The third season two-part opener of The Equalizer, which was filmed as part of the block at the end of season two, was broadcast on 23 September, 1987 as a feature-length episode. Written by Coleman Luck it featured a few familiar faces alongside Edward Woodward’s portrayal of Robert McCall, Keith Szarabajka shows up as Mickey, William Atherton plays the baddie, Alpha, Tom Atkins plays an investigating detective, and Telly Savalas plays a monk, who alongside Atkins’ cop, has a connection to Alpha.
Spreading the story over two episodes makes it work really well, though I think some things could have been put in a different order to make it work out a little better. Still, it’s a solid episode.
Alpha is a terrorist who has changed his appearance over the years, he’s in New York, building his cover, and his pattern so he’s ready for his next assignment, which is the assassination of a religious figure who will be coming to New York.
Alpha had romanced Linda (Moira Sinise), whose mother (Elizabeth Franz), is suspicious of Alpha, and has discovered a shotgun amongst his belongings. She reached out to McCall for help, and while he’s initially against the idea when he spots Alpha tailing her, he agrees.
Meanwhile, law enforcement, including Standish (Atkins), are attempting to hunt Alpha down before he can strike, and they consult with a former terrorist, a man who has since turned to god, and someone McCall has a past grudge against, Brother Joseph Heiden (Savalas).
With Mickey helping, the pair try their best to stay ahead of Alpha, but he always seems to be one step ahead, outsmarting, outwitting, and frustrating McCall.
Alpha gaslight Linda and constantly traps McCall, and it’s only through his experiences and connections, like Mickey, that allows him to ultimately triumph over the villain.
It’s a tightly paced pair of episodes that isn’t afraid to go dark and let the story and the characters take their time to develop through the course of the story. There are some tense sequences and some wonderful moments that put McCall through his paces and also let Mickey shine.
It’s a helluva start to the season, something that portends a number of great things to come, but there was trouble on the horizon for the series.
After the shooting of the pair of episodes, the cast and crew went on their summer hiatus, and in that time, Woodward suffered a heart attack. This was something that the producers and showrunners wanted to keep quiet to keep the show going, but it would necessitate some changes to stories and cast for parts of the third season.