The Rookie | Three Episode Thoughts

© Nancee E. Lewis / Nancee Lewis Photography.

Gini Koch had more time on her hands prior to the holidays and sent us this review.

In her inimitable way, she shares her thoughts after watching three episodes of the new ABC series, “The Rookie”.

Gini’s “real” job is author of the Alien Katherine “Kitty” Katt series from DAW Book, part of Penguin Random House. In her spare time and when she needs a break form that world, she writes an occasional column for us here at

Look for her signature, Old Classics…? | Newly Reviewed articles, where she writes reviews of films as seen on Turner Classic Movies.


The Rookie

Three Episode Thoughts
By Gini Koch

Fans of Nathan Fillion be warned – this show is neither Firefly nor Castle. If you’re hoping to see the Fillion Charm on full display, it’s there, but it’s not the point of this show. If you were hoping to see Captain Tightpants in action again, that’s not this show at all. And if you were hoping for the witty repartee of most of the seasons of Castle, it flashes across the screen, but rarely.

The Rookie is an original series – I’ll pause while we all recover from the shock of that – following a 40-year-old, John Nolan (Nathan Fillion) who joins the L.A.P.D. when he realizes that being involved in a bank robbery – and helping to foil it – is the most exciting thing that’s happened to him in a very long time. There are two other rookies at his precinct with him, Lucy Chen (Melissa O’Neil) and Jackson West (Titus Makin Jr.). The show follows them and their Training Officers on the job.

Nolan’s TO, Talia Bishop (Afton Williamson) is bucking to make detective and she’s by the book but wants Nolan to succeed because his success helps her. Chen’s TO, Tim Bradford (Eric Winter) is a total hardass hiding (not all that much) secret pains and is determined to make Chen the best or to break her. And West’s TO, Angela Lopez (Alyssa Diaz) is also trying to make detective but hits a snag with the fact that West – the son of the head of the L.A.P.D.’s Internal Affairs – is having issues under fire. She chooses to protect him because if he washes out, it could affect her.

Nolan and Chen are also having a clandestine relationship, which Bishop advises Chen to get out of ASAP, before she’s labeled at the force.

And the L.A.P.D. is shown to be the most virtuous, caring, dedicated police force in the country, and they are against excessive force, racial profiling, being racist in any way, shooting anyone unless they have to, and any other negative thing the police have done. Like, you know, the L.A.P.D. is notorious for. It’s like this show is an ad for the L.A.P.D. – join and become the best of the best of the best, sir! But, you can’t blame them for doing their best to give the ol’ reputation a shiny polish, and this is a TV show, so L.A.P.D. for the win.

Does the show win, though?

Kinda? It all depends on why you’re tuning in.

This show is, first and foremost, a police procedural. So, if you’re not into those, you won’t be into this. Unlike Hill St. Blues, where you followed everyone in the precinct, you are only following these three rookies, so if you’re hoping to see a full view of policework, you are going to be disappointed. If you’re hoping to see mysteries solved every week, you will also be disappointed. And if you’re looking for a crew that you’ll want to spend all your time with, well, I think you’ll be disappointed there, too. But, if you love the inner workings of policework as it relates to rookies, then you will enjoy this show quite a lot.

Frankly, since the show IS a procedural, I don’t mind that we’re following cops other than Nolan. But it means that Fillion’s time on screen is far less than either Firefly or Castle, and if you don’t like the other actors, that could make two thirds of the show a slog. I think they’re fine, but none of them are why I tuned in and I’m not sure that any of them will make me stay.

On the plus side, someone got Fillion back into fighting shape after 8 seasons of enjoying the food Castle’s craft services team provided. Those of us hoping for a Nathan Fillion version of Uncharted still have hope – he’s back to being able to take his shirt off and sell himself as an action star! And, for those who want to point out that he’s several years over 40, I’ll point you to the entire cast of Grease and let you just contemplate how far away from high school they were when they played the rolls. It’s called acting, and actors play older and younger than they are all the time.

The cast seems to have chemistry with each other, and many things ring true – especially Officer Hardass, who kicks Chen out of the car when she doesn’t know where they are and makes her walk until she figures it out. Why? Because if they’re trapped and he’s shot, she has to know where the hell to tell their backup and emergency vehicles to go. He’s a jerk, but you do get the feeling that Chen’s likely to become the best cop of the three rookies. If she doesn’t damage her rep by continuing to boink Nolan.

There are issues with the show, but the main one I have is predicated on the fact that a very good friend of mine did indeed join the L.A.P.D. at 40 – after 9-11. And, because I know him, and am originally from Los Angeles and so know the L.A.P.D., things going on in this show ring false.

The Duty Sergeant (Richard T. Jones) dislikes Nolan because he feels that Nolan is having his midlife crisis at the risk of the L.A.P.D. This is patently ridiculous. Every officer has to go through boot camp, and it’s grueling. It’s not a freaking Tough Mudder, it’s a boot camp that took many of its cues from the military. People wash out all the time, every book camp offered. I know, because, again, GOOD FRIEND did this. If THAT is your midlife crisis, then you’re freaking amazing and dedicated and, by the first week, you’ve gotten over that crisis and are either begging to get out or are in for life.

On top of this, the sergeant is always saying that he can’t “train out” things that are dangerous that Nolan has ingrained. But, in real life, my friend’s superiors LOVED that they had an experienced, seasoned officer coming in “brand new” because he was far more likely to figure out ways of handling a situation that didn’t involve extreme force and he had life experience that helped him spot criminals, people in distress, and clues based on a larger knowledge base than most rookies will have. The show shows us Nolan doing this, which is great. It’s the sergeant I have issues with. I really hate the character.

Additionally, Officer Hardass gets injured and goes back on the job too soon. Not only is this expected and, by now, trite, it isn’t handled all that well. The sergeant talks to him about this but offers no actual help, just some smirking “I had issues and you will too, go forth and figure it out” which almost results in Officer Hardass and Chen both getting killed. After, he takes Officer Hardass for a beer because I guess that’s what you do when you’re the worst Duty Sergeant in TV Police History. I’d love to see the actor in this role playing something else because he’s good – it’s the character who isn’t.

The one thing that does ring true is the statement in the pilot that says that boot camp gets you ready, but nothing really trains you for the reality. This is true for a lot of careers, but definitely so for policework.

Three episodes in and I’m almost ready to say “no more” – I like procedurals but only when they’re solving mysteries. This show solves crimes, sort of, and did solve a mystery of a sort, but it’s not my cuppa. However, in the next episode they’re going to switch TO’s on the boots (what rookies are called by the L.A.P.D.) and that could be interesting. But if I remember to watch that fourth episode and if I continue on with the series is anyone’s guess. If you’re betting, bet on “pass”.

Right now, The Rookie is doing low to average numbers in a terrible timeslot, which probably means ABC is going to cheer and hang onto it, even though it’s not even in the top 40 in TV rankings. I don’t think this is the show Fillion’s fans were hoping for – it’s not the show I was hoping for – but if enough of them stick it out, it’ll probably last, but only because of its awful timeslot.

However, there are so many other things to watch, that if this doesn’t sound like your cuppa, either, choose one of them instead. And lobby for Fillion as Nathan Drake in Uncharted, because that’s the role he’s made for.

3 stars out of 5

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One response to “The Rookie | Three Episode Thoughts”

  1. Corey Nelson Avatar
    Corey Nelson

    Loving Castle and Firefly, I had to try this show. The start of the series was rough, silly and clearly not in control of its identity. As the series matures, I am enjoying the evolution of all the characters. Stick with it. It is worth it.

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