So, Rob Hanning gets the script credit this episode; his name stood out but not because of his “Equalizer” work. He used to write on “Frasier.” He did another “Equalizer” too, the relatively good episode with Chris Noth saving his son; an inglorious distinction, to be sure. But Hanning’s name stood out.
And his episode is a mix of Midnight Run and Oliver Twist. Just a straight mix of the two. Not the Liza Lapira subplot—she tells best friend Christina Brucato how husband Adam Goldberg’s actually alive, and Lapira’s been lying to Brucato for years about it. The subplot’s not good. Brucato’s profoundly unlikable.
But Oliver Twist J.J. Wynder is good. He’s a teen car thief who works for Alphonso Walker Jr. And then the Charles Gordon analog, Josh Cooke, is mostly good. Cooke’s got a weird, rushed romance subplot with Walker’s abused girlfriend, Louisa Krause. It’s a strange addition to the episode, which must’ve been stretching to make its runtime.
Cooke’s Queen Latifah’s client this episode. He’s a mob accountant who got a conscience—which makes him analogous to Wynder, eventually—only Wynder stole his car, and the ledger they need is in the car. The feds won’t have anything to do with him without the paperwork; if they just followed him around, they could get the mobsters for multiple murder attempts.
So Latifah’s got to keep Cooke alive while getting involved with Wynder, Walker, and Krause. There are double-crosses, missed connections, and a lot of botany talk. Cooke’s a green thumb.
It’s mostly amusing because Latifah and Cooke are fun together. He’s in way over his head in every situation, usually comically or awkwardly. Then Latifah decides to help out Wynder, leading to odd couple interactions for him and Cooke.
Despite there being quite a bit of danger, given Walker, given the mobsters, it’s kind of a light episode. At least for Latifah. Lapira’s subplot is pointlessly intense. Even if Brucato didn’t know Goldberg was a CIA hacker or whatever, she must’ve known Lapira was a Special Forces sniper and would have some correspondingly intense adventures. Or not. The only thing we find out about Brucato and Lapira’s friendship is they’ve known each other forever, and they like doing shots.
The good subplot is Laya DeLeon Hayes and Lorraine Toussaint playing spades against Toussaint’s rivals. Toussaint’s regular partner calls out, and Hayes has to sit in, leading to an amusing subplot. Toussaint and Hayes’s performances are delightful, even though the subplot doesn’t get any real resolution.
The end’s a little tepid too. While the show never gives up on Latifah’s relationship with Wynter, Cooke suddenly becomes the hero in a romantic comedy thriller, not the guest star on an “Equalizer.” It’s also unclear how much a better performance in Krause’s part would help; in addition to Krause’s performance being lackluster, she and Cooke don’t have any chemistry. It doesn’t help she’s in an abusive relationship and he’s doing a nerdy white knight whing. But also… Krause isn’t good.
The episode starts better than it finishes and never fulfills most of its promise. Wynter would make a good regular or recurring sidekick for Latifah. Especially if he doesn’t bring annoying guest stars like Brucato along.