Dan Stark is quickly becoming one of television's most entertaining characters. He lives his life according to his own rules and doesn't let himself fall into the abyss of cliches that constitute most cop procedurals. He's interesting in that he and his partner catch bad guys even though his method of stopping crime may seem a bit outdated. If you take his rapid-fire personality, the flirting, his mustache, his shades, and his quirky non-sequiturs, you get one hell of a unique cop. Tonight, he was the star of "The Broken Door Theory," the best episode of "The Good Guys" to date. The show has been shaky in its first couple of episodes, but thankfully the cast seems to be meshing a little better. If the writers can work out the rest of the kinks in the show, "The Good Guys" may actually become a great show. However, not even the anomaly that is Dan Stark and the goofy action scenes can save the show from sometimes sticking too closely to its own format.
This week's episode, "The Broken Door Theory," featured all the usual suspects needed to make an enjoyable episode of "The Good Guys." We had the opening scene that showed us where the episode would eventually lead, the minor crime that somehow ballooned into a much larger one (so far, we've covered gang wars, stolen car rings and after last night, prostitution), flashbacks to previous scenes to explain something that had just happened, Bailey and Stark getting into an argument about something and eventually going against the Lieutenant's orders, as well as at least one mustache joke. Normally, I would cringe at how shows stick so closely to a specific format without giving the audience any type of surprise from episode to episode. However, even after three episodes of the same story, I found tonight's episode to be the best so far, somehow taking every great element of the show in addition to improving on the ones that I've been disappointed in up until now.
Bailey and Stark begin the episode by investigating a broken vending machine and soon enough, they're caught in the dark world of sex trafficking. There's an odd pimp named Gemini with his own name tattooed on his back that wants one of his best girls, Holly, to continue working for him even though she's considering leaving the business. Similar to the last two episodes, even the villain has a humorous background and some funny moments, which is in contrast to a majority of other cop shows. In the process, Bailey and Stark not only deal with some sketchy bad guys but also a nasty flu bug that sweeps throughout the cast of characters like a tidal wave. It's an intriguing episode from start to finish, and about halfway through, I realized that the show seems to be fueled by the attempts of Bailey and Stark to find the bad guys and the problems they face in the process. Most cop shows rely on the final scenes, where you finally learn who the bad guy is, in order to keep the tension steadily burning. However, the writers reveal the ending of the episode in the beginning scene and show us who the villains are fairly early. Some people may ask, "Where does any of the suspense come from?". And that's where Bradley Whitford and Colin Hanks come in.
Bailey and Stark are like the Murtaugh and Riggs of television. They argue, fight and bicker constantly, yet it's their relationship with one another that provides the tension in each episode. We may learn how the episode ends in the opening scenes, but it's more interesting to learn how Bailey and Stark end up in each ridiculous dilemma they find themselves in. Even if the show sometimes struggles, the writers have succeeded in creating two characters that are believable to an audience. These characters are not perfect and make many mistakes, but it's Stark's sentiment early on in the episode that sums them up: "I'll take a day off when the bad guys do."
"The Good Guys" still suffers when it tries to focus attention on supporting characters, such as Bailey's ex-girlfriend, the district attorney Liz. Jenny Wade is a great actress who deserves better scenes than she's given on this show. There's clearly an interesting story revolving around Bailey and Liz about how they broke up and remained friends, but by withholding that information from the audience, the scenes between them feel lackluster. The bromance between Bailey and Stark feels more realistic than the supposed chemistry between Bailey and Liz. I would recommend that the show chop a few scenes of Bailey and Stark chasing bad guys and add a few that help turn Liz from a one-note character into a more complex one.
"The Broken Door Theory" has the distinct honor of being the best episode of "The Good Guys" to date. Sure, there are only three episodes so far, but with the first two containing the awkwardness of a new show stretching out its limbs, this episode expands on the potential promised by the Pilot and gives us an idea of what to expect in the future with these characters. It's a bit disappointing to learn that the show is already being considered an early candidate for cancellation before it even has its fall premiere. I'm not worried though; "The Good Guys" is the perfect way to spend a summer night, and in the fall, it will act as the solution to the dull autumn days. The show will likely attract more people in the fall, when the television season begins, and with great one-liners such as, "I'm a cop. I drink shots. I don't get shots," how can the show go wrong?
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