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Character Development: Lydia Gets Her Man in Southland’s “Off Duty” 

Photo Credit: Doug Hyun/TNT
Photo Credit: Doug Hyun/TNT

Things probably aren’t going all that well if you’re sharing intimate details of your life with a death row inmate. We know Lydia has some serious walls that she doesn’t really seem interested in knocking down. She got involved with a married man, probably so she wouldn’t have to face the possibility of being in a relationship that might have a future. She keeps Dorian Missick’s Det. Rueben Robinson, her partner of a year, at arm’s length, probably so she won’t have to depend on him the way she depended on Tom Everett Scott’s Det. Russell Clarke. It took the death of her mother for Lydia to bond with her baby. And now that her baby’s father wants to be a part of Christopher’s life? She wants to shut him out. I’ve always admired Lydia’s work ethic because oftentimes all she is is the job. But maybe now it’s time for her to be a little more vulnerable and get a personal life.

In last week’s “Under the Big Top,” Rueben finally called Lydia on her sh*t and I’ve got to admire him for that. He accused her of keeping secrets, which she does, and maybe for the first time Lydia realized how closed off she’s been with her partner. So when she’s dropping Christopher off at Rueben’s house at the beginning of “Off Duty,” I feel like Lydia’s really making an effort. She trusts Rueben and his wife enough to leave her child with them. And why does she need a babysitter? Because she’s scheduled to fly to Arizona for the execution of a serial killer that night. Since she and Rueben can’t catch a real case that day, they have plenty of downtime to talk about this guy. And what Rueben learns is that Lydia’s grown close to him. Lydia won’t admit to it out loud, but Rueben knows her well enough to see it anyway. And he can see she’s closer to this man than she should be.

Lydia claims to have cultivated the relationship to try and close a long-dead cold case, but it doesn’t explain why she seems so attached to him. She’s formed a friendship with him. She seems to care about him. And this is a serial killer. He killed innocent people and an off-duty cop. Eric says that Lydia catching him allowed him to find a different path. And the pen pal correspondence they struck up helped him see light in his life; he’s grateful. But it helped Lydia too because she needed someone to talk to. For whatever reason, she couldn’t find someone in her circle of friends and family to confide in, so she poured her heart out to this guy who was basically a stranger. In so many ways, a stranger is safe because they don’t know you. They won’t judge you the way that friends and family will. And Lydia needed that, especially with everything that was going on in her life.

So when she shows up at the prison, it’s interesting to see how she interacts with Eric. She keeps herself a little reserved. He’s so happy to see her; we can see what having this relationship with her has meant to him. But Lydia goes into work mode and tries to get that final confession out of him. But he knows what she’s doing, and we see that this relationship with real to Lydia, it did mean something to her. In the end all she has to do is tell Eric the name of her son for him to give up the location of those bodies. Was it worth it for Lydia? I’d say yes, because she was able to do her job. I’d also say no, because she used her son to do it. But at the end of the day Lydia got that final confession out of him. Whether or not I like her methods, I’ve got to admit she’s really good at her job.

I’ll never get tired of learning more about Lydia and what makes her tick. I hope her relationship with Rueben continues to grow. I hope she can find a long-term, loving relationship with a man who is good for her. But more than anything, I can’t wait to see what Regina King will continue to bring to this role.

Southland airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on TNT.

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