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How Lethal Weapon 2 Nearly Killed Riggs (& The Franchise)

Lethal Weapon 2 was another success for the action series, but the original plan to kill Riggs in the finale would have also killed the franchise.

Lethal Weapon 2 was set to end with the death of Mel Gibson’s Riggs, which would have killed the franchise along with it. Shane Black was only 23 when he sold his Lethal Weapon screenplay, and while it wasn’t the first buddy cop movie, it came to define the genre. The film was a perfect storm of the right director in Richard Donner, the casting of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover and Black’s script. This made Lethal Weapon movie a surprise smash, with the crew soon being reassembled for a sequel. Black co-wrote his draft of Lethal Weapon 2 with Warren Murphy and has since called it the best screenplay he’s ever written.


Dubbed Play Dirty, this script had the same basic story but was much darker. Notable scenes included an airplane loaded with cocaine exploding over LA – showering it in “snow” – and a finale where Riggs dies of his wounds. The final scene of this Lethal Weapon 2 had Riggs saying goodbye to Murtaugh via a tape he had recorded just before his death. While the script was considered excellent, Donner and the studio felt it was far too bleak, and not only wanted a lighter tone but to leave the chance of another sequel open. Since killing Riggs jeopardized that, Shane Black’s – who has made many Christmas movies – script was rejected.

Related: Lethal Weapon Already Had Its Perfect Ending (Part 5 Isn’t Needed)

Lethal Weapon 5 Could Revisit Riggs’ Dark Fate

black quit Lethal Weapon 2 over the changes that were made, and had nothing to do with the final two outings. Lethal Weapon 3 and 4 were both successful, but are often considered inferior to the first two films. The studio was no doubt glad they spared Riggs, but it would have been the bolder choice to kill the character off. Grim as Black’s version of the sequel would have been, it sounds like it was more in keeping with the tone of the original. Of course, there’s still a chance Riggs’ original fate could be revisited.

Prior to his passing in 2021, Richard Donner developed Lethal Weapon 5, with Gibson and Glover set to return. Gibson has since taken over as director, and while little about the sequel has been revealed, it could still return to Play Dirty’s planned ending. Lethal Weapon 5 will almost certainly be the final entry and is thus free to return to the roots of the saga. Considering the comic tone of later entries, it’s almost easy to forget how intense and uncompromising the original was. Lethal Weapon 5 can bring the story of Riggs and Murtaugh full circle – meaning the former might meet his original fate.

How The Lethal Weapon TV Show Killed Riggs

Riggs may have survived in the Lethal Weapon movies, but not on the TV spin-off. The series cast Clayne Crawford as Riggs and Damon Wayans as Murtaugh, but the two actors didn’t get along at all. This came to a head when Wayans’ was injured by shrapnel during an episode Crawford directed. Season 2 closed with Riggs shot in the chest by his half-brother, in revenge for Riggs killing their criminal father. Crawford was later fired after the finale aired, with the season 3 premiere revealing Riggs died offscreen. Riggs was then replaced by Seann William Scott’s Wesley Cole as Murtaugh’s new partner, but the show itself was soon canceled.

Next: Lethal Weapon Season 3 Episode 5 Saw The Show Move Past Riggs’ Death