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the island of conclusions

Southland

the island of conclusions

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Southland

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So, I spent part of the holidays watching the first two seasons of Southland--which luckily for me was only 13 episodes worth of TV. Yes, you may start laughing now at my attempt to pick up another TV show, given my complete inability to keep up with more than one or two at a time. Still, Merlin is over now. White Collar, however, is coming back. So, we’ll see what happens once things start up again.

But, whatever happens, I do want to note that Southland is awesome. I think the thing I like best about it, in a meta kind of way, is how it presents cops and detectives not just as people who solve crimes and save people, but as people who are forced to be witnesses to the worst things human beings can do to each other—and how much of the show is about dealing with being that kind of witness.

I thought maybe I’d be able to write fic for it. I even really like the central slash pairing of the fandom (Cooper/Sherman) even though that kind of 20+ yr. age difference is usually a turn-off for me. But, for the moment, anyway, I’m stymied. I do best, I think, with characters who talk a lot (hello, Sherlock Holmes), and these guys—well, they give new meaning to the word taciturn. Watchful, and smoldering and taciturn. Hot as hell, but difficult to write…

So, instead of fic, you have the following: a kind of introduction/imitation/pastiche. The Cooper/Sherman part of it started as a genuine attempt to try and map out the rhythm of their interactions, but it ended up more parodic than anything else.

Which means that it comes off kind of snarky in parts, but I’m hoping y’all know me well enough to know that my snark comes from a place of genuine love.

Also, in this case, from my frustration with being unable to capture how incredibly touching the show it—it’s heart-clenching pathos….

But in honor of Season 3 (ie, episode 14) premiering tonight, here you go:


In this show, there are police detectives and there are beat cops.

Detectives
Let’s get the most annoying of them out of the way first, okay?

Sammy Bryant: He’s married to a woman called Tammy. No, really. They fight all the time because she’s always doing stupid stuff. No, really stupid stuff. The show spends an inordinate amount of time on this inanity.

It usually goes like this:

Sammy and Tammy are fighting. What are they fighting about this week? Who knows. Let’s pretend they’re fighting about how stupid it is to marry someone whose name rhymes with your name, for chrissakes.

Sammy: Are you kidding me, Tammy? You didn’t do it? I gave you one thing to do today, one thing. Go down to the court house and get your name legally changed. One thing. You had the name picked out and everything. Jennifer. It’s a good name. What the fuck happened?

Tammy: Don’t be mad, Sammy. I tried to do it, I did. It’s just I got there, and I thought, Jennifer? Is that really me? Megan—that’s a good name too. Or Laurel. And I couldn’t make up my mind. And the people behind me started being really rude. And I told them my husband was a police detective. And then security showed me out.

Sammy (shaking his head): One thing, Tammy. We can’t go on like this. Rhyming. It’s killing us. You think I wouldn’t rather be down there changing my name to Richard or Vince instead of stuck on some boring stake-out? Do ya?

Tammy (whines): Sammy.

Sammy (suddenly remembering he can’t resist her): Tammy.

[They have desperate make-up sex. The dog watches.]

More importantly, there is Lydia Adams. There is no snark to be made about Lydia because she is awesome in every conceivable way—from her fashion choices to her shooting skills. Even better, you want to kiss the TV whenever she’s on because for once there’s a competent, professional woman on your screen who is also a human being. She’s smart, she’s compassionate, she’s nice, but bitchy when events call for it, and her life is not defined by a man. The whole thing is like a minor miracle.

There’s also Nate Moretta, who is Sammy’s partner, and who doesn’t get as much screen time, even though his family is also complicated. But I quite like him—he’s smart and sardonic, and the writers, bless them, let him speak un-translated Spanish a lot.

There are a few more detectives, who range from the semi-parodic (Sal) to the semi-nameless (?? And his partner, ??). This is not one of the strengths of the show.

Cops

There are various cops, but only two really make the screen light up. They mostly make it light up by just driving around in their patrol car not saying much of anything. They don’t pull any cheap car moves like banter, and ranting, and cocky sexiness, like some couples I could mention (yes, I’m looking at you, Steve & Danny and Sam & Dean). Instead, these two put on the most compelling display of smoldering taciturnity I’ve seen for a long time.

It usually goes something like this:

John Cooper (he’s the older one, the training officer, half-way in the closet and addicted to pain-killers. He’s also the moral center of the show. Because it’s that kind of show): Looking good there, Boot. Whadja do, pay your dry-cleaner extra for those creases?

Ben Sherman (he’s ~20yrs younger, John’s trainee; raised rich, but with massive childhood trauma. And pretty damn moral himself): No. I, um, iron them myself.

John (incredulous, raised eyebrows): Huh. They teach you that in that finishing school you went to?

Ben (staring straight ahead, more stony-faced than ever): No. It’s just…You know: After…Well, no one really… So I…. Well, I taught myself…you know…. So. Yeah. How’s your back, anyway?

[John stares directly ahead of him]

[They notice a car ahead of them driving erratically.]

John: Willya look at that? Turn ‘em on.

[Ben turns on the siren and lights]

[The car pulls over, and John gets out, Ben shadowing him, because, you know, he’s learning the job]

[John gives the couple in the car a scathing look. He’s a twenty-something blond surfer dude; she’s the female version—lipstick smudged and hair wild. She can’t seem to stop dragging her hand across her mouth.]

John: License and registration, sir.

[The dude rummages around and hands them over]

John (deadpan): And zip up, sir, or I’m gonna have to cite you for indecency, too.

[The dude started fumbling with his pants—quick camera shot of the zipper]

[Ben turns away and looks at the ground to hide his laughter]

[As they walk back to the patrol car, John and Ben look at each other as if they were the only two sane people in the universe]

[Back to driving around]

Ben (with a sidelong look at John): So were they really, uh, you know?

John (snorts, disgusted): Oh yeah.

[They drive some more]

John (glancing at Ben with the tiniest hint of mischief): So, um, you ever…? Fast times at Beverly Hills High, and all that?

Ben: What? [then, just a beat too slow] No. Uh-uh.

John: Mm.

Ben (with shy daring, like he can’t believe he’s asking): How about you? You ever?

John (just a beat too fast): No. No. You kidding?

[They both smile, looking in opposite directions. Then, when they think the other one isn’t watching, they dart little doting and admiring looks at each other]

[They drive some more. The camera catches a young guy coming out of a liquor store with a gun and a sack of something—did I mention it’s broad daylight?]

Ben (excited): Whoa! Whoa! You see that?

John: Yeah.

[The siren goes on again. Ben relays some extremely complicated information over the radio about where they are and what they’re about to do.]

[John pulls the car over and Ben gets out and starts running after the suspect. And when I say run, I mean really fucking run. He goes into this gorgeous football player sprint, shoulders down and arms pumping, legs pushing out wide. The suspect darts down an alley, and Ben’s right after him—climbing over one chain-link fence—two—three—he would climb twenty if he had to. Finally, Ben catches up to the perp, and takes him down with a crazy bantam-weight tackle, elbow to the throat. Because Ben McKenzie may be the shortest man on TV except for Scott Caan, but he can bring it with the best them, thank you very much.]

[John catches up to him. They cuff the guy, read him his rights, and exchange more doting and admiring looks.]

Okay, I’m abandoning my faux-script because I’ve revealed the shallowest aspect of my enjoyment of Southland. If the number one reason I like the show is the way it portrays police officers as all-too-human-witnesses of the depredations of humanity, and there’s a tie for second between Lydia’s awesomeness and the epic love between John and Ben, then a close third is Ben McKenzie’s running and fighting and climbing, etc. I could watch that for forty minutes all on its own.


Okay—I think that’s the end of the spamming for this week--thanks for bearing with me!
  • This may just be the best thing I've read. Ever.

    They don’t pull any cheap car moves like banter, and ranting, and cocky sexiness, like some couples I could mention (yes, I’m looking at you, Steve & Danny and Sam & Dean). Instead, these two put on the most compelling display of smoldering taciturnity I’ve seen for a long time.

    This is what I love about them. They are just as bad as each other in the speaking department. Yet they sync well. And then there are all these little looks that go on between them accompanied by half hidden smiles. John will be prickish to some jackass and make a comment. Ben will turn his head and try not to laugh in an effort to be professional, but secretly he's thinking John is all kinds of awesome.

    Ben will do something that impresses John,(which is a damn lot. Is the man a superrookie or what?) like leap a fence or tackle a huge guy and take him out, or shoot like a pro and then John will give him shit and then walk off and smile, which is John's way of an offhand compliment cleverly disguised as riding him.

    And then there are all these moments between then with extreme vunerability. John keeps pressing on the things that are obviously sore points for Ben. Trying to get him to open up about it, and then John is just as open in response.

    Needless to say, I love these two. And I ship them. Didn't see that coming when I started watching and loving this series, the shipping came later.
    • Hey--thanks for reading--I'm glad you enjoyed it! I absolutely ship them too, even though it's not my usual kind of ship.

      And then there are all these moments between then with extreme vunerability. John keeps pressing on the things that are obviously sore points for Ben. Trying to get him to open up about it, and then John is just as open in response.

      This, absolutely! And Ben wants to help John so badly -- not just because he cares about him so much, but also because I think he thinks of himself as a protector and a caretaker (like he is with his family) and he just doesn't know what to do to help John....
      • Yes. A large part of Ben's character is the role of protector. What happened to him in his past has made him take on the role and so he does with his mum and sisters and now with John.
        Though I think he doesn't quite know where he stands, because John makes it difficult. He'll open up and bond over shit childhoods, but then he refuses to discuss the thought that his back or his drug problem might just not be 'Fine'.

        But I'd like to think that Ben is getting to know John better than anyone else.
  • Okay, I’m abandoning my faux-script because I’ve revealed the shallowest aspect of my enjoyment of Southland. If the number one reason I like the show is the way it portrays police officers as all-too-human-witnesses of the depredations of humanity, and there’s a tie for second between Lydia’s awesomeness and the epic love between John and Ben, then a close third is Ben McKenzie’s running and fighting and climbing, etc. I could watch that for forty minutes all on its own.

    Also this. COMPLETELY THIS!

    Besides the fact that is is a gritty and very REAL depiction of what it is to be a cop. I love it for

    1) Lydia. So much love for Lydia. She is the first time I've seen a cop on tv that is a)female + b)kickass c)competent d)caring e)brilliant at her job f)not defined by the men in her life g)dresses like a BAMF with a awesome wardrobe. In closing. I love Lydia

    2)John/Ben. As above. They make the show for me

    3) I could watch Ben run, jump, chase, shoot ALL DAY LONG. The man has a very very nice run.
    • I concur completely *g*

      It is astonishing that it can be such a realistic and gritty show, but not at all cold, if you know what I mean? It makes you care about just about everyone as human beings --
      • It does. A clever mix of writing and casting has made this show both endearing and heartbreaking. You come to love the characters despite all their many MANY flaws and you root for them in situations that very few people could handle and are exposed to on a daily basis.
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