This episode starts off like a slasher movie. It’s a prison break, but it looks like a horror film version of a prison break. A picture is worth a thousand words so:
But it turns out that it is all just a dream and the horror movie villain is really a guy named Ronnie who is on death row for killing an undercover Jump Street cop. (It’s not someone we have ever seen before, unless you watched the two-part episode with the original murder, so don’t worry about your favorites being killed off.)
And at this point, the episode actually manages to subvert its very special trappings and become a really intense social commentary. I wish I had a pint of cookie dough ice cream right now so that I could eat my feelings is what I am telling you. This episode is genuinely sad.
We flash back to the night of the murder and basically the Jump Street cop showed up at this dude’s home while he was busy chilling with his girlfriend (Rosie Perez) and tried to push him into supplying him drugs immediately. The cop is so heavy handed that it’s surprising that Ronnie doesn’t make him, but he’s so into defending his turf he flashes his gun (still in his waistband). It seems more like posturing than anything, but this Jump Street cop is a rookie, so he immediately goes to grab his weapon. The drug dealer is a faster shot and fatally wounds the Jump Street cop.
Then eighteen hours before his execution, Officer Hansen (Johnny Depp) tries to convince him to make a video encouraging other teens not to commit crime.
So it turns out that Ronnie and his girlfriend are both illiterate (guess they never saw that episode of Jem) and they can’t read the newspaper article about the Jump Street cop murder. But Ronnie recognizes his name in the paper and they see the cop in uniform, so they put two and two together. Well, sort of. Ronnie doesn’t seem to realize how bad killing a cop is. He thinks he can easily hide from the cops as per usual. He’s wrong. Obviously.
He and Rosie Perez commit and armed robbery in order to be able to finance their new life together. This is probably the exact opposite of laying low. However, the clerk at the store they rob has already alerted the cops via a secret button. It’s odd that he has a secret button since this is convenience store, not a bank. Then Rosie Perez shoots the clerk as he is trying to reach for the key to the register because Ronnie is trying to bust it open with a screwdriver.
Oh man, then things get really sad when Ronnie has to have a corrections officer write a final letter to Rosie and just hope that someone can read it to her. Then we flash back to Rosie confessing to killing the guy, but she only did it because she thought that he was reaching for a gun. So really they both only killed because they feared for their own lives!
They don’t have any evidence on the cop murder, and they decide to pin the convenience store murder on Ronnie because they know Rosie was just scared and that Ronnie has a lot of prior arrests. They decide that it’s ultimately his fault because he orchestrated the entire thing. Johnny Depp tries to tell the DA that it’s possible that Ronnie killed the cop in self-defense and never intended for Rosie to kill anyone. But Peter DeLuise and the DA want to get Ronnie on other things that they do not have evidence for. The justice system is so flawed!
Ronnie supposedly has a lot of drug money, but he must have a shitty lawyer. The DA is able to try him as an adult (ugh) and then he ends up on death row with Johnny Depp trying to get him to make a PSA about crime. He refuses to do it though, and I think this episode becomes more of a PSA about the poverty/crime/disenfranchisement cycle than one meant to deter teens from criminal activity.
But in a heartwarming twist, Rosie has learned to read and is able to read the final letter herself. I mean I guess that’s as heartwarming as an utterly depressing episode can get.
If this episode made you sad and you want to do something, here are some resources: