Distrust of the American justice system is not uncommon today. This sentiment makes a lot of sense for the Black, Indigenous and people of color who are often the most mistreated by an institution supposedly meant to bring about justice.
This is where “The Equalizer” comes in. CBS’s new show premiered to 20.4 million viewers on Feb. 7. The striking number of viewers — a result of its position on Super Bowl Sunday — matched the sometimes-overwhelming drama of the show.
The show is a reboot of a 1980s show of the same name starring Edward Woodward as Robert McCall. This time though, the protagonist is a woman. Robyn McCall (Queen Latifah, “Girls Trip”) is an operative with killer combat skills and a knack for trouble. Disguised as a divorcee raising her rebellious teenage daughter, McCall is a bit of a mystery. After leaving her illustrious career at the CIA, she seeks a more subtle lifestyle. But, when she must help a young, desperate girl prove her innocence in a murder, McCall recruits some old co-workers and trusted friends to find the true killers.
As she works, McCall realizes that many of the people she helps have nowhere to turn and no person to rely on. These are the people most in need of her protection.
As one might expect, this series’ premiere is action-packed, a bit different from the comedic and lighthearted roles Queen Latifah usually plays. In her most recent comedy “Girls Trip,” for instance, she plays an online gossip reporter who embarks on a wild weekend getaway with her three rowdy best friends. And though “The Equalizer” is an unexpected role for Latifah, she plays the part well and adds a refreshing new layer to the “female action hero” archetype.
McCall doesn’t quite fit the typical image of a crime-fighting hero. As opposed to the unattainable sensuality of Charlize Theron in “Atomic Blonde,” or even a hyper-dominant male such as Chris Evans in “Captain America,” she is simply your average single mother. Still quite a badass, just somewhat more practical.
The show’s poor ratings may be attributed to cheesy, exaggerated and rather absurd plotlines. Regardless, this pilot did a decent job of balancing intense action with more serious social issues. While McCall teaches her daughter about the survival tactics of Black women, she also informs the show’s audience of the inequality Black people face every day.
On top of spotlighting American inequality, the producers still manage to pencil in some comic relief into their protagonist’s busy schedule of mothering and fighting injustice. The humor feels like a required feature of any production that stars Queen Latifah. Nevertheless, “The Equalizer” appears to have more in store for its viewers besides the occasional bad guy and the distressed victim we are all so accustomed to seeing. I’d like to keep watching.
Daily Arts Contributor Molly Hirsch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.