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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 40-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). 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 Rookie includes examples of the following tropes:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Anyone Can Die: Captain Zoe Andersen.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Rosiland on why she never told anyone about her discovery of evidence indicating Armstrong was a crooked cop. As she herself sums up, 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 apartment.
  • 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.
  • 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 brutal death.
  • 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.
    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 cooly asks the cops "would you like to see where Mrs. hides all her drugs?"
  • 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 rules 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: 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 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.
  • Explosive Stupidity: Narrowly avoided. A woman comes into the station to hand over her husband'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.
  • Frame-Up: In the second season finale, Nolan is framed for corruption by the Armenian mob with evidence planted in his house.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Chen and Nolan each have their own when show 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.
  • Name's the Same: In-Universe - Lopez is at one point identified by a new statistical profiling system as one of the cops most likely to put the department at risk of being sued, but it later turns out that the program mixed her up with another 'A. Lopez' who works in Vice.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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: 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Spotting the Thread:
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Wham Episode: "Greenlight" as Captain Anderson is killed in the line of duty while saving Nolan.
  • Wham Shot: After a night 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.
  • 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 licence 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).

Alternative Title(s): The Rookie


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