Pilot Script Review of The Equalizer (2021 series)
Like The CW's Kung Fu (read my review), a CBS reboot of The Equalizer has been in the works for several years now. The original version of the series aired on CBS for four seasons from 1985 to 1989, and starred Edward Woodward as Robert McCall, a retired intelligence agent with a mysterious past who used his prodigious skills to exact justice on behalf of innocent people trapped in dangerous circumstances. A new take on the character was conceived for the 2014 feature film, directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Denzel Washington, which in turn spawned a sequel four years later, The Equalizer 2. Both did great at the box-office. In this new TV reboot, the iconic character has been reimagined as a woman, with Queen Latifah starring and executive producing.
For a title with so much history, I suppose it shouldn't surprise that a whopping six companies are behind the reboot. Universal, which produced the original series is back, alongside CBS Television Studios, Davis Entertainment, Flavor Unit, Martin Chase Productions & Milmar Pictures. Mounting the project has been a priority at Universal for at least five years, with multiple attempts quietly developed. To help ensure that it finally makes it this year, Universal brought Andrew V. Marlowe & Terri Edda Miller onboard. Marlowe created, executive produced and was the showrunner for Castle, where Miller was an executive producer. Signing Queen Latifah was the cherry on top that prompted CBS to sign a pilot production commitment.
WRITTEN BY: Andrew V. Marlowe & Terri Edda Miller
DRAFT DATE: 1/21/2020 Network Revision
PAGE COUNT: 62 pages
SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: JEWEL MACHADO (18) is behind the counter of a down-scale donut shop late at night. After her last customer leaves, she closes. It's 2 am. As she steps into an alley, a man seems to be fighting with two shadowy figures. His terrified eyes meet hers just as a gunshot ends his life. Now it's Jewel who's terrified. She starts running when the armed men see her, chasing her until she's cornered by a chain link fence. She finds a hole in the bottom and slides under it; her shirt gets caught in the fence, but she continues and finds herself at train tracks. She just has just enough time to time to cross them before a train passes by. She disappears into the darkness.
Meanwhile, ROBYN McCALL (40s) is wide awake after having her usual nightmare. Disoriented, she looks around. Everything's quiet. She goes to the kitchen, where AUNT FRY (60s) is also awake, making tea. They exchange a few pleasantries; they're clearly close and have each other's backs. Back to the dark alley at dawn, where DETECTIVE MARCUS DANTE (40s) kneels over the body of the man who was shot. Jewel is nearby; she's already been interviewed as the only witness. We cut to a phone camera view of the young woman: the men from the night before are on a rooftop, filming her. At the same time, Robyn is bringing her daughter DELILAH WINTER (15) to the mall. They have some shopping to do. In the parking lot, she sees a guy snaking the spot of a pregnant woman. Her daughter knows exactly what's going to happen and she's already hiding from shame. Robyn strides over the guy, shouts at him, and humiliates him. Later, while shopping, she stumbles upon a piece of origami and instantly knows it's for her. Written on it is "Santa Monica Pier. 10pm". We jump to that moment, where she meets WILLIAM BISHOP (60s), who tells her "they" want her back. She's reluctant. She says they've lost her trust. Moments later, she's alone and notices a man fighting with a woman, who happens to be Jewel. Robyn asks Jewel if she needs help. She says she's fine and leaves with the man, jumping into his car. Robyn jumps into hers and follows them to a garage...
COMMENTS: CBS (finally) realized they had a diversity problem a couple of years ago, and to their credit they've put some significant effort into being more inclusive, with the pick up of shows like God Friended Me, All Rise, The Neighborhood and Bob Hearts Abishola, all featuring African American leads. The Equalizer joins that list this year. What's beautiful here is that three generations of black women share the screen and live under the same roof: there's our heroine Robyn McCall, who's in her forties, strong-willed, charming, and wise with an edge; her fifteen year-old daughter Delilah, who's, well, a fifteen year-old; and Frieda “Aunt Fry” Lascombe, Robyn’s aunt and her rock, especially since her divorce. Aunt Fry is a wise sixty year-old truth-teller, and a wary optimist. They're not together a lot in the pilot but when they are, it's magic &mdas; Queen Latifah and Lorraine Toussaint should make a hell of a duo. One of Robyn's closest friends is Melody Chu (played by Liza Lapira), an edgy asian-american bar owner with a wry sense of humor and a sunny disposition. She's a former colleague of Robyn’s and a highly decorated Air Force sniper in a previous life. CBS has rarely had so many women front and center.
Of course, this being CBS, The Equalizer is very much a case-of-the-week procedural. Outside of its casting, it doesn't try to be revolutionary and that's okay. As long as it's fast-paced and the actions scenes are up to snuff, people will show up. You'll have Queen Latifah playfully changing her appearance from fake lawyer to fake doctor, catching the bad guys, and humiliating them whenever she gets the opportunity. Her dialogue sparks and she should have a lot of fun with the role. Also fun is Harry, the lovable but paranoid geek in his thirties who works with Robyn and Melody and never misses an opportunity to crack a joke. By now this character is a procedural archetype, sitting behind his computer while the others are out in the field, always ready to help trace a phone call, or track the bad guy via GPS.
FINAL RECOMMENDATION: An action-packed procedural, The Equalizer reboot is right in CBS's wheelhouse. That it stars a strong woman, backed by a diverse cast is the icing on the cake. It's a winner for a series order and there's a fair chance it becomes a central piece of the network's schedule for the next few years. Plus, it should be easy to sell internationally. This one has A LOT going for it.
OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:
[ ] PASS
[ ] CONSIDER
BEST FIT: Mondays at 9 or Thursdays at 10.