The season two finale of ABC’s The Rookie left us on the edge of our seats with the show’s lead John Nolan (Nathan Fillion) standing in his house looking at evidence planted to frame him as a crooked cop while the red and blue lights of his fellow officers vehicles illuminated the room indicating their arrival. It was hard to envision how he could prove innocence, but it's The Rookie, so I knew he would and eagerly awaited season three (premiering Sunday, January 3rd on ABC)
Over the first two seasons The Rookie was appointment viewing for my husband and me. We’d enjoyed Nathan Fillion in ABC’s Castle and his role here is similar in many ways. Plus the Rookie was a refreshing change from the recent procedural trend of following detectives on gritty cases ripped from the headlines. Calling itself a dramedy, The Rookie’s police officers are on patrol encountering all kinds of situations at varying levels of intensity with sometimes the events even being humorous. It was a simplistic look as the story focus was more about the developing camaraderie of these police officers, the relationships they had in and out of the workplace, and less about the inner workings and realities of policing.
So after the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and others ignited an increased national focus on police brutality over the summer with numerous protests in the streets, I wondered if a show like The Rookie (and another favorite show, police comedy – Brooklyn 99) that had not been wading into the weighty realities of police work would return and if it did return would the inability to shy away from these topics shift their role as an entertainment escape.
The Rookie’s third season opened overlapping the final moments of season two but offering us more information before moving forward in the timeline. Over the course of the hour we follow our beloved “boy scout” John Nolan doing the “right” thing at each turn, putting himself into positions of tremendous self-sacrifice while his peers through their unwavering adherence to procedure as to not taint the investigation and ultimately coming out the other side successfully. However Nolan’s success does not come without battle wounds to his career path that I’m sure we will watch him wrestle with over this season.
The episode also sprinkled a few breadcrumbs for weightier matters within police work. While Officer Nolan is arrested his lawyer describes how the dynamics and timing of his arrest were far more advantageous to his defense than most suspects would have been afforded and asks Nolan to honestly consider how he would have approached a suspect in similar circumstances. I anticipate seeing this experience color his decisions later this season.
In another scene we watch as Rookie Nolan and his training officer Nyla Hunter explain to Internal Affairs that they had opted to do a bit of personal investigation on a respected fellow officer in deference to his reputation rather than immediately sharing their concerns with Internal Affairs. The Internal Affairs chief unleashes a heated explanation that “power is too easily abused” and rather than view his department as adversarial, in order to get rid of bad cops they would do well to remember IA is necessary. We also see the moment when Internal Affairs informs Nolan that to maintain his job he cannot avail himself of the 5th amendment right.
With The Rookie’s season three debut the story arc between John Nolan and the crooked cop Nick Armstrong seemingly concluded, I’m saddened that it likely means less Harold Perrineau on my tv. However the debut also saw the return of serial killer Rosalind Dyer. Her manipulative abilities continue to give her influence beyond her prison bars and it's clear she will be a continuing challenge this season.
The Rookie airs Sundays this winter on ABC with episodes available the next day on Hulu.