Patrick B. McGuigan, Publisher, The City Sentinel
In the first three episodes, the new CBS TV series “The Equalizer” featured solid, appealing, and fully “now” story lines, delivered by a fine cast whose work was edited efficiently – and, at times, beautifully – for the home screen.
In the lead role of Robyn McCall, Queen Latifah is stellar. A little at a time, we are learning her back-story. She is a woman with deadly skills exercised for the Central Intelligence Agency in service of the United States. A mother who loves her daughter Delilah (Laya DeLeon Hayes) and the family elder Vi Marsette (Lorraine Toissant). A veteran of human warfare distrustful of most past colleagues, but respectful of her former handler, William Bishop (Chris Noth, playing himself – and that’s just fine).
Robyn relies on friends to carry forth her new role as urban vigilante (willing to kill for justice). Former agent Mel (played with appealing verve by Liza Lapira) and cyber-whiz Harry (Adam Goldberg) are the two people Robyn most trusts – and perhaps the only persons who know her full story, to the extent anyone can truly know another.
The outsider in the story is NYPD Detective Dante Marcus (Tory Kittles). Initially he was angry and furious at the mysterious woman (‘captured’ in security camera footage, yet a mystery even to experts in identification), he is drawn to her righteousness. Still, he promises to
hold her accountable as time continues.
Actor Alexis Suarez and actress Erica Camrano have turned up in initial cameos and are likely to return. The full range of supporting performers have delivered believably.
The stories have touched on simply thuggery in the criminal class, and abuse of power by persons and authorities. Delilah, Robyn’s child, is dubious of the “woke” world and does not always appreciate her material/spiritual blessings – educational and otherwise – but Mom and Vi seek to acquaint her with the ‘real-world’ that awaits. Background and featured music supports rather than detracts from the story-telling.
The first three episodes had all the characteristics of successful contemporary entertainment aimed at mass audiences – rapid story-telling, abrupt shifts in lighting and setting, deft use of music to propel the viewers interest. The performers are a realistic mix of big city ethnicity.
This reviewer, a fan of the Queen (Dana Elaine Owens), approached the series with a mix of trepidation and hope. Trepidation: Worried that the atmosphere of Hollywood these days would crush the narrative power of the original 1980s series and the two motion pictures of the past decade. Hope: Producers and the leading lady would try to appeal to a mass audience, knowing that their potential audience (as reflected in the politics and culture of the last four decades) is increasingly divided.
So far, the series is a shade better than might have been expected. The New York City setting (as in the original series) keeps the stories reality-based and further removed from Hollywood glitz than expected.
Robyn, our heroine, is not afflicted with self-doubt. She knows who she is, what she’s done, and where she’d like to go. She has remarkable ability with weaponry and gadgets, and hopes to use a half-lifetime of skills to help those who are in trouble and who need a friend. She remembers vividly the good, the bad and the ugly of her past work – including wrongs perpetuated in her former “job.” She regrets (but carries on) dissembling with loved ones to hide her true avocation, past and present.
The opening episode after the Super Bowl drew massive audiences, which increased in the days after with life-streaming and other means. Episodes 2 (“Glory”) and 3 (“Judgment Day”) must have put a smile on the faces around the table for CBS.
The program has settled into a 7 p.m. (Central Time) slot. Some warnings: The story is violent, but not as graphic as might be allowed on contemporary television.
Queen Latifah rules the reboot of “The Equalizer” – probably for years to come.