Ken Tucker
May 01, 2009 AT 05:13 PM EDT

Last night, Southland answered one of the questions I had about it: What’s the deal with Tom Everett Scott’s character? A familiar face appearing in an ensemble cop show, Scott had until recently been pushed to the corners of this increasingly fine new series. But last night, his police detectivbe Russell Clarke was prominent in two subplots: a murder investigation that obsessed his partner, Lydia Adams (is Regina King headed for an Emmy, or what?), and just as interestingly, Russell’s off-duty pursuit of becoming a writer.

Scott’s Russell has followed through on the invitation made last week by a female writer to join her writing class. We know that  part of his inspiration is because he kinda has the hots for teacher. But we also learned that Russell has a wife (or, least, a woman he lives with) who’s both a writer herself and rightly suspicious of Russell’s sudden interest in tapping out prose on his dad’s old manual typewriter. The two had an exquisitely short, bitter scene of tension and recrimination: this is a relationship in jeopardy. Scott is terrific: he conveys boyishness and sleaziness, weariness and cyncism, with understatement.

Southland was so good last night, it wasn’t until it approached its last ten minutes that I thought, hey, where’s Ben McKenzie? The show is fast becoming necessary viewing.

Did you watch? What do you think about the show and its performances?

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