CBS ‘Equalizer: Grade Queen Latifah’s Debut because the Ass-Kicking Mother We Want
Nine minutes. That’s how long it takes Queen Latifah to beat the bad guys when CBS reboots The Equalizer. And boy is it worth the wait?
The pilot episode premiered the Sunday after the Super Bowl and stars Latifah as Robyn McCall, a newly retired CIA agent trying to get into a quiet life of motherhood and early school leaving. She almost gets her wish until an old handler and mentor named Bishop (Chris Noth) asks to meet at the Coney Island Wonder Wheel to discuss what turns out to be her secret retirement.
She broke the last mission, Robyn says at their secret nightly meeting, despite Bishop’s message from “The Company” that she can still come back. Bishop even says Robyn can come and work for him in his private security company. “If I can’t sleep at night, it’s not the things I’ve done that keep me busy,” says a determined Robyn when she turns down all offers from Bishop. “It’s the people I couldn’t save.” And with that, Robyn is left to stare into the darkness and ponder her decisions after Bishop leaves.
That’s a good thing, because then Robyn discovers a young woman and a seedy-looking guy who is pushing through a chain link fence to sneak into the amusement park. Robyn, the mother of a girl of about the same age, is concerned about the underage stranger and follows them. (As viewers had previously learned, the girl whose name is Jewel was a witness to a murder she is now responsible for and is meeting with some underworld guys to buy fake ID and a passport to take them out on the streets can go.)
Robyn doesn’t know about this yet, but her Spidey senses are still telling her to check things out just in case. See, underworld guys don’t obey the rules, and instead of selling the fake documents to the girl, the bad guy takes her money and decides that he and his three friends are going to rape her first. That is, until Robyn shows up and spoils her medical schedule.
Straight from Central Casting, the head-man with a Russian accent asks Robyn to take care of her own business. “I’ll tell you, I’ve tried,” says Robyn, approaching the bat and channeling her inner Liam Neeson in a lowered voice, narrowed eyes and all. “But it turns out I’m really bad at it. But there are other things that I’m really good at. So why don’t you let the girl go and I’ll let you get out of here. “
The thug and his slimy pals laugh at Robyn’s words and pull out their guns – but before they can pull the trigger, she disarms the head bat and shoots the others with his gun. Two of them get up to fight them with a hammer and wrench, but she beats them up with her own tools to the beat of a fast-paced rap song. (This is especially cool because Latifah recently told reporters that the musician in her villains on the show is fighting a song in her head and she knows that if the hook drops, she has to turn her off.)
As fans of the original 1980s The Equalizer will tell you, Edward Woodward was a cool old guy, but he couldn’t fight with a drum hit. Latifah uses a fighting style called Wing Chun and proves that she doesn’t have to be muscle-bound to obliterate thugs. She doesn’t have to be Denzel Washington in the film versions of The Equalizer, either. Or even a man. Latifah, who clearly knows how to fight, just has to be faster and more skillful than the others.
The brawl also enables Robyn to pursue her life mission and the show’s purpose – saving people in need who cannot turn to the police. Although there is one cop better than the rest (played by actor Tory Kittles), Robyn knows she must first prove Jewel’s innocence. To keep tensions high in the action drama, Robyn has to save Jewel more than once and rely on her savvy pals (played by Liza Lapira and Adam Goldberg) from their CIA days. Bishop even gives a helping hand, but not before another group of vicious thugs pour Robyn’s hair over while waterboarding. Throw water on a black woman’s head? Oh you will die.
Because make no mistake, Robyn is a black woman in America with her first black and South Asian vice president and a black woman named Stacey Abrams who helped turn Georgia blue. A black woman can also level off all kinds of criminals, play darts, and rely on her aunt (played by the incomparable Lorraine Toussaint) to raise her unruly daughter. We can’t wait for the PTO to get a load from this nut.