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Warning: spoilers ahead for the Season 3 premiere of Lethal Weapon on Fox, called "In the Same Boat."
Lethal Weapon has officially returned to the airwaves for the third season that once seemed like it would never happen. The show was built on the dynamic (and chemistry) of Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans as the legendary Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh, so the news back in May that Crawford had been ousted from the show due to alleged misconduct on set seemed like it could have been the end of Lethal Weapon. Instead, the show scored a renewal for Season 3 with a new co-leading man to partner Murtaugh, and it found an appropriate way to say goodbye to Riggs without actually featuring Clayne Crawford.
The Season 2 finale actually ended with Garrett shooting Riggs, and the big cliffhanger was whether Riggs would survive. The stage was pretty perfectly set to just kill Riggs off without giving some explanation of an off-screen case gone wrong or Clayne Crawford needing to return, which was almost certainly out of the question. The recap before the episode reminded viewers what happened with Riggs, and the premiere picked up with Murtaugh rushing into the hospital with Riggs on a stretcher, with doctors clearly not optimistic about his chances. Riggs was visibly in the first hospital scene, but his face was never shown, so Lethal Weapon was able to simply use a body double for Clayne Crawford in Riggs' final scene alive. Murtaugh was devastated by news of his partner's death, and then the episode skipped forward six months.
All things considered, the reveal that Riggs died was not a surprise, and many fans probably knew that was coming. What we didn't know for sure was how Lethal Weapon would handle the aftermath of Riggs' death. The trailer for Season 3 was full of action, adventure, and banter between Murtaugh and his new partner, played by Seann William Scott. Based on that footage alone, it was possible that Lethal Weapon would spend a few minutes killing off Riggs and then move into a lighthearted first case for the new partners, putting the ugly situation with Clayne Crawford out of sight and out of mind. It would have been a bummer for fans of Riggs and the dynamic between Riggs and Murtaugh, however, so it was a relief to see that the ugliness didn't result in Lethal Weapon ignoring how important Riggs had been to the series and the characters.
The six month time jump was not used as a way to let the characters mourn off screen and then jump right back into their zany shenanigans and explosions without acknowledging Riggs. Instead, the story picked up to reveal that Murtaugh hadn't been truly back to work at the LAPD in the six month period, and he was instead wallowing in sweatpants and obsessing over solving what happened to Riggs, despite everybody else believing that the case had been resolved with Garrett's suicide. Murtaugh convinced himself that Garrett was actually murdered, and the fact that Riggs' truck was never found led him to believe that there was more to the case than everybody believed. Murtaugh actually met his future partner while chasing down a lead on Riggs, and while explosions and shenanigans did ensue, the grief was still there.
Murtaugh eventually got some answers after he found Riggs' truck and a cell phone video surfaced of Garrett confessing to killing Riggs, meaning that Murtaugh's quest to solve a larger mystery behind what was done to his partner came to nothing. He went to his boat in the backyard and began burning all of his research and what he considered evidence about Riggs' case, even throwing his LAPD badge on top of the flame.
Since Damon Wayans is sticking around, this was not the end of Murtaugh as a detective. Trish rescued his badge from the flames and told him to go back to the job he's so good at, and Murtaugh returned to the precinct to clean out Rigg's desk. In a bit of humor, Murtaugh was complaining to an absent Riggs about still having to clean up his mess, which was comprised largely of garbage and empty beer bottles. The humor was tinged with sadness, however, as Murtaugh confessed to Cahill that he'd built a little Riggs on Riggs' desk to talk to.
The little Riggs that Murtaugh had built was made of one of Riggs' hats, a mug, a post-it with mouth and mustache drawn on it, a red Solo cup, and a shotgun shell for a nose. The episode finally delivered some closure to Murtaugh when he requested Cole (Seann William Scott) as his new partner. Cole was respectful to the fact that Murtaugh had lost a partner as well as to Riggs' legacy, leading Murtaugh to start regaling his new partner with some of Riggs' antics, including his inexplicable ability to run at top speed while wearing cowboy boots.
Despite openly sharing his issues with Clayne Crawford before Crawford was ousted, Damon Wayans turned in a lovely performance as Murtaugh mourning the partner he'd grown to love after their time together. He didn't just phone in a performance to get through the scenes that had been scripted as heartfelt, and it was easy to believe that Murtaugh was truly devastated and unsure of how to move on after Riggs died. Throw in the guilt Murtaugh felt about not being with his partner when he was shot, and Murtaugh had to be haunted in the Season 3 premiere. Wayans definitely pulled it off.
We'll have to wait and see if and how Lethal Weapon will continue to reference Riggs now that Seann William Scott is settling into Clayne Crawford's old spot as co-leading man. Lethal Weapon didn't create Cole as a Riggs 2.0, and it should be fun to see how his dynamic with Murtaugh differs from Riggs'. Tune in to Fox on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET for new episodes of Lethal Weapon in the fall TV lineup.