Lethal Weapon: How the series has managed to hold its own compared to the movies

Martin Riggs and Cahill in Lethal Weapon
Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford) has Cahill’s confidence in Lethal Weapon on FOX

Since the autumn of last year, Lethal Weapon fans have been treated to the TV adaptation of the hugely popular movies — but has it lived up to expectations?

Initially like many fans of the movie series, we were a little skeptical about how good a television series would be when compared to the madness and mayhem of the movies, which became synonymous with the late 80s and 90s.

The movie series brought together the talents of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as Detectives Riggs and Murtaugh.

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The first film played with the idea that Riggs was on the ragged edge after having lost his wife in what he believed to be a terrible accident. The story saw Murtaugh partnered with Riggs as he was turning 50 and looking to retire from the force early.

The chemistry between Glover and Gibson in the four movies was undeniable and the films managed to do a lot character exploration in all four instalments.

But there were still areas that were brushed over, which the series — with Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans playing the key roles of Riggs and Murtaugh — has been able to pay more attention to.

Mel Gibson & Danny Glover as the original Riggs and Murtaugh
Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as the original Riggs and Murtaugh

For one, in the movies Riggs was seeing a psychologist who was played by Mary Ellen Trainor. She was pretty much the butt end of Riggs’s jokes, and though she played a pretty important role in the first film, she was pretty much devalued as the movie series went on.

In the television series this character, Cahill, is played by the gorgeous Jordana Brewster and we have seen her on a weekly basis working with Riggs on his various issues.

In fact just a couple of weeks ago, she had an entire episode centred around her called ‘The Murtaugh File’, which saw Cahill being stalked by a killer who was murdering all those close to her.

This allowed for an interesting turn as Riggs had to pretty much help her through it. Although the episode’s title had little bearing on the story, it did allow for some fun with Riggs wanting to know what was in Murtaugh’s psyche file.

While the movie series allowed for great Buddy Cop comedy and high octane action, the new TV show also allows for deeper character exploration of the central pairing.

Riggs and Murtaugh in the new Lethal Weapon
In an amusing moment, Riggs tries to find out why Murtaugh has a psyche file

As a fan of the movies, it took me a while to adjust to and accept Clayne Crawford as Riggs.

His portrayal is less manic than Gibson’s, but also more layered, and that has allowed for some scary and comedic moments.

Whereas Gibson’s Riggs was far more on the ragged edge and could go off any moment, Crawford’s take on the character allows us to glimpse that madness but also appreciate his daily struggle in keeping it together.

The series also explores how the mismatched pairing of Riggs and Murtaugh sees the two men kind of fix each other.

For example Riggs is more impulsive and a live-for-the-moment type of guy whereas Murtaugh is far more careful, but kind of envies the fact that Riggs seems more carefree despite his issues.

In the final analysis, the new Lethal Weapon series has managed to pull off the unenviable task being able to exist without fans constantly comparing it to the film or vice versa.

Both the TV show and films have merit and can both be enjoyed equally.

Matthew Miller and his team on the TV series have done an excellent job with this and I am hopeful that it will run for at least a couple more years.

Lethal Weapon airs every Wednesday at 8/7c on Fox.

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