PTR Staff Writer
O Lilly, Lilly! wherefore art thou Lilly?
Of seasons gone by, that is.
We can never get enough Cold Case here at PTR.
Or Lilly Rush.
As we say, she is our favorite homicide detective (followed closely thereafter by The Closer’s Brenda Leigh Johnson).
With Cold Case entering into full-blown, marathon-like syndication this month (both on TNT and local CBS affiliates around the country), and in tribute to this PTR fave, I’ll be writing about one of the older eps each week – which will hopefully remind us all of: a) why we love this show; b) what perhaps should not have changed over the past couple of seasons; and, c) what we hope we might see again.
So what better way to start off than revisiting the Pilot episode, “Look Again” (which aired on late night CBS this past weekend).
Now, I must confess: I came to Cold Case during its third season, when many folks had already felt the show had taken a left turn for the not-so-good. As in, the debacle in not dealing with the second season finale serial killer showdown; the introduction of a new female detective to the team (twice – one bad, one good); less Lilly time (both at work and at home); the fly-by-night ridiculously cryptic Motorcycle mutt (er, I mean man); and, Lilly just … well, sort of not being the same ol’ snarky, punchy, funny, spunky, wicked smart, passionate, genius female homicide detective of the first two seasons.
And then there was the hair.
The show had, for whatever reason, become all about the hair – up, down, messy, tidy, more blonde, less blonde.
I nonetheless, in my rookie Cold Case knowledge, defended the changes. Characters grow, they evolve. Andy Sipowicz was not the same at the beginning of NYPD Blue as he was at the end. I actually still enjoy a majority of Cold Case’s third season, and I find I have less problems with that season – on the whole – than most (particularly in comparison to the fourth season, which was a total washout for me; as in, I really did not like the darn thing from start to finish). Nonetheless, I do confess my defense of the third season occurred before I had the chance to truly catch up on the first two.
Having said all that, the more I have watched the “older” stuff, the more I find myself asking the question: What has happened to the essence of Lilly Rush?
And in seeing “Look Again” this week, I really want to know where that Lilly Rush went.
‘Cause that Lilly ain’t around much anymore.
And as much as I love character growth, I don’t love it at the expense of what made the essence of the character in the first place.
We remember when Lilly arrived on television screens in 2003 – this feisty, no nonsense, passionate and driven female homicide detective who stumbles into finding her calling solving murder cases long ago left unsolved.
"People shouldn’t be forgotten."
"Hope lives because the evidence never dies."
She was spunky. She was funny. She was intense. She ruffled feathers.
Yet, in the blink of an eye, she could become this powerfully compassionate woman who just wanted to bring closure to a victim’s family, who threw herself into the nuances of the case to get justice served, who did not want to let one more person be forgotten. This ability to go from hard edges to soft corners was (and still is) due to the genius-made-for-this-role talent of Kathryn Morris.
There was something beautifully flawed about this character that you just could not stop watching.
She. Just. Rocked.
We remember, too, the show was a pioneer of sorts with its approach to solving murders that were not current, and with its use of period music to compliment the case being solved.
It was something unique and different.
That. Just. Rocked.
And yet, as we look back now, the old cases are still waiting to be solved. The team is more defined (as in, no more jokes about being on a “cold” job instead of out on the beat on a “triple” murder). Yet, the musical element of the show is no longer an original concept. That is not to say it isn’t still an integral part of what makes every single Cold Case episode (and of which I do look forward to each week; I have an entire playlist on my iPod called Cold Case, which is a sampling of my favorite tunes they’ve used over the past five years). However, we know that many shows (arguably following Cold Case’s lead) have now incorporated the use of music and musical montages to supplement a storyline or two. Thus, I’m not sure the novelty of this idea has the same punch it did back in 2003.
But more than anything, Lilly is not what she was. It’s so obvious when you watch these older episodes, it’s almost sad. True, she’s been through hell and back. And she should be a little different. But, it seems as if the essence of her has been lost in one too many storyline tangents, and/or has not been allowed to be explored given a change in creative decision making or a lack of focus on where she needs to be headed.
And, perhaps most notable is that she is no longer the solo, hard-charging, lone wolf female homicide cop on television.
We’ve got Olivia.
We’ve got Brenda.
There is Grace (out of control, but hard charging for sure).
And yet, our beloved Lil’ just seems to be going through the motions, now. Compare that to “Look Again,” when she was so intriguing, captivating and interesting, she stole every scene.
I can honestly say that in watching a show like The Closer, I have yet to ask myself what has happened to Brenda. I don’t feel like I’m watching some former shell of the character, or that they have tried too many things with her that they’ve lost the focus on what she is still supposed to be about. If anything, I actually think she has become more interesting, more complex, more intriguing than when she first blew onto our television screens. Her essence has not only remained the same, but it has been enhanced.
With the fifth season of Cold Case now underway, it seems as if the showrunners might (and I heavily emphasize might) be realizing they have taken ol’ Lil’ a little too far out into left field, and thus, need to get her back to the pitcher’s mound to keep control of the game. It seems this season's premiere got us to back to Lilly driving the case – she went for it, she gave it a chance, she wanted to tackle it when everyone else seemed to be like, "Whatever, Lil'." PTR's Editor TVFan has her excellent review of the fifth season opener here.
The cases are Lilly’s passion. She is the crusader for the victims. The story is revealed through her eyes.
And yet, it’s still OK to have her laugh, be snarky, be funny, be a woman.
Kathryn Morris has said recently that she does wish Lilly could lighten up a bit, have a laugh every once in a while, have some friends, go to a movie, find a good guy.
She has not said any of this would make Lilly less of the top homicide cop that we know her to be.
And I, for one, agree.
In re-watching “Look Again,” we see once again the potential.
Perhaps the current Cold Case gang are returning to the essence of what made the show so compelling in its early years.
And that hopefully includes those best parts of Lilly that we fell in love with on Day 1.
New episodes of Cold Case air Sundays at 9 p.m. on CBS. Mini-marathons of older episodes air Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on TNT. You can also check the local listings of your CBS affiliate for additional late night weekend airings.