I like to give all new shows a shot, and if you tell me there is a remake of the Equalizer show from back in ’85, I’m going to watch it. If you tell me it’s Denzel as the Equalizer, I’m a bit skeptical. Not because he’s black, that part doesn’t matter, but because he comes off too soft-spoken in just about every role I’ve ever seen him in. I need to feel a sense of caged menace, someone who can unleash a can of whoop-ass. Now Matt Damon doesn’t have it, but did an awesome job as Jason Bourne, creating a whole new genre of secret agent movie options in the process. It’s a good predecessor for shows like Hanna, where you see a young girl, seemingly incapable of such violence, exploding with force and technique. And yet, I watched the two Equalizer movies and I yawned. I felt like Denzel was a terrible choice. Too much Crimson Tide, not enough Training Day or the Book of Eli. Don’t get me wrong, I watched the second movie even after I didn’t like the first one. It’s still a great character, helping the little guy or gal.
Then I saw the big announcement that The (new) Equalizer would be on after the Super Bowl. And I thought, “Oh right, I remember hearing it was coming back as a show. Who’s the star?”. Queen Latifah. WTF? This is the EQUALIZER, not LIVING SINGLE WITH GUNS! But you know, I like to enter open-minded. Sweet innocent Ali from God Friended Me is the new Batwoman, and she’s doing a great job. Nothing about her previous “soft” role suggested to me that she could do action sequences, and I’m still enjoying it, so maybe QL going from comedy/sitcom to action will be fine, right?
And in every scene EXCEPT the action scenes, she’s great. She has fantastic presence, a nice sense of warmth, the mom-bordering-on-grandma vibe reminiscent of the grandfatherly vibe of Edward Woodward in the original series. Truth be told, his action sequences weren’t anything amazing either.
But this is the Equalizer. And what I need to see is that this amazing CIA operative is so much better than everyone else. I don’t need to be told it, I need to see it. Yet in the one big action sequence, she’s slow as molasses. They use quick cuts to speed up the action, but it seems like she’s moving in slow motion. The ads for the show made this big deal out of her riding a motorcycle, and it seemed very action-packed. Nope, she rode up. She got off slowly. She walked over to a van, she walked back to the bike, got on with someone, spun the wheels and drove off. No sense of urgency, no smash and grab. Nothing anywhere in any of the scenes suggests quick, decisive, violence, the stock in trade of the ex-operative who is the best of the best.
In lieu of high-octane, or anything resembling the origins of Death Wish, Sudden Impact, Dirty Harry, Jason Bourne, it was a PG episode looking like a Stephen J Cannell production of the 1980s with nobody getting more than a bloody nose except for the first victim.
However, she has some good characters around her with decent acting. Adam Goldberg plays a computer hacker she helped in a past life, and I could NOT place him at all. Not as Simon Hayes from God Friended Me, not as Private Mellish from Saving Private Ryan. But he’s great. His wife, a sharpshooter, is played by Liza Lapira and I had the same brain freeze on her…I would not have figured out it was Ivy from Dollhouse, or Michelle Lee from NCIS, or even Yuki from Dexter. She’s decent, not much to do.
Most of the rest is window dressing. She has a daughter, who’s okay, and her mother is played by…wait for it…Lorraine Toussaint with about 3 lines in the whole episode. I’m assuming that changes later, but whatever. There’s a victim of the week and a bad guy of the week, they do alright.
But the “presence” is a police detective played by Tory Kittles. He has been in lots of stuff over the years, none of which I’ve seen, but he has a nice, quiet presence. It will be interesting to see what they do with him.
More unusual is her former training officer at the CIA, now in the private sector, played by Mr. Big himself, Chris Noth. I loved him for most of the Law and Order original run and here he’s playing a relatively nice guy, who’s seen some stuff, might be a bit ethically challenged here and there, but generally a good guy. And will provide backup to McCall when needed. I like him, good addition.
But will anyone watch?
QL is a good actress, and if she was about 15y younger or more athletic, I’d say sign me and a bunch of other people up to see a black woman kick ass and take names. But this is not a superhero show, and she has no amazing skills to show off. It’s watchable, but I’m not sure anyone will show up. It simply wasn’t exciting enough.
Yet I still love the premise. I always do. Give me a lone crusader helping people, maybe a throw-back to old style Westerns where the gun-fighter rides into town, cleans up a mess, and rides on. So I’m probably going to watch, at least for a few more episodes at least. Hopefully the action will pick up. If they had a bit more budget, it would be great to see her take on a young partner who needs some seasoning. And if things get too big for her? Maybe she can hire the A-Team to back her up.