Southland kicks off it’s series premiere by informing the viewer that there are only 9,800 police officers patrolling our streets here in LA. The rest of the episode is spent proving that if Los Angeles is indeed the City of Angels, then the LAPD are the only ones we’ve got.
It’s the end of Sherman’s first day on the job. Police lights bathe the scene in waves of red and blue, exposing a bullet torn body slumped on the ground in a widening pool of blood. Not too far away, a wounded officer is being hauled off by the paramedics on a stretcher, and a mob of girls is crying behind them. Sherman steps up to the body on the ground and drops to his haunches. The look on his face can mean anything; indifference, sorrow, regret, confusion… perhaps he needs to vomit. He squats there for a moment before a voice calls out, "You ok, son?"
Now that our attention has ben arrested, the story moves back to the beginning of the day to show how this mess came to be. Sherman and his partner head towards one of the vehicles parked outside the police station. His new buddy gives Sherman some good advice: "If you do what they teach you in the academy, you’ll die." He then tells Sherman a story about a guy who had mutilated his own gentalia with a spoon. Driving down the street they pass a little girl in a floral pattern dress, who is throwing red ball against a garage door.
A young kid grabs his sister’s cell phone and refuses to give it back. She screams some nasty words at him, but he just strolls out the door even when she tells him that "the girl he’s been texting is a ho!" He doesn’t get too far before a blue vehicle pulls up beside him and the three guys inside begin hastling him. Three guns are pulled and their bullets are unloaded into the frightened boy.
We learn from a radio that a little girl wearing a floral pattern dress has gone missing. Cops are speaking to the father when a car pulls up next to them and the mother steps out angrily. She accuses her husband of being high, and blames his negligence for their daughter’s disappearance. As police investigate, a woman across the street beckons to Detective Lydia Adams. Adams learns that the girl was spotted walking down the street the day before with her father. She wore a back-pack that looked too heavy for her, the dad should have bee carrying it. Adams has one of the other cops take a report.
A unit is requested to investigate a bad smell coming from an apartment on Wilcox. Sherman and his partner pull up to the building and have to yell over the sound of dogs barking. Inside they find the partially eaten remains of a man who’d died sitting in his easy chair. Animal control is called, and the dogs ar taken off to be put down because protocol dictates that when a dog has tasted human flesh it needs to be destroyed.
Detective Bryan from the Gang unit is having woman trouble at home but has to turn his attention back to work. Three girls had witnesses the shooting from earlier and he wants to know what they saw.
Detective Adams and her crew must have gotten a hot lead because they infiltrate a home with their guns drawn. Inside they find a half-eaten dinner and a stack of child pornography on the counter. The house is empty otherwise, so Adams orders her people to keep an eye on the place from a distance. She doesn’t want the guy to be aware of their presence before they can take him. Before leaving, Adams notices a tral of ants moving to/ from a crack in the wall.
Sherman and his partner pick up a call for a noise complaint on Fletcher and head over. They find a blue car parked in the drive and run the plates before heading in.
Bryan learns that one of his witnesses–a young girl–dreams of becoming a cop. His interrogation is interrupted by their mother who doesn’t want her daughter’s involved. She scolds Bryan and takes her daughters. He learns from another witness that everyone has lost someone to the streets and developing a thick skin towards these matters is the only way any of them get by. He gets a phone call from the girl who left with her mother. Apparently the kid had been quick enough to get the license plate number of the blue car from which the bullets came. The car belongs to a Hector Munoz, aka "Zig-Zag", just out of prison. He and his crew have been out doing ABGs (Any Body Goes). The car also happens to be the very same one parked in the driveway of the house Sherman and his partner just pulled up to. Backup is called and the cops move in.
They find three thuggish looking cholos sitting on a patio, drinking beers and smoking something. The guys are covered head to toe in tattoos: one of them wears a large "M" on his hand. Their party is interrupted as police begin arresting them. Sherman uses his cuffs to lock one of the guy’s hands behind his back. Dewey orders Sherman to take the guy to the car, but Sherman hesitates so Dewey rips into him, yelling: "I am your superior officer!" The implication is that Sherman should do as commanded. Dewey pushes Sherman aside and goes to move the perp to the car. Because he jumped in, it is he- not Sherman- who takes the bullets when the gangster pulls a piece from the back of his pants and fires into the officer pushing him. Sherman pulls his own gun and drops the bastard, but the damage is done. He walks over and squats before the dead man with a thousand expression written across his face.
"Are you ok, Son?" A voice asks.
At first it looks like the answer is no, but Sherman’s partner assures him that everything is ok. He claims that making a few arrests everyday is great, but it solves nothing. When they get the opportunity to take a bad guy off the streets for good, well… that’s God’s work. They have a front row seat to the greatest show on Earth
In a hospital Bryan speaks with the mother of the boy who got shot earlier. She claims her son wasn’t affiliated and that he only got shot because he wore the wrong color or was the wrong color. The boy’s sister stands over her brother in his hospital bed and apologizes for being mean earlier.
Detective Adams consoles Mrs. Davis about her missing daughter and heads home where she lives with her mother. A trail of ants in her own apartment gives Adams cause to check back at her suspect’s place. She heads over and goes to the back where the ants are. As she stares a blunt object comes down on her head, putting her lights out. She wakes some time later to find her guy holding a gun and crying. He confesses that he hadn’t meant to hurt the girl but he’d panicked when she’s started screaming. The man is so lost in sorrow that he seems detached when Adams calmly takes the gun from his hands, and places her cuffs around them. She calls for assistance and heads inside. The man’s breathing picks up like that of a sinner awaiting judgment. Adams opens the closet door and her mouth drops open. The man’s wife steps in from behind, takes a look and starts screaming
Looks like Dewey is going to be ok. Sherman sit in a chair outside a hospital room. In another chair sits a girl reading Beloved, a book Sherman has read before. They talk and he learns that the girl’s brother had gotten shot, but that he’ll be ok. The girl asks Sherman if he’s a cop, unaware that he is the cop who brought her brother’s assailant to justice. Sherman says "yes, he is a cop" and asks if cops have a look to them. The girl says Sherman’s haircut gave it away. A voice-over reads Sherman’s first day review, which has nothing but positive things to say about his future as a cop.
The episode ends with our heroe going home at the end of their shifts. The vice crew go to a bar where Sheran’s partner joins them for a beer and confesses that he had a "crap day" like the rest of them.
Southland looks like it will be a series that promises to show the grittier side of law enforcement. I partcularly enjoyed the interweaving story lines where a noise complaint leads the cops to a house full of gangsters that another department is getting ready to move in on. I also liked the strategy of introducing a rookie cop who the audience can channel their own inexperience through. As Sherman learns the ropes, those of us watching can take moment from our ordinary lives and see how people with cool jobs roll.
Recap by Jonathan Friedler