The Rookie Season 1 Episode 16 Recap

By Daniel Hart
Published: March 20, 2019 (Last updated: December 3, 2023)
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The Rookie Episode 16 Recap Greenlight


In a surprisingly emotional chapter for The Rookie, Episode 16, “Greenlight”, places John Nolan in a life-changing situation.

This recap of The Rookie Season 1, Episode 16, “Greenlight”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.

Well, shit. If you go to my first episode recap of The Rookie, I would never have thought this cheesy cop series would make me well up with tears, but Episode 16, “Greenlight”, struck my ducts slightly in a defining episode for John Nolan (Nathan Fillion). Before we get into the specifics, in “Greenlight”, Captain Zoe Andersen (Mercedes Mason) informs the squad that it is reversals day, where they test the integrity of the officers with fake crime situations. They have no idea which crime scene is constructed to trick them; as usual, I found this police exercise to be strange, and far-fetched.

Tim Bradford (Eric Winter) is pissed at the fact that reversals day is happening, claiming all it does is divert police attention from real work, and the entire shift makes him paranoid. The real reason Tim hates reversals day is that it exposed his drug addict wife, who was betrayed by this exercise. Tim sniffs out a reversal instantly, realizing the heights they will go to, using a celebrity to speed through a red light. Jackson West (Titus Makin Jr.) and Angela Lopez (Alyssa Diaz) keep it sharp in “Greenlight”, with the reversals not affecting them both.

The story starts in The Rookie Episode 16 when John Nolan and Talia Bishop (Afton Williamson) get involved in an altercation at a party. One of the women brandishes a knife on John, so he responds naturally by arresting her. Unfortunately, for John, her dress rips and exposes her as he makes the arrest, and she declares that he will be sorry for embarrassing her. Later that evening, as John makes his way home, someone attempts to gun him down with a semi-automatic rifle. According to Captain Andersen, a far-right wing gang group have put a Greenlight on him; the woman he accidentally exposed is the girlfriend of one of the gang members, who is high up the chain.

Episode 16, “Greenlight”, gives John a choice the next day once the police place the protection in his house; either stay at home or come into work. The decision is his. Lucy Chen (Melissa O’Neil) is adamant that he should stay away, at least until the police deal with the fallout. The Rookie turns into a landscape where the police are dealing with a gang that is as powerful as them. As Sergeant Wade Grey (Richard T. Jones) lays out the plans to hurt the gang’s businesses as much as possible, John walks in, which generates applause from the police.

The Rookie Episode 16 Recap Greenlight

The police squad damage businesses and make arrests – enough that the gang have lost enough money. The Sergeant asks the father of the gang to tell his son to call off the Greenlight, or more money will be lost. As John and Captain Andersen are patrolling the streets, they are radioed that the gang has removed the Greenlight, and they are relieved. Unfortunately, they end up in a trap, with the son tying them to chairs next to a swimming pool.

What happens next is heartbreaking for the police force; Captain Andersen is kicked into the pool still tied to the chair, and John desperately begs for them to help her. His attempts to relieve the situation do not seem to be working. Captain Anderson manages to break some of her fingers in order to break free of the chair, and kill a couple of gang members; unfortunately one of the gang members, the son of the father who negotiated with the Sergeant, manages to land a bullet in her neck, and she dies in John’s arms as he runs away.

You can immediately see the guilt impacting John. “Greenlight” could possibly be the episode that makes him into the cop he is in the future. He had a choice – either stay at home or go to work and although he had an infamous gang after him, he still chose to go into action. The scene where he follows her dead body to the coroner’s van is emotional, but you can see the pain stricken all over his face. He gets the honors of arresting the gang member, and Talia reassures him that he should not overthink his decision to work. From here, The Rookie will either treat this as a decent standalone episode, or it will affect John in events to come.

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