Homicide: Life on the Street

Season 2 Episode 1

Bop Gun

Aired Friday 10:00 PM Jan 06, 1994 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
40 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

Bop Gun
All the detectives scramble to solve the case, when the mother, in a family on vacation, is murdered during a holdup. The husband has a hard time dealing with the reality of him not doing anything during the situation and Felton's indifference. When the suspects are found Howard is convinced that the youth who confesses to the murder didn't do it.moreless

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  • After a vacationing mother is shot in broad daylight, in front of her husband and children, Howard and Felton arrive at the scene. Felton gets on the widower husbands bad side.moreless

    This episode is all about the widow(Robin Williams) who is perfect in this role. The conversation between Williams and Kay Howard at the end is well done. Williams character mentions that coming to court was a duty and seeing the people involved punished didnt make him feel any better, he's right, it wont bring his wife back.

    Don't get me wrong, i love Robin Williams, but perhaps the only thing wrong with this episode is that fact that he appeared in too many scenes. This episode strayed away from the typical one, putting the focus on the life of someone outside of the squad.moreless
  • For me this was the episode that started it all.

    This was my first Homicide episode. Yes, I'm one of those who tuned in to see Robin Williams. What I got was an interesting dramatic show with great characters. This episode is not a great entry point, but it is what made Homicide great. It's not always about the case. It's about the people involved. It's about the detectives who live life on the streets. It's about how they interact with the victims and the killers and each other. This was classic Homicide. It is classic Homicide. It is great Homicide.

    Melissa Leo is a standout, as is Mr. Baldwin. Robin Williams is amazing in this, proving to me that he can do more than just comedy.

    Great television at it's finest.moreless
  • The most watched episode--- and one that changed Homicide forever

    ‘Bop Gun’ was the last episode filmed for the shows ‘second season’ but it would be the first one aired. NBC chose to lead with it for a few reasons most of them having to do with the shows guest star. Robin Williams made a rare television appearance and an even rarer dramatic turn. NBC thought (correctly) that the presence of a marquee name like Williams would boost the shows ratings. However, this episode could have been filmed with a lower level guest star and it still would have been one of ‘Homicide’s best episodes.

    In many ways, ‘Bop Gun’ is a radical departure from what the previous episodes. A single storyline, independent of previous episodes, fills the hour. We follow the grueling experience of Robert Ellison, a tourist vacationing in Baltimore whose wife is killed right in front of him in a robbery. The episode tracks the man’s experiences as his case is investigated by (mostly) indifferent police which yields an arrest, conviction and a life sentence. None of which brings the victims husband any closure or relief or ability to move on.

    For the first time, the show examines the real victims of murder. We never see Katherine Ellison killed, but we do see how those around the victim are forced to react. While the detectives are initially sensitive to the mans grief, some of them don’t hide it very well. Beau Felton, the primary, is not a very capable man for demonstrating proper behavior. In one of the shows most memorable scenes, Munch and Felton (neither known for being subtle) make fun of Ellison’s inability to help identify the shooters and express happiness at the fact that since the case is a red ball, they will rack up the overtime--- all the while unaware that Ellison is just a few feet away. Some of the other police are better equipped. Lieutenant Giardello helps smooth over Ellison’s complaints and to try and express the proper level of concern. Bayliss (who is probably the most capable man in Homicide of sympathizing) does his level best to try and comfort him.

    But as the episode makes very clear, there are some events that people can not get past no matter what happens.

    Robert Ellison goes through the first half of the episode much like Bayliss did in ‘Ghost of a Chance’--- like he is in a fog. Most of this is due to the fact that he will be replaying the moments in which his wife got shot for the rest of his life. Nothing will bring his wife back and he knows it. The legacy of an instant that could not have been prepared for will haunt him forever. He sums up his situation better than anyone after the sentencing of the shooter’s accomplices.

    “When the trigger was pulled, I lost my wife but I joined a club. Its a very exclusive club. But the funny thing about the club is none of the members want to belong. It’s like some sort of secret society where only the initiated can recognize the other members.” There is no real relief for people like this. And, as Ellison points out, the club is getting larger every day.

    When we see him on late night television or on stage, we often forget that Robin Williams is a very fine actor. He’s a meteorite of comedic energy, but he also has a very serious side. And when he is given a very powerful script, like he is here, he is as good as any other dramatic actor. This is a top notch performance, arguably the best serious work that he has ever done.

    Yet for all of Williams work, he isn’t the whole show. The killer is just a nameless street hustler. Vaughn Perkins, the shooter, is an average guy with almost no criminal record. His father was murdered, he goes to a good school. Of all the people that could have committed this crime, he is on the bottom of the list. When he is arrested, he says nothing but writes a letter of apology to the victims. This infuriates Felton but disturbs Kay Howard. She keeps focusing on a phrase in the note: ‘I had the power but I forgot who I was.” She doesn’t believe he’s the shooter even after Vaughn pleads guilty and receives a life sentence with no possibility of parole. She tries to put it together but gets nowhere. Finally she talks with Vaughn in prison and learns the truth--- Vaughn took the gun so that he could ensure that nobody would get hurt--- the shooting was, in essence, an accident. As it turns out, Ellison is not the only man who will spend the rest of his life replaying the moment. None of this brings any comfort to Howard; perhaps she would have done better to leave the case alone, like Felton. The episode also gives Melissa Leo a chance to do some of her best work on the series.

    ‘Bop Gun’ is a landmark episode. It would be the first time that ‘Homicide would pursue those who are left behind when someone dies. It would also be the first time that the show would cast a comic actor in a serious role. More importantly to the shows evolution, it would also be the first time that ‘Homicide’ would pursue a single story instead of several ongoing ones. They would never quite give up having several stories per episode--- but they would begin to start exploring single kinds of stories. This would lead to several great dramatic moments but it would also fundamentally change the spirit of the show.

    But all of that is for later. By itself, ‘Bop Gun’ is one of those powerful television episodes that most shows rarely produces but ‘Homicide’ manage to do a couple of times a year at least. This is great stuff.

    Rank BY Fan’s 14th

    My score:10

Robin Williams (I)

Robin Williams (I)

Robert Ellison

Guest Star

Lloyd Goodman

Lloyd Goodman


Guest Star

Antonio D. Charity

Antonio D. Charity

Kid Funkadelic

Guest Star

Herb Levinson

Herb Levinson


Recurring Role

Richard Pilcher

Richard Pilcher

Sgt. Mark Deutch

Recurring Role

Mel Proctor

Mel Proctor

Grant Besser

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (2)

    • Ellison: The instant they pulled the trigger I lost my wife, but I joined a club. It's a very exclusive club. But the funny thing about the club is that none of the members want to belong. It's like some sort of secret society where only the initiated can recognize the other members.

    • Felton: Marvin, you have the right to remain silent, although personally I don't feel remaining silent is all that its cracked up to be.

  • NOTES (3)

    • Robin Williams earned an Emmy nomination for his performance in this episode.

    • Even though this episode was produced last, NBC pulled the airing of this episode to the beginning of the season. Hoping to capitalize on William's star power to get good ratings. Thanks Aaron Schatz for reminding me of this.

    • Music in this episode: Seal "Killer" alb: Seal (1991); Public Enemy "Get Off My Back" alb: Greatest Misses; Eric B. & Rakim "Chinese Arithmetic" alb: Paid in Full; Sonny Boy Williamson "Don't Start Me Talkin'" alb: Down & Out; Buddy Guy "Feels Like Rain" alb: Feels Like Rain.