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It Doesn’t Get Better for Mike, Southland “Legacy” 

Photo Credit: TNT/Doug Hyun

“Legacy” is a sad reminder of how far bullying can push a teenage kid. When Cooper and Tang are called to break up a domestic disturbance, they find Mike arguing with his parents about going to school. His parents want him to stay home but Mike is determined to go. He’s not ashamed of texting a naked picture of himself to another guy – that guy said he liked him and Mike didn’t think his crush would send his picture around the entire school. This isn’t how Mike wanted to come out, but he refuses to be intimidated. He’s going to school no matter what his parents say but even Cooper questions the wisdom of this. He’s not siding with Mike’s parents but Cooper doesn’t want to see Mike be a walking target.

Photo Credit: TNT/Doug Hyun

Later when Cooper and Tang respond to dispatch about a jumper, Cooper remembers Mike from earlier. He’s been beaten up and Mike tells Cooper he was forced into the dress he now wears. Mike begs with John to let him jump; he can’t believe he was stupid enough to believe his classmates would accept him. Mike thinks his parents will be relieved if he’s gone, but John tells him it’ll get better. Mike doesn’t believe it but the way Cooper’s talking makes Mike ask if he’s gay. John says yes simply and without hesitation – even though the other cops on the rooftop can probably hear him. I loved Cooper before, but in that moment he proved what a great cop he is. He showed that he doesn’t care what other people think about him, especially when saving someone’s life is so much more important than that. But Mike thinks Cooper’s just telling him what he wants to hear so he won’t jump and no amount of talking can change Mike’s mind. He thanks Cooper before he takes the plunge.

I was so happy Cooper was able to grab Mike as he went over. Cooper’s got him by the ankle and is holding on for everything he’s worth when Tang grabs Cooper’s belt to keep him on the roof. The other two officers then rush over to haul Mike up. Talk about a tense few seconds. I was hoping and praying Cooper wouldn’t lose his grip. And when Mike’s back on solid ground, Cooper has to cuff him and take him into custody. Later at the hospital Mike’s placed on a 72 hour psych hold. When Mike asks if it’s tough being a gay cop, Cooper responds, “I got a lot of problems kid. Being gay isn’t one of them.” I love that he says that to Mike, even though it doesn’t stop Mike from killing himself later. I can appreciate that Tang waited until the end of the day to tell him, even though Cooper found out about Mike’s death before that.

I’m so conflicted. I love what Cooper tried to do for Mike, but I think being gay is a problem for him even though he told Mike it’s not. Cooper’s not out at work and when he first met Tang on the job he jumped to some conclusions about what she knew about him. I think it would be tough for him to be out at work – at first – but I hope his words to Mike make him take stock and think about how he wants everyone at work to see him. We know they respect him. We know they’ve all got great John Cooper war stories. I’d like to see him trust his fellow officers enough to let them know the real John Cooper. If nothing else, I’d love for him to talk to Tang about what she overheard on that roof. We know Sherman knows his secret and he’s kept it. I’m sure Tang will too, if that’s what he wants. I don’t know what it’s like to be gay or come out so I can’t judge. But I can hope that any kid or adult who’s being bullied – gay or not – does realize it will get better. High school can be so tough and so can life. But as we grow up we find people to love us just the way we are and support us no matter what.

p.s. Michael Cudlitz was amazing in this (and every) episode.

Southland airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on TNT.

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