The Equalizer (2021) s01e03 – Judgment Day

Well, this episode establishes a couple things “The Equalizer” certainly didn’t need established. First, Chris Noth is not a regular cast member no matter what the titles say; he’s nowhere to be seen this episode. Second, turns out Andrew W. Marlowe’s not going to be the worst writer on it. I was upbeat when I saw Erica Shelton getting the writing credit because anyone has to be better than Hollow Man Marlowe, right?

Nope. Shelton is much, much worse. Her ear for dialogue is on par with a bad Saturday morning cartoon, so it’s good she doesn’t have any real conversation in the episode, just endless snippets of exposition.

Also–and since Shelton’s so bad I’m not giving up—Adam Goldberg’s journey to being less annoying stalls this episode and there’s nothing for Liza Lapira in that department either. Shelton writes them as a cloyingly cute couple with absolutely no chemistry or timing.

But before it even becomes clear Noth’s not showing up, Goldberg and Lapira are going to be offensively bland, and all of Shelton’s writing is going to be bad, the episode also reveals they haven’t got a guest star budget. There are some great—albeit poorly written but what can you do—guest star spots in the episode and “The Equalizer” doesn’t get anyone of note for them. There’s the New York District Attorney, Jennifer Ferrin, who’s better than, say, judge Amy Hohn, but not as good as defense attorney and Queen Latifah’s client-by-proxy, Danny Mastrogiorgio. Mastrogiorgio gives the closet thing to a good guest star spot, but it’s not easy with the dialogue. Hohn’s terrible. Ferrin’s… well, Ferrin comes through enough not to be terrible anyway.

The worst casting is the real client, Joe Perrino, an escaped con who didn’t commit the murder Hohn put him in prison for and Latifah’s going to find out the truth. Whether Perrino wants her to investigate or not, which leads to an almost good scene for Goldberg, only for Lapira (but really Shelton) to flush it down the drain.

Latifah’s got a subplot with daughter Laya DeLeon Hayes not wanting to hang out with her “Fake Woke” former friend (presumably, since the friend is a Black girl, she’s a fake Black Lives Matter protester, which isn’t explicit but odds are on it). Hayes thinks fake protesting is stupid and Latifah tries to talk to her about it but Shelton’s writing’s bad and the episode’s got no ambition for actual relevance (still no Rona), much less sincere character development. Lorraine Toussaint’s in it so little I thought she’d left the show.

Tory Kittles goes from pursuing Latifah to being her erstwhile partner, which leads to her self-identifying as “The Equalizer” at one point. Kittles isn’t great but he’s likable enough and he and Latifah have more chemistry than anyone else has in the show.

Enthusiastic direction from Solvan Naim helps a lot. It’s hard to imagine being enthusiastic about directing, say, Perrino or Shelton’s teleplay, but Naim manages it.

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