S.W.A.T. Season 4 Premiere Review: A Different Take On the New Normal

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A two-hour season premiere delivered a one-two punch into our new normal for S.W.A.T. Season 4 and the world at large.

Instead of being preachy about what we've all faced over the last nine months (WOW), we were treated to nuanced storytelling that hit all of the hot-button topics.

Two-hour premieres are often not related, but these two fit like two gloves, a pair equally visiting both the civil unrest and the coronavirus. It worked very well.

Take a Knee - S.W.A.T. Season 4 Episode 1

On S.W.A.T. Season 4 Episode 1, the civil unrest was examined under the lens of California's repeated and never-ending issues with the police that seem to have followed an alarming trend.

Twenty-eight years ago, it was Rodney King. Twenty-seven years before that was Watts. History says we're a year overdue for another storm.


Using just that quote above, you get a good picture of the entire hour, as the three teenagers in the title, "3 Seventeen Year Olds" referred to Hondo, his Pop, and Darryl. Each of them has been witness to the upheaval, and each has taken it a little differently.

Generations - S.W.A.T. Season 4 Episode 1

In 1992, when the trial for the officers that assaulted Rodney King was underway, Pop was fearful that things would never change. He had been through Watts over two decades earlier, and it hurt knowing that Black men were still under attack by the police, who should have been protecting and serving.

Hondo, though, was always Hondo. He was vastly different from his father even when a teen, and it was just after he jumped out of the car to help a White man under attack that he revealed to his father that he'd be joining the Marines to make a difference.

Pop: LAPD sees this as one of two Ds -- defendants or deceased. When people need them most, where are they? Talkin' about callin' in the National Guard.
Hondo: Nobody knew this would happen.
Pop: Anybody payin' attention saw this would happen. Whose side are you on?
Hondo: Just tryin' to be a part of the solution.
Pop: Ain't no solution to this mess. You want to try to fix this, why don't you join them?
Hondo: Do the Marines count? Because I enlisted with them two days ago. I'm not going to college, Pop.

As father and son relived how they'd gotten to where they are today, they were trying to bring Darryl up to speed without dashing his hope for the future, but they needn't have worried.

Darryl has had some missteps, but he's following in Hondo's footsteps. From the conversations Pop had with him, it seems like he's seriously considering wearing a badge himself, and just like Hondo, when given the opportunity to help others, he put himself right into the thick of it.

A Single Tear - S.W.A.T. Season 4 Episode 1

Of course, the situation was a little different, as the story still was still wrapping the S.W.A.T. Season 3 loose ends with El Diablo. In this case, his nephew, Bricklayer (where do they get these nicknames?) was working with jihadists in some terrorist activities.

After the first attack, Darryl asked for Hondo's permission to visit the triage operation to lend a hand. It was only after saying yes that the team realized an EMS was in on the operation, putting Darryl right into the line of fire.

Everything worked out fine, and it allowed the three generations of family men to circle around to the greater topics again. Hondo admitted he signed up for the Marines partly out of a desire to hurt his Pop, and Pop shared the story of his own run-in with the police at age 17 with Darryl.

Anyone can tell these stories, but what worked so well with S.W.A.T. is that they have addressed these layers of uncertainty between Hondo and his father, and with Hondo and the community at large, being a Black cop since the series premiere.

Hondo at a March - S.W.A.T. Season 4 Episode 1

Watching things unfold on the news or if you don't know anyone affected or fully understand the Black Lives Matters movement, watching S.W.A.T. gets you a little closer. No, they're not real people, but there are real stories just like those Hondo and his family discussed and endured.

Darryl: Is something up?
Pop: What are you celebrating? Like '92 was the end of it? It's still goin' on! The same problems. A system that never got fixed. Let me explain somethin' to ya. When I was 17, same age as you, I'm walkin' home from school, band practice; I had my trumpet in my case. And an unmarked car rolls up on me and two grown white men with badges jump out, push me against the wall, throw my horn on the ground. It gets all bent up, and they take out a switchblade, and they laughing and chucklin'. And they took that blade and they put it right across my throat, and they said, 'Get your ass out of here, or we'll kill you, and nobody will care.' I was just walking home. So, you choose to put on a badge, you better know what that means cause there ain't no easy solution when black people bein' treated like they're disposable. And all a police officer needs is reasonable fear to kill you, me, or Hondo if he ain't wearin' that uniform.

And it's the point of entertainment to make you think and examine the world around you. S.W.A.T. did that with a message of hope. For every man like Pop, there are two like Hondo and Darryl who want to affect change by being at the forefront of it, whether as police officers or teachers, or community organizers. 

S.W.A.T. Season 4 Episode 2 pivoted to the other 2020 reality, coronavirus. Again, they used storytelling to incorporate what's happening without banging us over the head with it.

Early on, there were still so many unknowns. Hell, there still are too many unknowns now. They mentioned that with masks, not knowing whether to wear them or not. 

Deacon Armed and Ready - S.W.A.T. Season 4 Episode 2

Deacon was separated from his family because of his wife's compromised immune system. Luca was stuck in Germany. People were pilfering PPE.

Driver appears disoriented, possibly concussed. We've also got a totaled van and a bunch of stolen merchandise, disinfectant wipes, latex gloves, hospital masks, and toilet paper. Seriously dude? This virus has people losin' their damned minds.


But while the first episode steered a little closer to the events, this one pulled back just a little, giving the characters a chance to breathe (even if it was through a mask!).

Nichelle returned, and Hondo laid his heart on the table, admitting how terribly he handled things with her. Nichelle gave him wings to finally grow up and take a look at his life. He might have ruined it forever with Nichelle, or she could give him another chance.

Either way, he's ready to stop one-night stands and booty calls to find a lasting and committed relationship, and he thanked her for her part in changing him. 

Hondo Smiles - S.W.A.T. Season 4 Episode 2

Similarly, Street and Chris revisited their friendship while on a stakeout. They come from similar backgrounds, so feeling like their hands were tied when a child was suffering at the hands of adults tested their resolve for the mission at hand.

It also gave Chris a moment to ask Street about his relationship with Molly. Their timing has always been off.

As soon as Street started dating Molly, Chris broke up with her couple, and she was eyeing Street and Molly warily, as if wondering if she'd done the right thing with Street.

In the line of the show, it could never work with them because they cannot be partners an work together, so they'll have to stay at arm's length. But what simmers just beneath the surface will always get to me. There's nothing better than a potential love story and all of the what ifs that go with it.

Chris On the Job - S.W.A.T. Season 4 Episode 2

If most of the episode pulled back a bit from the new normal, Tan's story with his mother was effective and heartbreaking.

If you had a split second of doubt about Tan's motivations for visiting the perpetrator of his mother's incident, you can rest easy since the Commander allowed it to cross his mind, too.

But neither of these episodes was about going down the dark path. It was about straddling the line that they always work so hard to maintain. It's a lot harder to walk the straight and narrow when you and your family are suffering, but that's what life is all about. 

If you watch S.W.A.T. online, you know the show is at its best when the characters are personally involved, and this premiere worked very well within that frame. 

Street In the Bushes - S.W.A.T. Season 4 Episode 2

The preview for S.W.A.T. Season 4 Episode 3 suggests that they won't be abandoning masks and the new normal in which we live, so it will be interesting to see how it effects their jobs and lives.

They've already showed how mask wearing makes tracking down suspects more difficult, but this team has state-of-the-art technology at their disposal. It seems unlikely the regular LAPD can scan faces with such ease. 

Still, it's adding to the conversation and yet managing to be as entertaining as ever with explosions and stunning feats as the good guys take down the baddies. 

What did you think of the premiere? Did it work as a reminder of what 2020 has been about without dragging you down?

Hit the comments!

3 Seventeen Year Olds Review

Editor Rating: 4.25 / 5.0
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Rating: 3.3 / 5.0 (16 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on X and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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S.W.A.T. Season 4 Episode 1 Quotes

Commander: What are ya thinkin'?
Hondo: I hate seein' my city on fire.

Deacon: That's not how prison works.
Hondo: You can't just order up prison time like we're Postmates.