The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: The Bravery of Jackson West on The Rookie

“The honor and bravery you’ve shown is an example to all of us … I’m so damn proud of you.”

Praise is hard to come by in the world of The Rookie, so when it happens, it matters.

And it’s never mattered more than those words from Sergeant Wade Grey to Officer Jackson West at the end of last Sunday’ episode, “Lockdown.”

Jackson’s storyline throughout this third season has been nothing short of revelatory—for both the character and the actor playing him (Titus Makin Jr.). He’s the eyes through which The Rookie has taken its most direct look at police violence and systemic racism in policing, and it all led up to the moment in this episode when, after confronting his racist training officer, Doug Stanton, about his behavior, Doug leaves him at the mercy of a group of criminals.

Watching Jackson get viciously attacked while Doug hid on the sidelines was brutal to watch, but it wasn’t all for nothing—Jackson knew his training officer fed him to the wolves, and by exposing that on Doug’s body cam, he got a bad cop off the streets. (Although it’s almost certainly not forever.)

Jackson knew he was risking his career and even his life by working to call attention to the truth of who Doug was and the racism fueling his actions. But he also believed it was worth the risk. Even laying in his hospital bed—with broken ribs, loose teeth, eyes swollen shut, and a painful hoarseness in his voice (kudos to both the makeup department and Makin for painting an uncomfortably believable picture of a man in incredible pain)—he told Sergeant Grey as much.

And Grey’s response was one every decent human being watching most likely had:

“You shouldn’t have to risk your life to get a bad cop fired.”

The emotion Richard T. Jones put into those words was gutting. You could feel the sergeant’s guilt in every breath, and I loved the decision to let him actually start to cry (and acknowledge that he was getting emotional) more than once in this scene. It made everything feel more real—and more genuinely moving because of that realism.

Because this moment was about so much more than just a sergeant telling a rookie that he shouldn’t have to risk his life to move the needle. It was about two Black police officers from different generations coming to a place of hard-earned understanding. It was about a Black sergeant who believed he had to keep his head down and just do his job—no matter the anger he carried as he watched men like Doug continue to serve on the force. And it was about a young Black rookie who opened his eyes to the desperate need for change right now—in this very moment—and who was willing to do whatever it took to make things even just a little bit better.

It was a moment of genuine love, respect, mentorship, and emotion between two Black men. And it showed just how far they’ve come.

When Sergeant Grey told Jackson he was proud of him, it wasn’t just a moment that paid off this season’s emotional journey for Jackson. It was years in the making. Jackson entered the LAPD with the weight of expectations heavy on his shoulders. The son of a cop (now the head of Internal Affairs) who’d been preparing for this role since birth, Jackson faltered more than once under the pressure. His bravery and commitment were questioned after freezing in a crucial situation in the show’s first season, so Grey’s words carried extra meaning when looked at through the lens of Jackson’s struggle to find his voice, his confidence, and his place as an officer.

That’s what made the perfect pause of overwhelmed gratitude before Jackson’s “Thank you so much, sir” feel so cathartic. This wasn’t just about one moment; it was about an entire story of a young man coming into his own and finding a support system along the way.

And, in a very real way, it wasn’t just about a television show; it was about an entire story of an actor’s journey to find his voice, his confidence, and his place as a Black man playing a police officer.

Jackson’s courage of conviction radiated off of him even in that hospital bed, and that’s because Makin is filled with that same courage of conviction. Before this season aired, he told the showrunner that he couldn’t continue acting in this role if he didn’t address the reality of his character being a Black man in a police department. He was willing to walk away from a major role on a network drama because he believed his principles mattered more, and that strength of character moved the needle—even just a little bit. That conversation led to showrunner Alexi Hawley working with Makin and the whole cast to incorporate the reality of conversations about race and policing into the show this season, and it’s paid off with a season of television that’s doing the work of confronting problems head-on, including problems in its own past portrayals of its characters’ behavior.

Makin risked his career to do what was right, and watching that bravery and honor not only be depicted but verbally acknowledged in “Lockdown” was a beautiful tribute not just to the character of Jackson West but also to the actor who brings him to life with vulnerability and strength week in and week out.

In that scene, Sergeant Grey was all of us—looking at a young man willing to put everything on the line for what he knew was right and being unable to hold back his emotions while doing so. This was one of the first genuinely tear-jerking scenes The Rookie has given us—a moment of unforced feeling and surprising sincerity between two men who’ve come a long way as individuals and together.

It was a moment of pride, and I’ve never been prouder of this show.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?

2 thoughts on “The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: The Bravery of Jackson West on The Rookie

  1. I will get to Jackson momentarily but I am just continually impressed by Titus being willing to walk away from his spot on a network procedural that could run as long as ABC wants it to because there were things that mattered more. And this show is so much better for addressing the duality of that and leaning into the discomfort so they can be better. I’m going back an episode, but that scene of Jackson and Grey in the alley and the barely controlled fear on Jackson’s face when the car pulled up behind him and the innate way that Grey understood that is one that will stay with me. As Titus mentioned in one of his interviews, he may play a cop on TV but when he leaves set, he’s just an anonymous Black man and that uncertainty and unease are just a part of his life.

    And now on to Jackson. Like you said, his particular stance that the department can’t afford to look the other way with Stanton anymore feels very of this moment. It was one of those uncomfortable truths that he’s always had to live with and I know this show isn’t necessarily set in our current time since there’s a lack of on-screen covid precautions and that the past summer’s protests didn’t happen in the show universe, but in the way they are addressing everything, it’s as though they did. His bravery and convictions have made this arc as powerful as it is. While it stressed me out the entire time, I loved the brief moment of panic on Stanton’s face when Jackson pointed out that Percy runs IA. I knew it would lead to bad things, and it did, but Jackson specifically calling out his racism and his unwillingness to deal with it was good.

    And finally for my other shows, this episode of Chicago Fire was my favorite since November because it finally felt like it remembered its strongest character dynamics and beats. Number one of which is Darren Ritter being the best, which he got to demonstrate after a fire at a homeless encampment left a teen without anywhere to go or anyone to look after, so he stepped in to do whatever he could for her. And it was done with such compassion and reminded me a lot of Lucy and Tamara because he’s also so naturally empathetic and kind and it’s wonderful. I love him so much and he might kick Kelly out of position as my favorite guy on the show because he’s good and doesn’t do stupid things like refusing to communicate with his partner.

  2. Pingback: TV Time: The Rookie 3.06 | Nerdy Girl Notes

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