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Series / The Rookie (2018)

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The Rookie is a police series that began airing on ABC on October 16, 2018.

John Nolan (Nathan Fillion) is a 45-year-old facing a tough divorce. After a life-changing incident in which he stalls a bank robber long enough for the police to arrive, he joins the LAPD as the oldest rookie officer on the force. With him are fellow rookies Lucy Chen (Melissa O'Neil) and Jackson West (Titus Makin Jr.). With training officers Talia Bishop (Afton Williamson), Tim Bradford (Eric Winter) and Angela Lopez (Alyssa Diaz), the trio handle life as cops and the conflicts.

The show is currently airing the fifth season, where Nolan is now himself training a rookie. Additionally, a spin-off entitled The Rookie: Feds was picked up following a two part Backdoor Pilot in the fourth season.


The Rookie includes examples of the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Nolan's father abandoned him by at ten, and his mother's scheming ways have repeatedly come close to ruining his life and livelihood. She gets verbally abusive when she doesn't get her way.
    • Grey's wife has an alcoholic father who Nolan's mother reminds her of.
    • Chen's parents have no respect for her choice to become a cop. Her father practically disowns her when she arrests one of his patients... for breaking his arm.
    • Bradford's father was an abusive alcoholic, as revealed in season 4
  • Actor Allusion: Chen getting thrown in front of the American Idol judges in "The Overnight". Chen's actor Melissa O'Neil won the third season of Canadian Idol in 2005.
  • The Alleged Car:
    • After Nolan and Bishop crash two SUVs, the LAPD motor pool gets revenge by giving them a decades-old beater of a patrol car that is on the verge of completely falling apart. Bishop then proceeds to use the junk heap cruiser’s trunk as a battering ram upon the front door of a perp’s house when the situation becomes urgent.
    • Advertisement:
    • To a lesser extent, Chens car in the first 3 seasons is an old beat up junker that breaks down in the middle of the road, and is eventually stolen in broad daylight because it lacks a functioning lock.
  • Amusing Injuries: Pursuing a suspect, Nolan jumps over two fences without checking what's on the other side and ends up with a forehead full of cactus spines.
  • Analogy Backfire: While describing a failed former child actor turned cult leader that used an acting school to recruit, Bradford uses the old saying "Those who can't do, teach", only for Lucy to laugh and point out that he is literally her teacher.
  • Anyone Can Die:
    • Captain Zoe Andersen in the Season 1 episode “Greenlight”.
    • Officer Jackson West in the Season 4 episode “Life and Death”.
  • Artifact Title: As of the Season 4 premiere, Nolan is no longer a rookie officer and has become a full fledged L.A.P.D. officer. Subverted, however, as Officer Aaron Thorsen has been added to the cast as a rookie, but Nolan remains the main character. The title comes full circle as of the fifth season, when Nolan becomes a Training Officer in his own right and has to train his own rookie.
  • Artistic License – Biology: A downplayed example happens when Bradford gets sprayed by a skunk about halfway through Season 1 and experiences nothing worse than his colleagues wrinkling their noses in his immediate proximity. In real life, skunk spray would make it unbearable to come anywhere near the target for quite some time and is also known to cause vomiting and temporary blindness if it hits the face, which it did in Bradford's case. Skunks also use their spray only as a last resort, not as a first-strike weapon launched the moment a potential threat appears.
  • As Himself:
    • makes a brief cameo after Nolan and Bishop respond to a silent alarm at his home.
    • Mark Cuban appears in Season 2, asking Nolan and Grey to take care of an annoying entrepreneur who won't stop trying to pitch to him.
    • L.A. Rams players Eric Weddle and Robert Woods appear as themselves in a cameo in Season 2, Episode 7, "Safety."
    • Rainn Wilson as a very exaggerated version of himself in "True Crime".
  • Baby Be Mine: "Amber": a newborn baby is abducted from hospital, but it's revealed that the abductor is a mother whose two-month old baby just died of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), causing a psychological breakdown.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • The rookies are drinking at a bar to celebrate their first day and a waitress slips Nolan her number. The final shot has Nolan giving her a considering look before cutting to a trail of feminine clothing leading to Nolan's house... which turn out to have been Chen's.
    • After being sidelined on her first case as a detective, Lopez angrily confronts her supervisor, thinking it's because she's a woman and pregnant. Her supervisor calmly explains that he handed her case to a more senior detective because he has previous experience with the suspects and that it's more important for the squad as a whole to close cases quickly rather than having individual detectives doggedly pursue a case to conclusion. The supervisor also makes clear that he doesn't care that Lopez is a woman and pregnant. All the abuse and disdain she'll receive from him is because she's new and inexperienced.
    • In "Amber", Chen claims that she has feelings for Bradford, making an emotional confession and prompting an awkward response from him... at which point Chen reveals that she was just pretending to demonstrate that she can genuinely lie when required to show that she can pull off undercover work.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: After Nolan and Lopez give an escaped convict the chance to dance with his daughter at her Quinceañera before re-arresting him, the convict gives them a tip about a major deal going down later that day in exchange.
  • Best Woman: In "Man of Honor", Lopez asks Bradford to be 'Man of Honor' at her wedding as her current maid of honor is too controlling, where Bradford is able to make a stand and help Lopez find what she wants rather than what others think will work best.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Chen and Bradford's first real kiss in the season 4 finale. It's interrupted by Tamara.
  • Billy Needs an Organ: In "Coding", the officers are caught in a crisis when a recent crash victim's heart is scheduled for a teenage girl with health issues, but an older man takes the hospital hostage by hacking the computer systems and basically shutting it down unless his wife, who is older and has a history of health problems, gets the heart instead. Ultimately the wife refuses the transplant after talking with the girl, refusing to let the girl die to save herself.
  • Body Double: The cops are confused when a plane crashes on a street and the fingerprints match to a millionaire imprisoned for killing his wife. They go to see him as it becomes clear something is off, especially when they ask the name of the man's wife and he starts to answer before remembering "He" isn't married. It turns out it's a guy who got surgery and $10 million so he could take the millionaire's place.
  • Brake Angrily: One of Bradford's "training techniques" is to suddenly slam the brakes during an ordinary conversation and scream, "I've been shot! Call EMS! Where are we?!" to demonstrate the importance of a cop always knowing their location. Chen is unable to answer, and he forces her to get out and follow as he drives slowly away, until she can tell him where they are. He fails to rattle West with the trick, however.
  • Bringing in the Expert: A Running Gag is how Nolan's experience as a contractor comes up either in how he can spot a clue on a case or other cops seeking advice on updating/selling a house; one episode saw him having to postpone a request by Bradford to look over his childhood home for the potential resale value because he'd already agreed to help Nyla with her kitchen.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Nolan is shaken when his academy instructor, Jeremy Hawke, goes rogue and tries to steal his son from his wife during a custody case.
    • West has trouble when he is presented with evidence that his father was a dirty cop, although his father is able to counter the accusation and is just hurt that his son doubted him at all.
    • In season 2, John is happy to work with Armstrong, a veteran detective who gives him advice and encourages John to be a detective himself. Thus John is rocked to learn Armstrong has been on the take for years to give intel to a mobster and even killed a fellow corrupt cop to cover his tracks. To top it off, the season ends with Armstrong framing John for his own crimes.
  • Brought Home the Wrong Kid: "A.C.H." has Bradford and Chen discovering a father brought home the wrong kid in a Stitch costume. Even better? The kid was the wrong gender than his son.
  • Bulletproof Vest: West's uniform top gets covered in vomit and he didn't bring a spare so he ends up wearing a bulletproof vest for the rest of the shift. It comes in handy when he takes a shot in the shoulder which would have been fatal without the vest.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: In "Follow-Up Day", Wesley learns that his mother has been arrested for carrying an unregistered gun in her car. She explains that the gun was provided by her tennis instructor, who she has recently started dating, and asks Wesley if he could keep that information quiet before 'firing' him and bringing in the family lawyer. When Wesley learns that the gun was used in a robbery a few months ago, he bluntly informs his mother that her lawyer isn't qualified to deal with this kind of case and her instructor is a criminal who is basically going to drag her down with him unless she turns him in.
  • Cassandra Truth: Invoked by Rosalind as regards why she never told anyone about her discovery of evidence indicating Armstrong was a crooked cop. As she herself says, who would ever take the word of a sociopathic serial killer over a highly respected police detective?
  • Casting Gag: In "The Overnight", Chen is accidentally dragged into an American Idol audition. Her actress Melissa O'Neil won Canadian Idol in 2005.
  • Cliffhanger:
    • Season 1 ends with Bradford in an ambulance on the way to the hospital after collapsing with his fate uncertain.
    • Season 2 ends with the police closing in on John as he stares at a ton of dirty money and stolen police files planted in his home.
    • Season 3 ends with the escape of the leader of a major drug cartel from custody and Angela missing, likely kidnapped from her wedding as she is also far along in her pregnancy.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Stanton gets West to talk without their body cams because the devices are always running and store up to two minute of footage that can be moved to permanent memory once a cop hits the record button. Sure enough, West uses this feature to capture incriminating footage from Stanton's camera when Stanton didn't intervene in a beating that almost kills him.
  • Cold Open: Most episodes open with a bit of the cops on some odd call that usually ends in a humorous moment unrelated to the rest of the episode.
  • Consulting a Convicted Killer: Particularly relevant to "Heart Beat" and "End Game", when Nolan has to turn to Oscar Hutchinson for insight into dealing with Bailey's manipulative ex-husband Jason, Oscar's similar psychology allowing him to advise Nolan on how best to trap Jason.
  • Damsel out of Distress: When Grey's wife Lola is cornered by a criminal getting into the elevator, she unhesitatingly sprays him in the eyes with mace and then kicks him in the balls. He says "That's my girl" afterward, impressed.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Crime scene cleaner Ellroy Basso implies that he got into his line of work because he saw the aftermath of his sister's suicide.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Angela and Wesley's baby son is named Jackson after her late colleague.
  • Delicate and Sickly: It’s revealed during “The Overnight” that Henry Nolan was born with a heart defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot; he required five surgeries before his first birthday. Season 3’s “Brave Heart” has Henry in the hospital after collapsing during the previous episode due to complications with his heart condition.
  • Destination Defenestration: Nolan throws a criminal through a window when the criminal gets distracted by Russo.
  • Did You Actually Believe...?: In season three, Chen and West are excited to graduate to full patrol officers, West gushing on his father telling him how this means a party, including Grey giving them a drink from his 30-year Scotch collection. At roll call, they're thrown that they're still treated as usual with Nolan (unable to move up just yet) happy he avoided falling for what was obviously a joke. Grey openly cites the trope, laughing over them actually thinking the Scotch part was real and West admitting he can't believe he fell for his dad's prank.
  • Dirty Cop: La Fiera has cops on the payroll in Guatemala to do her bidding.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • The crux of "Greenlight" is a white supremacist ordering a full-on manhunt for Nolan... because he arrested his girlfriend and accidentally ripped her dress in the process. Deconstructed, as putting a hit out on a cop leads to the police immediately retaliating. Grey even points it out to the leader of the white supremacists.
    Grey: Your son is about to destroy everything you built because his girlfriend yelled at him.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: The three training officers take this role with their rookies, barking orders at them and quizzing them even when dealing with calls. Bradford, however, is the nastiest of the bunch.
  • Do-Anything Soldier: Detective Nick Armstrong is established as one, as his role as 'night detective' means that he needs to be ready to take on any case that might come up during the night, although he is generally expected to just deal with the essential groundwork and then hand it on to more focused investigators later.
  • The Dog Bites Back: A horrible rich woman insults her stepdaughter constantly. When the girl sells off items for money, the woman fires the housekeeper for helping her. Later, the girl is arrested for shooting up the woman's expensive bags as the maid drops by to pick up her stuff. Seeing the kind girl arrested, the maid coolly asks the cops "would you like to see where Mrs. hides all her drugs?"
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: Coming across a safehouse with an intricate security system, Nolan notes he can't read the security panel as it's in Russian but touches a button, causing the doors to the house to seal off.
    Bradford: "I don't know what the button says so I'll just push it?"
    Nolan: Definitely rethinking that decision now.
  • Double Standard: In season 2, Chen is rocked that Bradford is angry because she didn't write down on a report how he was ready to kill himself rather than face death by a virus. She's amazed he's so rule bound as he snaps that any important incident should be on a report if it plays into a cop's mindset. Chen fires right back that if that's the case, she should have been writing down the many times Brandford covered for his wife and Brandford shouldn't be acting so high and mighty.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: This comes into play during a domestic incident, when Nolan suspects the much larger husband is being abused by his wife. He thinks about bringing it up, but leaves it be. Which proves a fatal mistake when the wife stabs her husband to death.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: For Captain Anderson. After being tied to a chair and pushed into a pool, she dislocates her wrist to escape her handcuffs and caps two white supremacists (one of them underwater with his own gun) before the third fatally wounds her in the throat.
  • Evil Is Petty: In "Poetic Justice", a poem is released on Reddit that is revealed to have been written by Stuart Packer, a thief who stole over two million in rare coins back in 2003 and has been in prison ever since. Questioned about the poem, Packer reveals that he was recently diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, and once he confirmed that he wouldn't receive compassionate release, released the poem to enjoy watching the city tear itself apart trying to find the treasure, with at least three apparent casualties (one woman was impaled in the chest with an axe, a man blew himself up with dynamite, and another man was shot, although the last may have survived).
  • Explosive Stupidity:
    • Narrowly avoided. A woman comes into the station to hand over her father's collection of guns and a live landmine. Which she had stuffed in a suitcase she was banging around on the way in. Nolan is very careful with the unstable ordinance and calls for the bomb squad at which point the woman asks about the other mines in her car. Cue massive explosion outside.
    • The treasure hunter from "Poetic Justice". Who insists he knows what he's doing with the dynamite he's holding, and intends to prove it. Then he drops it...and nothing happens. Everyone breathes easy, he picks it back up and then it blows him sky high.
  • Eye Scream: Child actor turned cult leader Corey Harris has his eyes torn out by a serial killer, angered that Corey helped his accomplice take sole credit for their crimes.
  • Fair Cop: Lucy, Jackson, Nyla and Tim are all very good-looking. It's lampshaded in "Brave Heart" when someone comments that Tim and Nyla look more like models than police officers.
  • Firefighter Arsonist: Season four has an arc of the LAPD dealing with a Serial Killer who burns his victims alive in disused buildings, with John Nolan coming to suspect it to be the local LAFD lieutenant Fred Mitchell, his girlfriend Bailey's boss. Subverted, when it turns out the actual killer is in fact Fred's unassuming neighbour who had been secretly setting him up as a patsy and eventually murders Fred with a bomb.
  • Frame-Up: In the second season finale, Nolan is framed for corruption by the Armenian mob with evidence planted in his house.
  • The Friends Who Never Hang: As the series follows patrol level officers, the bulk of any given episode will be divided between the pairings of the three rookies and their respective training officers, with Grey dropping in and out as the plot dictates. With that in mind, there are still a few notable instances of this trope applying:
    • Whilst Nolan has partnered up with Lopez and Bradford at least once a season, and is shown to get along well with both officers, they rarely have any off-duty scenes together.
    • West and Harper have never partnered up as of the end of the third season, and have had minimal scenes together away from the wider ensemble.
  • Glory Seeker: Jeremy "the Hawke" has an obsessive need to be seen as a great police officer. When his career and personal life fall apart, he turns that into a need to prove he can outwit and outfight the police force.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: A variation occurs in an opening sequence; Nolan and Talia are pursuing a suspect at night and the three of them end up stuck in an escape room when they cornered the suspect in the room and the door locked behind them. The three spend the next hour or so working together to find the clues and escape the room, with the suspect even trying to offer a high-five when they beat the room before Talia just takes him back into custody.
  • Heroic Bystander: How Nolan's story began: he was stuck in the middle of a bank robbery and ended up talking to the robber long enough for the police to arrive.
  • Hidden Depths: Bradford may seem a thick-headed lunk but has a deep understanding of people. At a lunch, he expertly points out the issues Bishop and Lopez have with each other in a way that would do the department shrink proud.
  • Hidden Wire: Bradford's wife has to wear one as part of her CI deal, despite protests that it will likely get her killed.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: A variation of this occurs in "Coding"; while both groups of criminals are new, the initial criminal was just intending to force a hospital to give a heart transplant to his wife, but after he changed his mind his partners tried to extort money from the hospital in exchange for turning the systems back on.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: May apply to Armstrong; by encouraging Nolan's observational skills in Nolan's ambition to make detective, he inspired Nolan to pay enough attention that he noticed the evidence that Armstrong was on the take.
  • Hollywood Mid-Life Crisis: Nolan's move into law enforcement is seen as this in-universe by more skeptical officers, with parallels only reinforced by his secret relationship with the younger Chen. However he is entirely serious about his new career and does his best to disprove his doubters.
  • Identical Stranger: "Day In The Hole" sees Tim run into a criminal who looks just like him, to the point that his colleagues half-jokingly wonder whether they the pair are long lost twins (they aren't). He then uses this to go undercover and impersonate the guy, to arrest his drug supplier. The guy's girlfriend is Lucy's doppleganger too. Naturally, both are played by the same two actors.
  • Idiot Ball: In "Follow-Up Day", a criminal tries to escape West and Lopez by hiding in a public bin, but is exposed when a garbage truck picks up the bin a few moments later, so quickly that he would have to have seen it before he got in unless he really wasn't paying attention.
  • Impersonating an Officer:
    • The officers run into a guy running a con by pretending to be a cop pulling people over on "traffic violations" and then accepting a bribe to drop it. They quickly see through it due to his uniform not looking right and lacking the right car markings.
    • The season 2 premiere has a pack of crooks stealing uniforms from a police store and paranoia washes over the force with a couple of cops ready to fight others they don't recognize. Luckily, the impersonators either forgot or didn't know that bullet-resistant vests go under the uniform.
  • Inappropriately Close Comrades: In Season 5 Lucy and Tim become a couple. They both know they'll get in trouble if one doesn't transfer, as he's her superior officer. Lucy plans a transfer into another station, then Tim moves to a desk job at the same one before she can so she's not in his chain of command, letting them stay together.
  • Innocently Insensitive: In the fourth season, Nyla Harper initially nicknames Aaron Thorsen, her new rookie, "Five Minutes" based on how long she thinks he'll last, but after his first day is over Thorsen asks her to find something else as five minutes is how long his roommate lived after getting his throat cut (Thorsen was suspected of the murder at first and states he feels like he could have saved his friend if he'd been awake).
  • Insistent Terminology: As Nolan learns on his first day, it's not a patrol car, it's a shop. They work in it.
  • Insult Backfire: First meeting West, Bradford snaps at him over being late and tries to put fear into the young man. West (whose father is a police commander) responds by saying he's more than happy to have Bradford act this way as it'll inspire West to be at his best.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: When Bradford's wife finally gets clean and is working through the rehab program, he tells her that they can't be together. Not because he doesn't love her but because his presence will be a constant reminder of her days as an addict. For her to really recover and rebuild her life, he can't be part of it.
  • Lawman Gone Bad: Jeremy "the Hawke" lost his position on the force and was relegated to training duty while also facing a pending divorce from his wife. After a drunken confrontation with her boyfriend, Jeremy chose to flee rather than be arrested and used his knowledge of police tactics to evade capture.
  • Loophole Abuse: Doug Stanton is simply reassigned after leaving Jackson to die, with his new desk sergeant supposedly legally incapable of making him see any repercussions. Then Grey gives her the idea to show a "training video" which is actually Stanton's body cam of the incident, revealing his misdeed to all his new coworkers.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Wesley has sex with Angela inside the police station (in a back room, but still), as a reward for letting off his client.
  • Mama Bear: La Fiera (The Fierce) a female Guatemalan cartel boss, earned her nickname due to having shot dead a bunch of gangsters in Guatemala during a shootout whose violence was endangering her son. She's insistent that the story is entirely true when Angela questions it, and is equally protective of him when assassins come gunning for her. Despite hating La Fiera's crimes, Angela can't help admiring this. La Fiera, spotting that Angela's pregnant, tells her to be the same way.
  • Manipulative Bastard: A good description of Bailey's ex-husband Jason; according to Bailey he spent the better part of a year after they married making her see herself as worthless, to the extent that she was seriously considering killing herself. After he gets out of prison two years early on good behaviour, Jason frames Bailey for drug possession and later turns himself in to act as a confidential informant once it's discovered he was laundering money. Fortunately, with some "help" from Oscar Hutchison, Nolan is able to arrest Jason once more, this time getting him sent away for eight years.
  • Master-Apprentice Chain: Nolan starts out as one of the department's three rookies, with Bishop as his training officer. In Season 5, Nolan becomes a training officer himself, with rookie Juarez assigned to him.
  • Method Acting: In-Universe - In "Long Shot", Wesley acts as a consultant for an actress playing a lawyer on a TV show, but she gets so into the role that at one point she goes up to yell at a man Wesley's just identified as a drug dealer while staying in character and acting as though this known criminal caused the death of a friend who doesn't exist.
  • Mistaken for Dying: "Long Shot" sees Bradford and Chen hunting a woman whose crime spree was actually provoked by the realisation that she wasn't going to die. Having spent years believing that she would die of the breast cancer that killed her mother, she spent what she thought was the past year taking abuse such as her boyfriend leaving her, getting fired from her job because she was late while attending chemo, or her landlord increasing her rent while she was unemployed, but upon learning that she was in remission she struck back out of a sense of loss of what she was to do with herself now.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: A constant as the patrol officers will have a simple pullover of a driver expose something larger.
    • In season 4, Nolan aiding a woman seemingly escaping from her abusive husband uncovers a 'Russian spy cell in Los Angeles.
    • Bradford and Chen are trying to turn in a teenager arrested for minor drug possession who wants to give up information. Before they know it, they've gone from a woman selling drugs in her neighborhood to another trying to hire a hitman to kill her husband.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Chen and Nolan each have their own when shown post coital in "Time of Death".
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Rachel, a social worker, is devastated when she learns that she separated a son from his mother believing that the mother was practising Munchausen syndrome by proxy, only learning later that the boy's health was due to the local water supply being tainted as a result of past shoddy repair work.
  • Nepotism: When Bradford realizes West freezes under fire, he chews out Lopez for not warning him. He wants to go ahead and report West but Lopez points out how the guy is the son of a major Internal Affairs officer and "you think he won't blame you for this?"
  • New Meat: Nolan, Chen, and West are fresh out of the police academy and are just starting to find out what it means to be a cop.
    • This is recreated after Chen and West have graduated and, with Nolan, come across two new rookies, Katie Barnes and Larry "Badger" Macer. Neither one continues in the program as Barnes quits because she's afraid she can't come back from being a soldier if she stays a cop and Macer because he accidentally fires his weapon in the squad room and is summarily fired.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Lucy lets a 16-year old drug dealer go with a citation, and is told off by the prosecutor for it. Next thing she knows he's robbed a convenience store, which gives the elderly owner a heart attack. The prosecutor blames her, and says the kid will be charged with Felony Murder assuming the owner dies. It was all to give him a second chance so he wouldn't fall into the prison system, which will now happen anyway. Fortunately, the shop owner survives, and the attorney agrees to push for a minimal sentence of a few months in juvenile detention.
  • Noodle Incident: Nolan forbids his son from telling the other rookies the story of the turducken. This is referenced again at the end of the episode, Nolan stares into the distance for a moment and quietly says; "That poor cat."
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Union president Landon Briggs may not be this most of the time, but he gets so frustrated with Nolan's attempts to make changes that he takes steps to prevent Nolan becoming a training officer by assigning him to a remote precinct for a week just so that Nolan will miss his T.O. exam.
  • Older and Wiser:
    • Despite being the oldest rookie, Nolan's life experiences had made him an expert with saying the right stuff to people. It's later revealed that Captain Andersen wanted him in her team precisely because he was bringing in skills and perspective that none of her other (universally younger) officers have.
    • Season 4 introduces Jerry McGrady, an old cop who's been on the job so long he still carries a revolver decades after the LAPD switched over to semi-automatics. Grey wants to push him into retirement, but Bradford finds that McGrady's extensive experience provides insights and intuition that younger cops lack while investigating a case involving a gold theft from two decades agonote .
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Nyla, who's usually hard-edged, prickly and sarcastic, starts to exude kindness when she gets pregnant due to her hormones. Everyone keeps asking if she's okay, and Nyla is a bit perturbed herself by it.
  • Outside-Context Problem: The first season finale starts off with the rookies about to sit their exams to see if they progress to the next stage of the training program. Between the briefing at the start of the shift & the exam starting in the afternoon, the threat of a terrorist cell potentially having chemical weapons in L.A. has been uncovered & taken precedence over the exam.
  • Police Code for Everything: Naturally. Played for laughs at the beginning of the season finale, where the trio pause a study session to arrest a pair of Stupid Crooks who failed to notice the rookies reciting police codes five feet away. They recite the codes for the various offenses, and then one of the crooks corrects them on a code.
    Jackson:: Also a 12-0-20.
    Chen: Oh, illegal possession of a firearm.
    Crook 1: Actually, its a 417. The guns are fake.
    Nolan: (checks gun) Ha! He's right!
    Chen: Yep, but this knife is real and that is a violation of...
    All three rookies: 21510b!
    Crook 2: WTF look
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: The season 4 two-parter "Simone" and "Enervo". A not very subtle backdoor pilot for an FBI focused spinoff starring Niecy Nash that eventually became The Rookie: Feds.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Oscar Hutchinson is a notorious criminal who meets Nolan during two past escape attempts, but when he and Nolan are caught in a prison riot, Hutchinson agrees to help Nolan rescue the prison warden after she's taken hostage by other prisoners as Nolan recognises that Hutchinson is an opportunist; he can't escape in the current situation, but if he helps the warden now Nolan and Harper will put in a good word for Hutchinson to receive certain privileges later. Hutchison returns on other occasions when Nolan requires his insight, offering his aid in finding certain criminals in exchange for a transfer to a different prison.
  • Prison Riot: In "Under the Gun" Nolan is escorting some juvenile offenders to a prison with Nyla as part of "Scared Straight". However, a riot erupts when they're inside, so they then have to escort them out safely. After doing so, they learn the warden has been taken hostage. So they go back to rescue her. Fortuitously, they had gotten in good with the brother of one of the juveniles, a prison gang leader, who lets them leave.
  • Profiling: Doug Stanton, Jackson's new T.O., almost immediately accused a young black man who's reported a crime to them of being a gang member, suspecting that the incident was related. He does this solely based on the young man's race and the flimsiest inference from a single dot tattoo. This is Jackson's first clue that Doug isn't really as nice as he appears. He keeps up the same behavior after this, which causes Jackson and Grey to decide they must take him down.
  • Quiet Cry for Help: Nolan befriends a worker in a rough neighborhood, bringing up how he was in construction. Later, the man calls Nolan and asks for some advice on using "vinyl compensation tiles" for a diner. Nolan instantly realizes something is wrong as both men know full well building codes prohibit this type of material to be used in food-prep areas. The man also lists a variety of materials that make Nolan and his training officer realize he's being forced to help create a meth lab.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: In-universe when Bradford poses as a hitman to meet a housewife putting out a hit on her husband. He defends his outfit as perfect for undercover work but Chen responds that he's trying to "fool someone who gets her ideas about crime from Lifetime movies" and urges him to dress as cliche as possible, complete with a hood for a disguise.
  • The Reveal:
    • Nolan and Chen are in a relationship which they keep quiet.
    • Bradford is seen giving money to an obvious drug addict—who's his estranged wife.
  • Rewatch Bonus: In the final episodes of the second season, it is revealed that Armstrong is a Dirty Cop. When watching the season with that in mind, a lot of inconsequential details about the character start piling up, foreshadowing The Reveal from their earliest appearances.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: In one episode, Chen and Bradford rescue a store-front psychic from a man who attacked her after she mentioned that she saw him with a beautiful woman in the woods; as it turns out, the man was suspected of murdering his wife and disposing of her in the woods, but the psychic just said something that sounded good.
  • Right Hand Vs Left Hand: Wesley goes to negotiate for Angela being released, while her colleagues mount a rescue operation. Not surprisingly, their plots turn out to get in each other's way (they end up having to rescue Wesley as well). This could have been avoided if they talked first (since they had the same goal, after all).
    • They did talk first since they were all together when they planned it.
  • Romance on the Set: In-Universe - West and an actor he was coaching as a police consultant do show chemistry but are thwarted by a stalker shooting West, albeit center mass where his vest caught it. Subsequently, the two begin dating.
  • Running Gag:
    • Nolan being strongly disliked by LAPD Motor Pool because he crashed several cop cars early in season one is brought up several times.
    • Another one starts to crop up with jokes about him being a Doom Magnet during his initial period as a P1 rookie, which included being taken hostage multiple times.
  • Sadistic Choice: In Season 2, Nolan is faced with a difficult choice. Does he save a known killer from drowning in wet cement or does he save a grieving father who just hanged himself after putting the killer in wet cement?note 
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Deconstructed. The technical term is "noble cause corruption". Grey calls it a cancer, reprimands Nolan and Harper and makes it clear that Nolan has destroyed any chance of meaningful advancement in the Department.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: In season 2, Chen is jarred to discover how West knew about her and Nolan as a couple all along. It's hinted a few others also knew but kept it quiet.
  • Secret Test of Character:
    • Bradford is fond of saying "everything is a test" to Chen. He acts like he doesn't understand Spanish and is pulling over some Latino men because of their race. When Chen argues about it, he answers her in Spanish to ask "now was I pretending the subtle racism or not knowing the language? You don't know."
    • When Bradford is forced to take time off after being shot, Chen is assigned to a laid-back officer who talks of how he's happy to never put himself in danger. When a call comes in, he's reluctant but Chen insists they back some fellow officers up. Later at the station, Chen finds out the guy is a good friend of Bradford's and he got Chen assigned to him. Bradford states that he wanted to be sure Chen wouldn't accept such a laid-back attitude and looks forward to working with her again.
    • Chen is in a public restroom when someone reaches over the stall door to take her belt and gun. She races to tell Bradford, who chews her out for being so irresponsible. Bradford then gets a call saying his wife is in the hospital and they have to go. When Chen asks about her gun belt, Bradford just reaches into the car to hand it to her, revealing he'd stolen it and might well have driven her crazy about this "mistake" all day if not for the call.
    • Subverted as Bradford realizes an Internal Affairs officer is trying to get him to implicate himself with things like letting Mario Lopez go for a traffic violation. He and Chen find an addict who accidentally stepped into a bear trap. Thinking it's another IA test, Bradford compliments the man on his great "makeup work" before yanking the foot out...and the guy nearly bleeds to death as Bradford realizes this is for real.
    • Armstrong claims that he's giving a couple of these to Nolan their first day working together, such as testing if he'd pursue something with an ex-girlfriend while he's currently in a relationship because a man who can't be loyal to a partner can't be loyal to the badge.
    • Harper takes it up to eleven while testing if Chen is up to long-term undercover work. Taking her to meet with a drug dealer where she has to maintain her cover with a guy violently pushing his girlfriend around across the street turns out to be a big setup from everyone involved. Then she goes even further by faking that she's been found out herself and will be tortured unless Chen gives up what the cops know, even deliberately triggering Chen's PTSD over her prior kidnapping, since that may well be an issue on the job.
  • Sex with the Ex: After breaking up, Chen ends up having Sex for Solace with Nolan when trying to comfort him in "Time of Death".
  • Sherlock Scan: Crime scene cleaner Ellroy Russo is able to use his experience with crime scenes to work out where a victim was shot, walked away, and subsequently tortured just by following the few specks of blood he left behind.
  • Shout-Out: "In Justice" has an underground meth lab Nolan discovers through Hugo, a construction worker he knows who gets tricked into working there, then enslaved. This bears a strong resemblance to plots from Breaking Bad and also sequel Better Call Saul.
  • Spanner in the Works: What mars Armstrong's plan to frame Nolan. He figures Nolan will panic and thus possibly be shot during an arrest. Instead, Nolan smartly calls up Grey who agrees to play the whole thing by the book with a warrant and let Nolan call a lawyer to peacefully surrender himself. This lets the D.A. offer some leeway. Meanwhile, Armstrong overestimates how much trust he has as Nolan's fellow officers know the man isn't stupid enough to, say, brag about his crimes right to Armstrong and leave so much evidence behind which eventually allows Nolan to prove his innocence.
  • Spotting the Thread:
    • In an early episode, Nolan and Bishop are checking out a gym with the owner claiming everything is okay. A former construction worker, Nolan notes that in all the houses he's been in and built, he's never seen anyone putting a circuit breaker right next to a water pipe. He opens the door to show a stash of drugs and money.
    • When Nolan spots a piece of tape over a doorbell camera during a home invasion, Detective Nick Armstrong notes that 75% of detectives would have missed that, encouraging Nolan’s ambition to make detective.
    • While supervising a cordoned-off crime scene, Nolan spots a speck of blood outside the cordoned off area, which leads to him discovering the body of a missing security guard who had been considered the prime suspect.
    • When he begins to suspect Armstrong is a corrupt cop, John goes over his behavior on this case. He shows a fellow officer video of Armstrong and how every time there's a break on the case, Armstrong is texting on his phone. While stating that's circumstantial, the other officer agrees it's suspicious.
    • When going over photos of Aaron's friends on vacation, it hits the cops that one member of the party has a lot of luggage yet keeps wearing the same two outfits all the time. This leads them to realize he's a Mock Millionaire and the killer; his luggage is actually used to smuggle drugs.
  • Stalker with a Crush: In "Breaking Point", when West and Lopez are asked to serve as consultants for a police show after meeting the lead actor during an arrest, his co-star takes the opportunity to ask Lopez for help investigating threats she's received from a stalker. It's soon established that the stalker is one of the production crew who has an obsessive crush on the main actor and saw the co-star as a 'threat', evidently unaware that the object of her attention was gay.
  • Status Quo Is God: Averted; whilst the show operates on Comic-Book Time to prolong the period in which Nolan is a still a rookie officer and avoid the title of the series becoming an Artifact Title, there are still significant changes to the status quo of the series as it plays out - for example, only Bradford remains from the original trio of training officers at the start of the series by the third season, with Lopez being promoted to Detective and Bishop leaving the department. By the fourth season, Nolan is training to become a T.O., Bradford is a sergeant, West is dead, and the current rookie is Aaron Thorsen, a former murder suspect who was the subject of a very controversial trial.
  • Strictly Formula: As the series follows patrol level officers, the bulk of any given episode will be divided between the pairings of the three rookies and their respective training officers, namely Nolan and Bishop/Harper, Chen and Bradford, and finally, West and Lopez. Whilst the series would change the formula up by having the rookies work with different partners on occasion, it would take until the third season, with the rookies graduating to full fledged officers over the course of the season and Lopez making detective, for a permanent change to the formula.
  • Stripper/Cop Confusion: On the season 4 Halloween episode, the squad gets a good laugh hearing that years before Bradford had his uniform torn when reporting to a wild party and mistaken for the stripper.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • When Nolan becomes the focus of a vendetta by a gang of white supremacists, the police retaliate by working to arrest the majority of the gang before they can kill Nolan. Chen asks why the gang was allowed to continue when it's this relatively 'easy' to lock down on their resources, but Bradford explains that since most of the time new gangs will just spring up to replace the old one it's easier to let the status quo be unless something significant happens.
    • Jackson initially enjoys dating an actor, but after his appearance on the red carpet with his new boyfriend causes a distraction during a chase when fans try to get a photo with Jackson, the two have to stage a public breakup to continue a more discreet relationship.
    • When Abigail (the fiancé of Nolan's son Henry) asks to join Nolan and Bradford during a ride-along, Bradford observes that she has the right nerve to be a good cop, but her criminal record (she was accused of torching her ex-boyfriend's car after he posted revenge porn of her online when she was seventeen) prevents her from applying.
    • After going rogue to take down a criminal conspiracy, Nolan is told by Grey in no uncertain terms that the decision has permanent ramifications and that the fallout is bad enough that it will have a lasting impact on Harper's career as well.
    • Oscar Hutchison assisting the police on occasion has made him a pariah in his current prison, to the extent that is shown with black eyes, an injured arm and various other injuries. At one point Hutchison only agrees to assist Nolan again in exchange for letters of recommendation that he be transferred to a different prison.
  • Swallow the Key: When a stubborn protester attempts this in "Redwood", he immediately begins choking on it.
  • Take a Third Option: In "Follow-Up Day" Bradford and Chen find themselves dealing with a criminal gang's attempt to launder money through a bakery where an ex-gang-member now works. Faced with a choice between using the ex-con as a confidential informant and putting him at risk, or risk him getting killed for defying the gang, Bradford instead arranges for the bakery to become the new top doughnut shop for the precinct, thus ensuring that the gang will never try and use it as a front.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: The second episode's Cold Open has Nolan convincing a recently dumped bride not to jump from the Hollywood Sign.
  • Technically Living Zombie: In "A.C.H." a drug affects users brains by turning them into basically zombies, mindless and prone to attack people so they can bite them. However, this naturally isn't infectious to victims.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • In Season 2, Nolan makes the mistake of saying that the shift is quiet. This prompts Harper to berate him and tell him never to say that word again and to go make sure her vest has a trauma plate because she knows trouble is coming.
    • At a prison, Nolan remarks that at least they don't have to meet constant frenemy, Oscar. Harper immediately moans "why do you say those things? You jinx us!" Sure enough, the pair need Oscar's help for information.
    • To be fair to Nolan, pretty much every other cop has a bad habit of remarking on how easy a case looks only for it to become ten times more complex.
  • That Came Out Wrong: While searching for a missing baby Bradford tries to prepare Chen for the worst case but does so at first by stating she has been "lucky" so far on the job which earns him a "wtf" look from her before he backtracks and clarifies.note 
  • That Liar Lies: Lucy comically says Jackson is a "Lying liar... who lies", in "Brave Heart" during an argument.
  • That Man Is Dead: Bradford attempts to warn the detectives that his wife, having changed drastically due to her drug habit, is nothing like the veteran undercover cop in their records. They ignore his warnings and she proceeds to make a mistake that tips off her target.
  • These Hands Have Killed: "Time Of Death" features Nolan killing a suspect in self-defense, plus the subsequent mental anguish it brings on him.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: A serial killer is revealed to be an ordinary-looking, seemingly kindly older man with senility.
  • This Is Reality: West and Chen are assigned to be "consultants" on a TV cop show set and educating the actors in how "real" cops operate.
  • Tragic Villain: In "Lockdown", Nolan is taken hostage by Graham Porter, who threatens to blow up the station if a certain prisoner isn't released. However, an investigation reveals that Porter doesn't actually know the other man, but has staged the whole situation with a fake bomb; he is suffering from terminal cancer and his goal is to give his girlfriend, Kelsey Adams, a chance to destroy evidence in storage with her fingerprints on it (collected from the restaurant where she worked after a robbery), as she changed her identity to escape her loan shark ex-boyfriend and is worried that his police contacts will identify her from her fingerprints and tip him off that she's alive. Having established the reason for the attack, Nolan is able to talk Porter into surrendering, and Nyla offers to help protect Kelsey from her ex after establishing the reason for the situation.
  • Vigilante Man: Two Guatemalans seek to assassinate a Guatemalan cartel boss named La Fiera in LA for revenge because her soldiers massacred their village for defiance. Although the cops can understand the sentiment, they still have to protect La Fiera from them.
  • Webcomic Time: The first three seasons take place over the course of Nolan’s probationary period as a rookie officer in the LAPD.
  • Wham Episode: "Greenlight" as Captain Anderson is killed in the line of duty while saving Nolan.
  • Wham Shot:
    • After a night of drinking, the camera cuts to Nolan's house... where Chen is stepping out of the bedroom, revealing the two have been together for two months.
    • The opening scene of Season 4’s opening episode “Life and Death” in which the remaining officers see security footage of Lopez being abducted in the cliffhanger ending of the previous season, along with The Reveal that Jackson was also abducted and put up enough resistance that the kidnappers executed him.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Following Captain Andersen dying in the line of duty in “Greenlight” a minor subplot in a subsequent episode focused on her replacement’s arrival and subsequent departure, with it being implied that Sergeant Grey would serve as the commanding officer for the station until a permanent replacement could be found. The show would make no further reference to this plot point until late in the third season, with it being acknowledged in dialogue that the station had found a replacement at some point before the episode “Brave Heart”.
  • What You Are in the Dark:
    • Bradford has a chance to get back in his wife's good graces by removing a stash of drugs from her apartment before it is searched. He nearly goes through with it but in the end leaves the drugs to be discovered.
    • When Chen still needs to deal with seven different crimes in two days to pass her field evaluation, she finds herself in a position to get the vehicular theft crime she needs when she finds a woman who has moved the license plates from her husband’s car to her own. However, learning that the plates were only switched because the family could only afford to insure one car and the other one is getting repaired, Chen chooses not to be the kind of cop who would focus on numbers over people and lets the woman off with a warning (although this act allows Bradford to pass her on making an ethical decision in a difficult situation, which was another scenario she needed to face).
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: Stanton's happy when a young Latino man accepts being stopped and his ID run for no reason aside from walking in a white neighborhood with submissive politeness, telling Jackson if "they" all acted like him, they'd have no problem. Jackson, of course, shows dismay at this. It's possibly implied Doug also thinks of his former (Black) trainee this way as well, who alerts him to the investigation into his conduct.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: "A.H.C." features a minor breakout in LA when users of a new drug are driven rabid by it, closely resembling zombies (though it's not infectious), on Halloween appropriately enough.

Alternative Title(s): The Rookie