates. However, when sticking to her main expertise, Bailey is as always, brilliant. She helps Murtaugh and Cole trace Joshua and an arms dealer to a local park. Alas, the criminals spot our heroes like a dog locates a bone. As Murtaugh shoots it out with the arms dealer and his goons, Cole engages in fisticuffs with Joshua. At one point, Cole has the chance to kill Joshua, but doesn’t; he wishes to have his killing days behind him. Unfortunately, this hesitation results in Cole getting stabbed in the arm with a skewer and Joshua getting away.
Later, as Cole’s is stitching himself up, he flashes back to 2005 in Mexico City. It was a special day as Cole had officially become a CIA operative. Not wasting any time, Barnes assigned Cole his first hit. The target was Victor Vasquez (Carlos Arellano), a higher-up in the Cartel with Middle Eastern ties. Alas, before that trip down memory lane concludes; we snap back to the present. It’s now night time, and we’re at the Murtaugh household where there’s never a dull moment. The latest example of which is Trish telling her husband that her client, Luisa Gutierrez (Paola Lázaro) is an undercover cop.
The next morning, Barnes reveals what is going on to Cole. Joshua stole the CIA Special Ops list, a drive containing a list of all CIA operatives and their families. (Yet another thing cribbed from the first Mission: Impossible flick.) Having no other choice, Cole agrees to assist Barnes in tracking down and stopping Joshua. Upon this agreement, we flashback, yet again to Mexico City where Cole finishes his memory. Cole shoots and kills Vasquez at point blank ranges and flees the lavatory; leaving Vasquez’s wife, Sofia (Leonor Varela) to find her husband’s body.
Back in the present, Cole and Barnes are trekking through the Mojave Desert in a Hummer. About midway to their destination, the men find that they are being tailed by Murtaugh and Bailey. To stop them, Cole stops the vehicle and shoots out his partners’ tires. Soon enough, Cole and Barnes have tracked Joshua to an old restaurant. Meanwhile, Bailey and Murtaugh commandeered a new set of wheels from a couple of elderly newlyweds.

About this time, Cole and Joshua have once again come face-to-face. Cole refuses to kill Joshua; while also making sure that Barnes is unable to get a clean shot from his sniper’s perch. Making matters more complicated, the buyer of the list, Sofia Vasquez and her squad show up. However, Barnes has a CIA telecommunications operator patch him through to Sofia’s phone. Once he on the line with her; Barnes makes a deal. In exchange for Sofia and her crew leaving now, Barnes will give her Cole.
Sofia obliges, but not before Murtaugh and Bailey show up and a massive shootout commences. It seems as if Joshua will escape with the list. Moreover, he will not hesitate to run over Murtaugh with an SUV to do so. To save his partner, Cole shoots Joshua in the head, killing him. Then he plants another shot in the SUV’s gas tank; making it explode and flip over Murtaugh.

Good partners can be found all-around as Bailey and Gutierrez are partnered up; paying yet another homage to Lethal Weapon (1987). Murtaugh also takes the opportunity to thank Cole for saving his life. Alas, Cole still regrets having to kill Joshua as he’s spilled enough blood in the CIA. However, Cole’s day will soon get better as he is about to see his daughter in her first debate. Alas, he doesn’t make it too far as a gang of Sofia’s men jump and overpower Cole at a pit-stop, as she watches from afar. Panama ends on a cliffhanger; leaving us to wonder, will Cole’s haunting past kill him?

Folks, I have to tell you, I only one criticism of this episode. That being, Panama is not one of the more original episodes in the book. How could it be as most of the episode cherry-picks some of the original 1987 film’s best elements? For one there’s the character of Joshua (initially played by master thespian Gary Busey). Then there’s the episode’s closing action sequence, which struck me as a mini-remake of Lethal Weapon’s third act. Also, I stated earlier, these episode’s plot essentially uses the same device that M:i does. I have to admit though, this episode’s lack of originality doesn’t strike me as too much of a detriment. Then again, Lethal Weapon (1987) is one of my favorite films.
Outside of that sole criticism, I found Panama to be one of the best episodes of this season’s thus far. I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again: The best episodes of this series are the ones that properly mix action, comedy, emotion and character development. Panama does a great job of balancing all of those elements, while furthering Cole’s backstory. Overall, I found this to be an incredibly entertaining episode. Not to mention, it features one of my favorite character actor’s, Mykelti Williamson as Barnes.

Episode 7: Bali can be seen on Fox, On-Demand or via your preferred streaming service. Recap Coming Soon!

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