Welcome to the first of what I hope will be weekly episode discussion posts about The Rookie here at Nerdy Girl Notes! I’ve wanted to write about this show in this way for a long time, and this week’s episode convinced me that it was finally time for me to fully dive into the fabulous things the writers, actors, and all involved are doing this season. If you’re new to NGN, we love starting fun conversations about our favorite characters, moments, ships, theories, and more in the comments (as long as it’s done in a respectful way, of course!), so please don’t hesitate to join in!
Episode M.V.P.: Eric Winter
This episode put Tim Bradford through the emotional wringer. He had to relive the most traumatic parts of his marriage, make impossible ethical choices that will only add to the mountain of guilt he already carries on his shoulders, and watch the only rookie he’s ever come to care for—a woman he sees as honest, optimistic, and genuinely good—be drawn to a life that he associates with lies, addiction, and pain. His eyes were the ones that showed us the other side of undercover work—not the adrenaline, success, and camaraderie found in Lucy’s storyline, but the lost souls and broken families that seem to be just as much a part of the job as big arrests and interesting aliases. And those eyes told one hell of a heartbreaking story.
It’s all because the man playing him has one of the best pairs of eyes in the business. And I don’t mean because they’re dreamy (I mean—they are, but that’s beside the point). It’s because Eric Winter knows exactly how to show just enough truth—just enough pain and guilt and love—in those eyes to let the audience in without letting go of the fact that Tim guards his emotions carefully; he controls his feelings with the same iron fist he once used to control all his rookies (before Lucy, of course).
Winter’s performance in this episode was a masterclass of nuanced character building. Every facet of who Tim is was brought to light with the same level of attention and care, and what impressed me the most was the way Winter was able to believably convey the storm of emotions in this character with the most subtle shifts in his expressions and tone of voice. Those subtle shifts were evidenced right away—as he transitioned from the easy confidence that seemed to radiate from his pores when Mack first jumped out of the car to the tension that settled over his entire body when he confronted Mack moments later about him being high. They continued when he softened immediately after Mack came to following his overdose—the gentle, protective side of Tim Bradford rising to the surface in the tone of voice he used when assuring Mack that he and Beth were there. In that moment, you could see the ghosts of Isabel in every word he spoke and move he made—so much so that when he locked eyes with Lucy, nothing needed to be said to show that she got it too. And those subtle shifts in emotion allowed us to ride the tidal wave of repressed trauma along with him as he forced Mack to think about what he was doing to his family. Watching his eyes fill with tears as he almost certainly replayed a conversation he knew by heart like a bad sitcom rerun crushed me in a way that only a great actor—one who really understands the character he’s playing—can do.
This was an episode that could have seen Tim put his walls back up and shut down into a defensive posture—and in some ways, it did give us that. Winter’s entire body language after Tim learned Lucy was going undercover was closed off, rigid, and angry. But right under the surface was that humanity—that deep and frustrating ability to care—that he can’t shut down entirely. So when Nolan calls him out for being worried about Lucy, there’s the familiar bark, but it’s accompanied by a concerned expression that gives the game away. And when he “arrests” Lucy, there’s none of the frustration that marked their earlier scene in the briefing room when he told her she was being used. Instead, everything about him softens just a fraction—noticeable to the audience but believably subtle enough to not be noticed by the criminals. The way he leans in closer to gently ask if she’s ok, the way his hand never leaves her shoulder, the fact that this typically tough cop doesn’t drag Lucy to the car like Nolan with Harper—each physical action speaks to the way he can’t turn off caring about Lucy and wanting to keep her safe, which is going to be a big problem (in the best way for us as audience members) if this episode is setting up a future undercover career for her.
And then there’s the moment the dam finally breaks in the restrained but meaningful way Winter does best. When Tim looks back at Lucy and tells her, “You did good,” that same transition from hard to soft—fleeting but all the more impactful for its brevity—tells us all we need to know about the man Tim Bradford is. He knows Lucy needs to hear that from him. He knows that she values his opinion; she told him so herself. And he knows that she deserves his support and not to be the recipient of all his anger about undercover work. It’s not easy, and Winter lets us see that struggle. But he fights through his own pain to be there for Lucy because that’s what he does—that’s who he is.
Tim Bradford is a man who doesn’t want to care but cares deeply (as is shown even more painfully in that final scene with Beth), and it takes a strong actor who’s great at subtlety to make that kind of character work. Luckily, Winter is exactly that kind of actor. What he’s done with this character through 3 seasons has been nothing short of captivating, and I hope the drama and soul-searching set up in this episode continue, because I can’t wait to see more.
Favorite Scene: “I think fitting in is a trap.”
The last scene of this episode—with Lucy, Harper, fellow undercover cop June, and Tamara (the homeless girl who stole Lucy’s car and then became Lucy’s mentee—or “puppy” if you’re Tim) talking about what it means to be a woman in traditionally male profession—is the reason I knew I had to start writing about The Rookie every week. For three seasons now, this show has been quietly giving its viewers some of the most complex, diverse, and well-written women on television, and this episode took a spotlight and shined it brightly on so many of those women and their relationships to each other (with the exception of Angela, who I missed dearly in that scene—although I’m sure Alyssa Diaz’s pregnancy meant filming less this season for very good reasons).
The beginning of this scene, as Harper and June revealed how it can often feel like female undercover cops are put in situations just to be objectified, continued the show’s trend of talking about difficult topics this season—but it did so with humor and ease. However, when Tamara asked if these women ever feel like they have to lose part of themselves to fit in, the tone shifted from one of playfully calling out problems to sincerely celebrating women’s strengths.
“I think fitting in is a trap,” Lucy tells her, and the open sincerity in that line reading is Lucy Chen (and Melissa O’Neil) at her best. That’s who Lucy is—she’s unfailingly, unrelentingly herself. She has never tried to make herself tougher or harder or colder to fit into this world; she’s always led with her strengths—empathy, openness with her feelings, and a genuine understanding of people and a drive to learn more about them. She might exist in a world where it’s wrongly believed “that empathy is somehow a liability,” but she never lets that stop her from being empathetic, from wearing her heart on her sleeve, and from believing in people and in her ability to help them.
And instead of that making her worse at her job, this episode made it clear that she excels because she’s never tried to fit in—not despite that.
Female cops don’t have it easy; this episode reminded us of that fact. But they also have unique strengths and skills that can make them just as good—and in some cases, better—than their male counterparts. Lucy highlights those beautifully when she heaps praise on Harper and June and the ways they used their intelligence and agility to carve out their own space in this male-dominated field. And they also have the kind of support system that makes this scene so beautiful—a community of other women who can teach them, cheer them on, and help them find themselves in a career where it can be easy to lose your sense of self.
Female support systems—especially in professional settings—are invaluable. And watching the evolution of Harper and Lucy’s relationship in this regard has been incredibly rewarding. They’re very different women, but Lucy admires Harper and Harper respects Lucy. The way this episode solidified that admiration and respect was both believable and beautiful. Tim and Lucy may be incredibly close, but there are things she can never ask him and he can never teach her—but they’re things she can learn from Harper. And Harper genuinely enjoys teaching Nolan, but there are some bits of her wisdom that would be lost on him, and she gets to share those with Lucy.
This scene was about women supporting each other—as friends and as mentors. It was about the things we can learn from each other and the things women innately bring to whatever careers they choose that can make them shine. And it was about women of color succeeding and inspiring the next generation by bravely and boldly being themselves.
It was a scene worth raising a glass to.
• I always say that Lucy is the character on this show that I’m most like, so it would make sense, then, that Harper is the character I most want to be. Everything about this character (and the way Mekia Cox plays her) is exceptional—to the point where I might say she’s one my favorite characters on TV right now. And this episode only heightened my love for her. Everything from her speech at the convention to her wink at Lucy to the way she admits that her body has magical powers came together in this episode to make her even more charming, inspiring, and interesting.
• My favorite little Harper detail in this episode came after Tim chewed her out for including Lucy in the undercover operation. When Lucy admits that she wanted Tim to be proud of her (and says she feels stupid saying that—most likely because she’s in a room with powerful, independent women), Harper immediately jumps in to tell Lucy that it’s ok to want Tim to be proud of her. That lesson—that it doesn’t make you less of a woman to value the opinion of a man you care about (and who cares about you)—is a really important one to articulate.
• With that being said, I also love that Harper was quick to tell Lucy that she shouldn’t let Tim’s issues with undercover work destroy her confidence. There’s a fine line between caring about someone and crushing yourself under their burdens, and I’m glad Lucy has Harper to remind her of that. If Lucy’s gut is telling her to learn more about undercover work and that she could be good at it, she owes it to herself to try—even though it may bring up painful memories for Tim (who is just her T.O. and friend right now). I think this episode was the start of a longer arc in terms of her involvement with undercover work, so I look forward to diving deeper into this very angst-driven dichotomy between Lucy’s interest in undercover work and Tim’s issues with it. These two characters have always been the rare example of a possible romantic pairing that talks through things like adults, and I don’t see why this should or would be any different.
• I think Lucy is actually set up as the perfect character to remind Tim (and the audience) that not every undercover cop loses themselves. She’s the character on this show with the strongest sense of self and understanding of her own emotions, and I think that could serve her well in this kind of work. However, this episode did bring up how easy it can be to lose sight of your responsibilities and relationships in the rush of undercover operations (with Lucy forgetting about Tamara). In one episode, it did a very effective job of presenting multiple sides of this topic.
• Lucy speaking Tagalog was a great way to show that she can use her unique strengths (her ability to speak multiple languages being one of them, besides her instincts, intelligence, ability to understand people, and adaptability) to excel at being an undercover cop.
• Lucy’s confidence when it comes to her professional skills will never stop being one of the best things about her.
• I was genuinely moved by the emotion on Melissa O’Neil’s face when Tim told Lucy she did good. That little flicker of feelings said so much—about how hard Lucy knew that was for Tim to say, about how much she needed to hear it, and about how happy she is to know things might still be ok between them.
• I loved Jackson’s story in this episode. Titus Makin Jr. continues to shine, and the warmth and kindness he brought to Jackson’s interactions with Silas were lovely to watch. I may have teared up while whispering, “He’s just such a good person!”
• I am very excited about Isaac and the potential for a new romance for Jackson. I never really cared all that much about Sterling, so it’s nice to feel a little more invested this time around. (Plus, they have killer chemistry!)
• Nolan wasn’t in a life-or-death situation this week, and that worked really well. In fact, I liked the relatively low but no less important stakes of his ethical dilemma about revealing himself to his classmates. It felt grounded in reality, which always allows Nathan Fillion to be at his best.
In case I didn’t make this abundantly clear the rest of the week, I am so very here for this weekly post.
Nyla Harper is my favorite character on television at the moment. I love everything about the choices Mekia Cox is making with her and she’s written as such a fascinating character to begin with and it’s the best possible combination. There were a lot of moments I loved in this episode but I think the wink may have been my favorite small moment. I am happy that Lucy got the validation that she wanted from Tim because she deserves that and as Nyla pointed out, his issues with UC work don’t need to be hers and it’s good that he recognized that as well. But that validation, support, and respect from a woman Lucy admires so much is everything to me. All professional recognition and appreciation of your skills feels good, but it’s even better when it comes from a woman you respect and who you would like to mentor you.
I think my other favorite is the knowing look Nyla gives Lucy when she catches her listening in on her seminar. I have been hoping for more good interactions between them since Lucy rode with her for a shift last season and to see this relationship develop more and it was everything I could have wanted. This was Lucy figuring out and then fighting for what she wanted and Nyla was proud.
Now moving on to Lucy, I love this as a potential path for her. She’s good at it. Her ability to read social cues is exceptional and her ability to think on her feet and surprise people when they underestimate her is going to to make her a natural fit. And as you said, she knows who she is and how to maintain that in the face of pretending to be a very different person. It might test her but it won’t break her.
The couch scene was everything I could have asked for. We got 3 women of color talking about their experience in a male-dominated field while a teenage girl looked at them with so much admiration. It was a really good way to remind Tamara that Lucy really does care about her success and felt badly for missing their initial dinner but it was also a really great informal mentoring session. They had wine and were happy and joking around while also discussing the very real issues they face, particularly in their UC work. I love that this show’s answer is never to set these women up as the one woman allowed to do something, both Nyla and June actively want to get more women involved because that’s how they are going to gain collective power and start to be the people in those vans making the calls. That’s how they make it a better environment for future women and want to show them that the skills they may be denigrated for elsewhere can be a real asset.
I forgot all about my Nolan feelings, which I surprisingly had this week. He was the rookie who was the least integrated into Jackson’s arc in the first half of the season because he had his own thing going on and you get that when your’e the main character. So I really loved him getting to once again engage with the fact that communities of color and especially activists have a difficult time trusting or feeling comfortable around the police. We got it a little with the community center but it was a really good reminder for him that he actively needs to prove himself as not terrible and that he needs to intentionally work to develop trust. I love that he was so genuinely conflicted and looked for multiple perspectives because I do trust that he wants to do the right thing. I also liked the brief “defund the police” discussion that happened in the classroom and wouldn’t mind coming back to that if we continue to see him in class, which I think would be absolutely fascinating.
And now for Nolan! You’re totally right that the show is doing a really great thing by having him learn that he has to actively work to prove that he’s not terrible and can be trusted. He comes from a place of privilege that has him shocked when he—a white, male police officer—might come off as untrustworthy to activists and people of color, and watching him do the work to learn how to be better and do better is nice. I also really liked the nuanced little look at “defund the police” arguments they presented, and I hope we get more of that too.
“This was Lucy figuring out and then fighting for what she wanted and Nyla was proud.” I LOVE this description of Lucy’s story in this episode and Nyla’s reaction to it. Lucy’s choice to follow her gut and proudly say she thinks she could be good at something and then prove it was everything to me. And it was everything to Nyla too.
I also could not agree more with what you said about the show never setting up so only one woman can succeed at one thing. Multiple women are detectives, multiple women are great UCs, multiple women are great TOs…It’s never a competition or the feeling that a woman is the token in her chosen branch of this job. Instead, we get the sense, like you said, that these women are actively trying to encourage other women and mentor them so the next generation will have it even easier than they did. That’s what mentorship is all about. It’s about holding the door open. And that’s what Nyla and June are doing for Lucy in a really wonderful way that left me feeling inspired as someone who really values mentorship—especially from one woman to another.
Great analysis 👏👏👏
Thank you so much!
I basically agree with everything you said.
I love Tim (always) and this episode in particular, Eric is amazing and makes an amazing Tim adding so much more to a character with an interesting personality and backstory.
Honestly, I don’t like Lucy becoming an undercover agent, I really like her on patrol, but it could be interesting to see her try some things and find her way after she graduates.
I also like Jackson with the officer, because the one thing the show does that I don’t like is not continuing some stories (usually with romance) so outside of the Nolans or Lopez/West romance the rest of the time we spend a lot of episodes not knowing if the characters are dating or not (Lucy and the fireman, Tim and Rachel, Jackson and the actor, Harper and the dad she started dating) So I like that we got an update on Jackson’s dating life, now we need to know the rest because I don’t like not knowing for 10 eps.
Plus I’m a big shipper of Lucy and Tim so I hope they are single or become single soon.
The Rookie has become my favorite show and has made me look forward to Sunday nights.
I just realized I wrote West instead of Wesley. * Lopez and Wesley’s romance
Thank you for joining in the fun over here!
I totally agree that this show makes me look forward to Sunday nights, which always makes the Sunday Scaries a little easier. 😉
I’ll be interested to see what they do with Lucy when she’s able to test because they really have set her up as someone who could really do anything. I’d imagine they’ll keep her on patrol for a while since that’s such a huge part of the show, but setting up an undercover storyline for her worked a lot better than I’d imagined it would. Her ability to read people and adapt in different situations and learn quickly makes her someone who could do well at this kind of work, and right now she clearly likes it (and as someone who adores Lucy Chen more than is probably healthy, I just want to see her choose a path she loves). But my dream for her was always to move on to a detective position where she can help get justice for women who’ve gone through traumatic experiences similar to hers. I have faith that whatever path they choose for her eventually will be a good fit!
I was also excited to get an update on Jackson’s relationship status—and to see him get a new love interest! I understand why we’re not getting many updates outside of Angela/Wesley (and now Jackson)—the show has definitely put its energy into telling other stories this season—but I expect we’ll hear about Emmett and Rachel eventually, even if it’s in the context of why they are/aren’t (most likely aren’t?) coming to Angela’s wedding. This show has never been the best at consistently working in supporting character romances, but that’s often a curse of the genre. (And as a fellow Tim/Lucy shipper, that’s one reason why I’d love for them to get together someday—this show needs a good and central romance plot!)
Something crazy about the show is that I really like all the characters, something that doesn’t happen with other shows where there are always a few that I really like, and the rest are ok or I don’t like them.
But yes! Lucy is my favorite character next to Tim (no wonder I like them together, plus that chemistry), she’s the perfect mix between intelligent, skillful and good instincts, she’s sweet and compassionate but strong.
I really enjoy patrol work so I want it to continue as much as possible but at some point the characters will try new things.
My question is, will Tim be a sergeant? Because I doubt he will go elsewhere so maybe Grey becomes Captain and Tim replaces him? I don’t really know much about these things so I don’t know how it works but it would be a solution to not lose any of the characters.
I will miss Tim and Lucy as partners but in the show many times the characters work together, and their relationship is very important in the show so they will find a way to keep them close.
And you’re right, at some point they will talk about the other romantic relationships and we’ll know.
I hope Chenford’s relationship moves forward and they start having more romantic scenes soon.
Btw, I can’t wait for Angela’s wedding.
I loved every single word about this. You hit the nail on the head about the balance of Lucy’s enthusiastic dive into undercover work versus the weight it carries for Tim because of his past. I don’t imagine this will be the first time this comes up and I’m excited to see what happens next.
Thanks so much, Sarah! I totally agree that we’ll be getting more of this story, and I’m excited to see where it takes both Tim and Lucy (as individuals and together)!
I really loved reading this!
I totally love Jackson’s new love interest especially how he came in on a horse like a knight in shining armour.
Maybe its because I’ve stared at the gif too long but the “you okay” with the subtle nod and the way Tim pulled Lucy toward him and she leans back for a second is delicious for my chenford loving heart.
I agree that Nolan being in the background was better. Hes a character who I prefer in the b plot if not c plot. Not for any fault of Nathan’s but because his character just doesn’t resonate the same as the others.
I went in expecting Lucy to the be the star of the episode. Mac getting out that car had me buzzing at the fact they were giving so much well deserved substance to Tim’s undercover history. I fear (and hope!) its not the last we will see of Mac’s wife either.
Female relationships are so often ignored and I totally agree that Nyla letqqqqting Lucy know that it was okay to want Tim’s pride was a fantastic choice. We shouldn’t feel like we have to earn it nor should we be guilty to want it. He is someone she respects and admires, its valid to want him to be proud.
Tamara’s storyline just gives me vibes of something bad happening to her, or that she will betray Lucy’s trust (perhaps mirroring Tims oponion that you dont really know anyone from the premier.) It’s been far too plain sailing so far.
I hope Tamara doesn’t betray her, but I’m sure she will have problems at some point and Lucy will have to help her.
I agree about Nolan. I like the character and he’s funny but normally I like him better when he’s with the rest of the cast and not so much when he’s alone with a guest character and a story of his own.
I do hope its more the problem rather than the betraying route! Nolan is definitely better with cast instead of guest star.
Thank you so much for the kind words and for joining in the fun! I love reading your thoughts!
I totally smiled at your note about Isaac riding in like a knight in shining armor. It’s so true and makes me love that even more because it’s what Jackson deserves. ❤
I also agree that Nolan is just not quite as compelling as the other characters. I get that he's the star, so he's almost always going to be the A-story, but it is nice for him to sometimes get the smaller, more character-focused stories too. It works better for him, and it allows other characters some time to shine.
I'm with you on getting a sense of foreboding with Tamara. I obviously don't want her to betray Lucy, so my gut is telling me she'll be in some kind of danger sometime soon. I really want to see Tim's take on the fact that she's still so close to her "puppy." Not going to lie—I also wanted to know what Harper thought about Tamara because I would imagine she has the same general thoughts on "puppies" as Tim (because she often shares his cynicism) but she also tends to have a soft spot for other women looking to learn.
Thank you for creating somewhere to talk about this amazing show!
I agree about Tamara, I really hope its danger rather than betrayal. I totally agree about Harper having a a similar opinion about Puppies I really wasn’t expecting her to be the type to encourage it. But you are right I think it speaks more to the type of person Tamara is.
I am so happy you’re doing a weekly The Rookie post! And glad that I’ve now finally seen the episode and can come read and comment lol.
I 100% agree with you about Eric in this episode, he was so good. I love that the show hadn’t forgotten about his history with undercover work and Isabel, and reminded the audience of it without totally beating us over the head with it. As you mentioned, his eyes really do a lot of the work in letting us see how upset and worried he is for Lucy and Mack, and Eric does such a great job with that. The moments where Tim softens and lets his care shine through are just wonderful, and I loved seeing it.
Your favorite scene is also my favorite! I don’t think I have anything to add to your wonderful insight, but I also loved it and always appreciate when the show lets us see Harper and Lucy in a storyline together.
Harper’s convention speech was one of my favorite smaller moments in the episode, not just because of the contents of her speech but also because it was awesome to see her get a moment to shine where she is owning the room and showing off her smarts/skill and leadership, and reminding the audience that she was so good at undercover work before she came here that she could (and had in the past) taught others about how to do it.
I am also excited about Jackson’s new potential romance, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes!
I’m so happy to see you over here and I can’t wait to freak out over the rest of the season with you! I am so happy you pointed out Harper’s speech because YES. Watching her command a room and use her expertise to train and inspire others was a great reminder of just how good she is at her job and exactly why Lucy would want her as a mentor so badly.