The Rookie Season 1 Episode 1 Review: The 40-Year-Old Beat Cop

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I must admit that I didn't have high hopes for The Rookie. 

First off, the show's concept seemed a little light-weight. A 40-year-old is the oldest rookie to join the LAPD. It left me wondering what difference that would make after he gets through his initial training because there are plenty of 40-something police officers. 

John Nolan's First Day - The Rookie Season 1 Episode 1

Then there was the show creator, Alexi Hawley, who was also the co-showrunner for Castle Season 8. I loved Castle, but you only have to read my Castle Season 8 reviews to find out how much I vehemently despised that final season.

Finally, there was the spoiler which reported that John Nolan, the 40-year-old rookie would be sleeping with a fellow officer about half his age. 

None of the above was selling me on The Rookie, but between TV fans asking me about the show and ABC being nice enough to send out a screener of the pilot episode, I thought I should check it out. 

Besides, it stars Nathan Fillion, and the man has played both Malcolm Reynolds on Firefly and Richard Castle, two of my favorite TV characters, so that alone meant The Rookie deserved a look. So I looked.

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That brings me to this review where I have to eat my previous words because The Rookie Season 1 Episode 1 was damn good.

It's a unique cross between the now-defunct Southland and Rookie Blue. It's not quite as dark and serious Southland but not as light as Rookie Blue. It is a solid, entertaining middle ground.

Fillion is darn near perfect as John Nolan. Nolan made me chuckle even while feeling his despair in this The Rookie quote:

Stacy: Happy Divorce Day!
John: That’s not a thing.
Stacy: It should be. When mine went through I took the boys to Disneyland.
John: I’m not really feeling the Matterhorn.
Stacy: Try and look at this as an opportunity.
John: Right now I’m just trying to remember to wear pants.

John Nolan never really chose a path in life so much as it chose him. Now he's got a kid going off to college and a failed marriage, and he's trying to figure out who he is and what comes next.

Who does he want to be?

Fast forward six months and Nolan has just completed the police academy training with the LAPD. 

I didn't just like John Nolan, I enjoyed the entire cast of The Rookie and have been a fan of several of the actors before seeing them here.

Training Officers - The Rookie Season 1 Episode 1

I was singing Afton Williamson's (Officer Talia Bishop) praises last spring when she guest starred on Bull Season 2 Episode 15

I've been a fan of Eric Winter (Officer Tim Bradford) since his days as one of Red John's minions on The Mentalist Season 4 and even as a supposed alien on Days of Our Lives, and I've been enjoying Richard T. Jones going all the way back to Judging Amy!

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Nolan's first official day on the job is filled with highs and lows. He watched a man bleed out under his hands, and no matter what Angela says, he will always wonder if he could have prevented that man's death if he would have spoken up with his concerns. 

He also helped save a child's life, even while fumbling along the way and that's the moment I realized how brilliant a training officer Officer Bishop is.

Officer Bishop: You stopped thinking. Kept trying to open a car door even though you knew it was locked. Used the wrong tool to try and break the window. Those lost seconds didn’t matter this time but they may in the future. So celebrate the victory but recognize you’ve got work to do.
Nolan: Understood.

Bishop is calm, nonjudgmental, and direct. All she cares about is doing her job and training her rookie to be the best cop he can be ... and becoming the youngest detective in the LAPD. 

Elsewhere, Officer Lucy Chen got the toughest T.O. in Officer Bradford and his opinion of the first day the rookies hit the streets told me a lot about his character...

I love Rookie Day. It’s Christmas and the Purge in one.

Officer Bradford

Bradford tested and hazed her throughout her first day, and she and the audience spent the entire time trying to figure out if there was a method to his madness or if he's just a jerk. 

And then his wife turned up. 

Addiction is a horrifying affliction. It can turn a once rational, loving human being into a parasite whose only concern is what they can beg, borrow, or steal to feed their addiction. 

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You could practically feel Bradford's heart shatter as he watched Isabel grab his cash and run off once again. 

Officer Jackson West's story felt the most predictable. He's the hotshot who broke all the academy records while following in his daddy's footsteps. Daddy happens to be Commander West in Internal Affair, and I have little doubt we'll meet him sometime soon.

I was expecting Jackson to freeze under fire and that's exactly what happened, and yet I'm still interested. 

Finally, we get to Officer Grey who thinks Nolan has no business becoming a cop at 40. 

I don’t like you, Officer Nolan. It’s not personal. I hate what you represent, a walking midlife crisis. You see, the LAPD isn’t a place for you to find yourself and I believe if you succeed my house will be flooded with middle-aged losers looking for some kind of Eat, Pray, Love path to reinvention and that will get my people killed.

Sergeant Grey

Grey had some valid points. Changing someone's long-held beliefs or perspectives isn't easy, and younger adults are more easily molded. 

But Grey's theory overlooks the importance of life experience, of being able to read people and situations because you've been there, done that, or know someone else who has. 

Sergeant Grey - The Rookie Season 1 Episode 1

John Nolan brings 20 plus years of adult life experience to being a rookie, and that's what makes the experiment interesting. 

Even Nolan's romantic relationship with younger Officer Lucy Chen didn't bother me the way I anticipated it might. Actually, I didn't even think about the age difference when the two of them were together on screen. 

Nolan and Chen are both rookie police officers who just went through six months of intensive training. I don't know that the relationship will last, but right now it makes sense. 

I also appreciated that they addressed how this on the job romance will affect each of them differently.

You’re a novelty item right now but in 13 months you’ll be a P2 and the cops will treat you like one of the guys but I’ll have to prove myself to every cop I work with.

Officer Chen

Now that Bishop has shared her opinion with Chen, I hope that Chen talks to Nolan about it instead of just breaking up with him. I'd prefer to see these characters talk about the challenges of their relationship like adults, whether it means staying together or breaking up. 

Out of the Academy - The Rookie

Although this is Officer John Nolan's story, he is the rookie in the title; I like that it involves an entire team of characters with their own backgrounds and stories, and it's a good sign that I already care about many of them. 

You were right. I did come here looking for reinvention. I didn’t understand what it meant to be a cop. It takes sacrifice. Demands strength when you feel your weakest. I thought I had to become someone else to do this job as if who I was before wasn’t good enough. I was wrong. I earned my place here and I’m not leaving.

Officer Nolan

Will Grey be able to "haze, harass, and humiliate" John out of what he believes to be his calling? That will probably depend upon how many people watch and enjoy the show. 

It's your turn TV Fanatics. Grade The Rookie pilot episode for me and tell me if you'll continue tuning in for more. 

Then check back for my review of The Rookie Season 1 Episode 2, and until then, you can watch The Rookie online here at TV Fanatic. 

Pilot Review

Editor Rating: 4.7 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.7 / 5.0 (111 Votes)

C. Orlando is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow her on Twitter.

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The Rookie Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

I love Rookie Day. It’s Christmas and the Purge in one.

Officer Bradford

Stacy: Happy Divorce Day!
John: That’s not a thing.
Stacy: It should be. When mine went through I took the boys to Disneyland.
John: I’m not really feeling the Matterhorn.
Stacy: Try and look at this as an opportunity.
John: Right now I’m just trying to remember to wear pants.