“The Equalizer” wraps up season two with a cliffhanger; it’s been renewed for two more seasons, which means it’s safe for a good while, so it’s a playing renewal chicken cliffhanger. Though it is kind of perpendicular to one. No spoilers.
The cliffhanger’s manipulative but also not. It’s predictable (the scene leading up to it is literal fodder), but they unexpectedly don’t go very far with it. “Equalizer” still limits how dangerous things get for anyone but Queen Latifah, which is both good and bad.
But more about that approach next season.
The season finale opens with Latifah breaking into the Cuban embassy in Washington D.C. to get some information on her nemesis, the guy who killed off Chris Noth and saved the show awkwardness. Though now the whole show is about Latifah avenging Noth’s character, not a great character arc, all things considered, especially since this episode’s all about Laya DeLeon Hayes realizing her mom being “The Equalizer” is cool.
The A-plot is actually Hayes’s, with Latifah’s adventure with guest stars Brett Dalton (returning new CIA guy) and radical Cuban communist terrorist (sure, Jan) Gabriel Sloyer playing B-plot. The B-plot has more twists and turns, but the A-plot’s got all the heart.
It starts with Hayes and best friend Cristina Angelica at school, where Angelica’s ex-boyfriend, Will Edward Price (a perfectly shitty white boy), ruins her class president campaign speech with revenge porn.
As Angelica spirals and Hayes initially doesn’t want to go to Latifah for help (Angelica says no parents), the episode does a crash course in the bullshit people in these situations experience, including the school administration victim-blaming. It’s harrowing, especially after Hayes goes to see cop Tory Kittles (back to his single scene per episode). He tells her just because they’re on a TV show doesn’t mean they can pretend the white boy’s going to be held accountable.
Unless Hayes maybe wants to call her mom. But Kittles doesn’t know it’s her mom, obviously (and unfortunately, I was really hoping Kittles and Hayes would team up and Latifah’s identity would be the cliffhanger).
The episode’s got three credited writers—Terri Edda Miller, Andrew W. Marlowe, and Joseph C. Wilson (it’s probably the best thing Marlowe’s name’s ever been on)—and it feels like a couple of them worked on the Hayes plot, one on the Latifah one. The episode’s brimming; Angelica’s in danger, which Hayes experiences, but Hayes also puts herself in danger. And then Latifah’s off poking the sleeping bear who said he’d kill her family if she poked him. It’s all very intense, made more so by Latifah not really knowing what’s going on with Hayes because sometimes it’s more important to be James Bond.
Even if you can’t say so.
There’s some kind of cute but also forced interaction between Hayes and Liza Lapira. They bond while Adam Goldberg (showing off his guns this episode—flesh guns, not bang bang guns) fights a Russian hacker.
Hayes’s stuff is excellent. It’s melodramatic but exceptionally earnest and sincere (Eric Laneuville directs, which no doubt helps). The rest is fine. If the A-plot weren’t so affecting, the B-plot would be flimsier.
“Equalizer”’s still uneven—why is Kittles so pointless again—but it’s going into season three on relatively solid ground.