The Equalizer (1985) – Pilot, and China Rain

I don’t know what the first episode of The Equalizer was that I saw, but I remember where I was, and I knew I found the concept and execution interesting, even at 14. It was grittier than a lot of the episodic television that was being broadcast at the time, a little darker, and had as its main character a man who had done terrible things in the line of duty and was now, stepping away from the Company and that duty, he wanted to make things right for ordinary people, to help them out with is a specific set of skills.

Edward Woodward plays that man, Robert McCall. He’s working on helping out those in need in New York, very much a character itself in the series, while trying to work on his own personal life, including a long-broken connection with his son, Scott (William Zabka).

Created by Richard Lindheim and Michael Sloan (who wrote the pilot) the series debuted on 18 September, 1985.

He is still in touch with his former colleagues, especially Control (Robert Lansing) who will aid him in return for favours, he has an uneasy alliance with the police in the form of Burnett (Steven Williams). His aid offers help to those that need it, help for the helpless, and he will equalize the odds.

In the series opener, he takes on two clients, Hamilton (Jack Davidson) who has been targeted for death by his greedy telecommunications corporation because they are blackmailing a presidential candidate.

This episode illustrates the morally grey area his old Company works in, and wants to have him return to, while the other story, is a little more human. Carlene (Patricia Kalember) is receiving obscene phone calls and has a stalker intent on drawing a game with her culminating in her rape. The police can’t help because he hasn’t done anything yet.

Carlene refuses to leave her life behind and refuses to live in fear, and turns to McCall, who makes an almost disastrous error in her protection, but resolves everything nicely by the episode’s end.

Dark, gritty, and letting Woodward shine with his style and delivery. This series is going to be a winner, and I can’t wait to catch up on it.

China Rain had a teleplay written by Joel Surnow, Maurice Hurley, and Victor Hsu, from a story by Hsu. It first aired on 25 September, 1985.

McCall picks up a new client when a Chinatown gang kidnaps what they believe is the son of a wealthy couple, the Lins (Tzi Ma and Jodi Long). Unfortunately, they end up grabbing the wrong child, the son of the maid, Mrs. Tom (Lauren Tom), who is already on thin ice with her employees.

The police led by Burnett try to help the situation, but Tom’s employers refuse to pay the ransom for the boy, so she turns to McCall. He and the police help them maintain the illusion of negotiation while he goes to work.

McCall uses his resources and contacts, including Control and wildcard Mickey Kostmayer (Keith Szarabajka). Micheky’s presence ensures that there will be some gunplay, but it will all sort out by the episode’s end.

Watch for an uncredited appearance by iconic stunt performer Al Leong.

And let’s take a moment and recognize the fantastic, and iconic 80s synth sound that brings the score to life, supplied by the one and only Stewart Copeland of The Police.

Woodward’s McCall is cool, unflappable and singularly focused on the task at hand.


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