'S.W.A.T.' Deals With a City Under Attack in the Season 4 Premiere (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Season 4 premiere of S.W.A.T., "3 Seventeen Year Olds."]
S.W.A.T. returns with quite a bit to tackle in its Season 4 premiere. While it's a two-parter, the first hour, "3 Seventeen Year Olds," manages to cover the protests against police brutality and racism, the resolution of the finale (mini-) cliffhanger, and COVID over the course of two timelines (March 2020 and April 1992).
As you might recall, the Season 3 finale ended with Hondo (Shemar Moore) tracking down the head of a cartel, El Diablo (Luis Carazo), who, before his death, warned, "I want you to remember when it happens and the city goes up in flames, remember I tried to stop it."
Read on to find out exactly what he meant and how the premiere covered real-world issues in its fictional world.
A Major Loose End
Thanks to interrogations of members of El Diablo's cartel, they know why he showed his face now: His nephew, "Brick Layer," who has a knack for building and welding, is planning on taking over. They have a warrant for a known location of his (an auto shop), but taking him in isn't easy; he has a narco tank at his disposal.
SWAT does get the job done, but as soon as he's in an interrogation room, he thinks he can dictate where he does time — because he can rat on more dangerous people, those his uncle had warned Hondo about. "Brick Layer" was also running a coyote business on the side, and he helped a group of three men and one woman cross the border, who plan to attack Los Angeles.
Their first target is the largest blood bank on the west side; the explosion (via a suicide bomber) kills seven and sends six to triage. But they know that's just the beginning. By taking out the medical reserves first, that makes treating the victims of the next attack harder.
"Brick Layer" only reluctantly shares that the group had bomb-making materials and he had someone watching them, but their last known location seems to be a bust ... at first. Tan (David Lim) recognizes a hat there as a YouTube jokester's, and he's having a pop-up event that day. It's the next target, and they do manage to capture the remaining three of the group, but the explosion kills 10. Deacon (Jay Harrington) correctly speculates that there are more attacks planned based on the bomb-making material found.
Connecting the terrorists online leads to the discovery of a fifth member of the group known as "The American." They identify him as an EMS ambulance driver, Frank Tammel, who's on his way to the triage center where the victims from the second attack are being treated — and Darryl (Deshae Frost) is there checking on a friend. SWAT does stop Frank, but only after Hondo disobeys Hicks' (Patrick St. Esprit) orders to do so. His actions save lives but do send him to the hospital with two cracked ribs.
Has the World Changed?
Leading up to the community party, hosted by Ms. Hattie (Lynette Dupree) every year since the 1992 riots following the Rodney King verdict, things are tense between Hondo and his father, Daniel Sr. (Obba Babatundé), especially while filling in Darryl on what happened back then because it brings up bad memories.
Then, in April 1992, as the riots broke out following the verdict, Hondo insisted on helping, while his father's priority was his safety. It was after saving a man's life that Hondo revealed he had enlisted and wasn't going to college.
Meanwhile, in March 2020, SWAT discusses what they recall about the time, leading to Deacon (whose memories are from what was shown on TV) feeling old when Street (Alex Russell) and Tan admit it's not much. (Luca helped the father of his first girlfriend in Koreatown stand guard outside the family restaurant.) Chris (Lina Esco) lies and says she doesn't remember anything but later reveals to Street that her mother took advantage of the situation and stole a CD player, microwave, and hair curler.
At the community party, Hondo admits to his father that part of the reason why he enlisted was because he knew it would hurt him (and his father had hurt him by leaving his mother). He'd thought that if he'd followed his father's dreams (college, football), it would've brought them closer together.
Hondo had asked Hicks to speak at the party, and the commander was nervous about what he'd say. He was an inexperienced patrol officer during the riots, "probably not a very good cop back then," he admits to those gathered. His superior officer had told them to vacate their neighborhoods, and while they could've gone against those orders and suffered the consequences, he didn't.
"Today, I hold my SWAT officers to a much higher standard, and 28 years ago, I wish I'd lived up to that standard," he says. His sergeant went against his orders and saved lives. Hicks has to live with not doing the same in 1992.
Upon hearing that, Hondo's father walks away, and Darryl follows. In Daniel Sr.'s mind, nothing has changed from when he was the teen's age. Back then, he was stopped while walking home from school by two white cops who threw his trumpet to the ground and put a switchblade to his throat, telling him they could kill him and no one would care. It's a heartbreaking story, and Babatundé's performance while telling it may be the standout moment of the entire episode.
Hondo joins them, and while he hopes that people will learn the lesson now, his father isn't so sure. It doesn't sound like the two will ever be on the same side on this.
"The World's About to Change"
At the beginning of the premiere, people are just starting to wear masks. Luca (Kenny Johnson) videos in; he feels bad he's in Berlin when the virus is hitting (he's advising the best Germany, France, and Italy have and seeing if they have any secrets to share), but Hondo tells him to just stay safe.
But just as the community party is kicking off, Lynch's phone beeps: The mayor says the city may have to be shut down. What does that mean for SWAT, Hicks asks. "The world's about to change," Lynch tells him.
And in the powerful scene that bookends the episode — the protests following George Floyd's death — masks are the norm. Hondo, his father, and Darryl are all wearing them as they kneel before the below:
S.W.A.T., Wednesdays, 10/9c, CBS