Is ‘The Rookie’ Hinting at a Bradford & Chen Romance?

The Rookie Season 2 Bradford Chen
ABC/Christopher Willard

ABC’s The Rookie left viewers with a major cliffhanger when the show broke for winter, and now that it’s back, we can’t help but notice a possible romance brewing between two of L.A.’s finest.

There’s no denying rookie officer Lucy Chen (Melissa O’Neil) and training officer Tim Bradford (Eric Winter) have chemistry — it’s been that way for quite some time, though always on a more platonic level. But could recent events be making way for more than a professional relationship between the two?

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After Chen was kidnapped in the winter finale by the deranged Caleb (Michael Cassidy), Bradford led the hunt alongside Nathan Fillion‘s Officer Nolan in the winter premiere, “Day of Death.” Racked with guilt, Bradford couldn’t hide his anxiety and guilt over her abduction. “She went out with Caleb because I told her to,” he said. “She hesitated and I pushed her right at him.”

As the search for Chen continued, he said things like “I will do whatever I have to, to save her.” And he wasn’t lying, as he wound up being the one who found her first by spotting her ring lying in the sand over the spot where Caleb had buried her in a barrel in the desert.

The Rookie Chen Bradford

(Credit: ABC/Christopher Willard)

Performing CPR, he comforted his partner once she came to, posted up by her bedside as she awoke in the hospital. “Have you been there all night?” she asked when saw him beside her, and even though he claimed he hadn’t, we’re willing to bet he hadn’t moved in hours.

And while this could seem like lingering guilt over Chen’s situation and concern for his coworker (and mentee!), the usually gruff Bradford goes above and beyond to cheer her up. He asks her if she’s hungry and even before she can share her craving, he already has the veggie burger and fries she’d like on hand. “You know me so well,” she says before he adds, “too well.”

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Mixing this in with the sentiment of Chen saying she’s “never going on another date again,” it will almost be too perfect if they do end up together.

The episode that followed, “Now and Then,” contained even more hints that a romance for the two could be on the horizon. When Chen retunrs to work, Officer Harper (Mekia Cox) asks Bradford what his plans are for reintegrating his partner into the field. When he says he’s “gonna remind her that she’s a cop, not a victim,” Harper can see Bradford means well and has Chen’s best interests at heart. But Harper suggests that maybe spending time with a different T.O. would be better suit the traumatized member of the police force, so he concedes — putting Chen’s needs above his own, and putting a pause on their professional partnership.

The Rookie Chen Bradford

(Credit: ABC/Christopher Willard)

Later on, he teases her when he sees her give a hug to Nolan’s soon-to-be daughter-in-law, Abigail (Madeleine Coghlan). The light exchange is a bit of a departure from their usual teacher-student dynamic.

Bradford’s concerns for Chen are elaborated when he tells her “if you need anything, let me know.” From what viewers know about Bradford, he’s not always so accommodating, so this signifies a bit of special treatment for Chen.

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Bradford also follows up on Chen by speaking to Nolan about her, asking, “How’s she really doing?” When Nolan tells him about her death date tattoo, Bradford notes that “tragedies always leave scars” even if they’re not visible.

That episode concluded with a conversation between the pair when he notices her kickboxing, and her aversion to the tattoo which reminds her of the horrible experience. “You know, I’ve got half a dozen scars,” he shares. “Then there’s ones you can’t see, and whether I like it or not, they’re a part of me.”

The Rookie Chen Bradford

(Credit: ABC/Christopher Willard)

She stops his speech and tells him that she knows what he’s trying to do by giving her some type of pep talk. “You didn’t die, you lived and now he’s the one in the ground,” he tells her bluntly about Caleb after she tried brushing him off. He then goes on to reference the tattoo directly and says that she may see it as a sign of failure, but “I see it as proof that you’re a survivor… it was the first day of the rest of your life and no one can take that away from you.”

The moment concludes on a lighter note when he asked if she’ll be riding with him the next day, and when she confirms she will, he begins doling out orders like old times. The shift in their friendship becomes clearer with each passing exchange though and he departs the scene by handing her a ring that he found in the spot where she was buried in the desert.

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If none of these points have convinced you that there’s possibly something going on between these two, look no further than Winter’s own words. Early in Season 2, TV Insider asked the actor about Bradford and Chen’s chemistry and whether it will lead to something more than platonic friendship. “It’s definitely something the fans talk about a lot, I think there’s legit chemistry. I think it’s a scary place. It’s something that Bradford would never organically do, being a superior to her.”

So, if Bradford wouldn’t do anything organically, would nearly losing his teammate push him over the edge? We suspect so, but only time will tell.

The Rookie, Sundays, 10/9c, ABC