Overall, The Rookie isn’t known for being the most serious of a procedural, often including a fair amount of humor to combat the serious nature of the police job. Despite the numerous laugh-out-loud scenes, it has definitely had its moments of heartbreak that left the audience with tears in their eyes.
From important character deaths to big character arcs, the actors have delivered some truly emotional performances, and it is one of the many reasons fans love to tune in every week.
Bradford Sees His Wife Again
Tim Bradford’s arc is tragic from the very start of the show when the audience first sees him encounter his wife Isabel, who is a drug addict and barely even recognizes her husband. Following one of The Rookie’s biggest plot twists, Bradford tries to reason with her and even ends up giving her his money, all in front of his new rookie, Chen.
It gives a great insight into why Tim is as hard on the outside as he is, and it’s a fantastic introduction into a season-long arc. But it’s Bradford’s face when he sees Isabel that breaks the hearts of everyone who watches it.
Nolan Walks With Capt. Andersen
The death of one of the beloved characters, Captain Zoe Andersen ranks high on the list of The Rookie’s saddest deaths. A death becoming of the character she was, she goes out bravely and defiantly in the episode “Greenlight.”
Being in the situation with her, it hurts to see John Nolan walk with her body, while everyone raises their hand to honor the deceased captain. Nolan whispers a soft apology to Andersen before they take her away, the heartbreak on his face more than evident.
Lucy’s Family Doesn’t Show Up
Lucy Chen is one of the most beloved characters by the fans. Dealing with many obstacles through the show, she comes out stronger and shows that heart is necessary even in policing.
It’s why it’s so devastating when she graduates from being a rookie, only for her family to fail to support her in the career she’s chosen for herself. It was previously shown that her parents do not support her, and in “Man of Honor” her mom shows up to the graduation dinner Lucy’s making, only to try to persuade her to quit. It’s sad knowing everything Lucy has had to go through with the only support coming from the family she’s chosen – the family she’s made at work.
Nolan Shares A Moment With His Ex-Wife
John Nolan’s character has been through a lot in the series, but notably one of the biggest moments for him was when his son ended up in the hospital for a heart condition. This introduced the character of his ex-wife and it was bittersweet to see them still existing as a unit for the sake of their son, despite finding happiness apart.
It’s a delicate topic and The Rookie handled it really well in the episode “Brave Heart.” Luckily, Nolan’s son had a successful surgery and later recovered but there is still nothing quite as heartbreaking as the fear of losing one’s child.
Jackson Gets Brutally Beaten
In one of the best plot twists of the show, Jackson finally manages to expose a racist cop but ultimately suffers the consequences. Doug Stanton was one of the major antagonists on The Rookie, and sadly for Jackson, he was his training officer.
Even though Jackson quickly realized the kind of a man and a cop Stanton was, he couldn’t do much about it. That changed after a heartbreaking moment when Jackson gets badly beaten up in “Lockdown” and Stanton watches it instead of providing backup to his fellow officer. By activating his chest camera, Jackson proves Stanton is a horrible cop and human being. Even as he is wheeled away to the ambulance, he takes time to appreciate that justice sometimes works in mysterious ways.
Tim And Lucy Talk Through A Door
Tim Bradford is no stranger to a near-death experience, as he had gotten shot early in the show. But his brush with a deadly virus in the season 1 finale is one of the scariest moments. He shares what he thinks are his final moments with his rookie through the door, admitting to her he wants to go out on his own terms.
Seeing a strong man like Tim admit that in such a vulnerable way left the audience feeling choked up, but ultimately made sense that Tim would want to choose how his life ends. It isn’t surprising Tim holding on to agency in a situation that feels out of control, but his admission combined with his rookie’s assurances makes this scene hard to watch without shedding a single tear. It’s a clear indicator of how far they’ve come and why they’re considered the best partners on The Rookie.
Angela Finds An Unconscious Wesley
Following “Fallout,” where Wesley gets stabbed during a false missile alert, the episodes sadly don’t deal with the consequences of that in detail. But despite the focus being on Lucy’s abduction, the show took its time to showcase Wesley struggling after his injury.
Before Angela gets a call from a distraught Tim, she finds Wesley passed out on the couch from too much alcohol mixed with some pills. She freaks out, slapping him awake, and the fear she feels is palpable even through the screen. Luckily, Wesley agrees to seek professional help after Lucy’s situation helps to put things in perspective.
Detective Harper Opens Up To Chen
When Nyla was introduced to the show as a replacement for Bishop, many fans had mixed feelings about her. But it seemed the more the audience learned about her, the more they grew to like her. In a rare moment of vulnerability, Harper shows just how much she cares when she opens up to Lucy about her assault after she noticed her struggling in the episode “Now and Then.”
She uses the painful personal experience to wake Chen up and make her see that she needs to deal with her trauma before it’s too late. It’s a chilling scene in which her tough exterior makes more sense than before. The fact that she shared the story with Lucy in order to help her only shows the strength of her character.
Lucy Goes Back To Her Empty Apartment
Though the Season 4 premiere was packed with intense and heartbreaking moments, one that sort of stood out was Lucy going back to her empty apartment after Jackson’s death. The look on her face when she entered what used to be Jackson’s room – his bed unmade, his pajamas still tossed on the bed – made it clear that she was still processing. The action-packed events made sure none of them got the time necessary to grieve properly and it showed.
Even though the moment didn’t last long before Lucy gets interrupted by a phone call from Tim, her facial expression says more than words ever could. Still mourning the loss of one friend, she is forced to dive into action to prevent another one from facing the same fate.
Bradford Finds Lucy’s Burial Site
The moment most fans would agree is a heartbreaking one is when they find Lucy after she’s abducted. From the brilliant editing of the scene (the lack of intense music made it even better) to the delivered acting performances, this scene in “Day of Death” is the thing that sets The Rookie apart.
Officer Bradford digging through the desert dirt with his bare hands to find his rookie is heartbreaking on its own, but it’s the stunning performance by Melissa O’Neil as Lucy clings to Tim for her dear life, sobbing, that truly makes this one of the most (if not the most) heartbreaking scenes on the entire show.