Roush Review: Hail to the New ‘Equalizer’ Queen

The Equalizer Pilot Queen Latifah CBS Robyn McCall
Barbara Nitke/CBS

Hello, Dirty Harriet!

“Now it’s my world,” gloats Robyn McCall (Queen Latifah, regally fierce) after taking down three armed combatants without breaking a sweat. The CIA agent turned vigilante do-gooder is The Equalizer 2.0, a role that fits the Queen almost too perfectly.

Taking over the role once occupied on CBS by Edward Woodward (1985-89) and on the big screen by Denzel Washington (2014 and 2018), Latifah is cool and calculated, unflappable even when being waterboarded. Beset by PTSD nightmares from a mission gone wrong — the fault of craven politicians, naturally — Robyn is a one-woman demolition squad with an eye for the underdog. She’s guardian angel as beast.

Just ask Robyn’s first client, Jewel (Lorna Courtney), a teenage waitress and future scholarship student who’s deep-fake framed for the murder she just witnessed, who voices the show’s premise: “Who do you go to when you can’t go to the cops?” For this Equalizer, the mission is personal: “Everybody’s playing chess,” she says, contemptuous of a system that ignores helpless pawns like Jewel. “Nobody’s thinking about the living, breathing pieces that we sacrifice along the way.”

The network knew what it was doing by launching the Equalizer reboot on the coattails of the Super Bowl, a night when the appetite has been whetted for bone-crunching battle, swaggering attitude and uncomplicated storytelling. Everyone in Robyn’s secret orbit, including her former agency handler-turned-security consultant William Bishop (the expert Chris Noth), acknowledges she’s the best, a go-to quarterback for justice who rarely misses a throw.

And who’s arguing? If looks could kill, she’d be a serial offender. 

“You don’t have to give me the mean look,” quips her requisite shaggy-dog hacker buddy Harry (Adam Goldberg). Mel (Liza Lapira), another off-the-grid helper who’s a crack shot when not tending bar, observes, “I know that look. That’s your ‘I’m going to do something crazy’ look.” The only one who doesn’t instantly succumb to Robyn’s steely gaze is her entitled, bratty daughter (Laya DeLeon Hayes). Give it time.

The Equalizer Robyn Mel Harry Team

Barbara Nitke/CBS

Gender reversal aside, there’s little that’s surprising about this reboot. Which should make it a comfortable fit on future Sundays alongside the NCIS spinoffs. If they can’t stop crime, nobody can.

The Equalizer, Series Premiere, Sunday, February 7, 10/9c, 7/PT (time approximate after the Super Bowl), CBS