Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Festive Sense of Kinship on ‘The Closer’

By LillyKat
PTR Staff Writer

Got RV?

Or better yet, go RVing?

With your parents.

And coworkers.

And murder suspect.

Must be Christmas in the world of Brenda Leigh Johnson.

Or, at the very least, a really interesting and creative homicide investigation.

The two-hour holiday special of The Closer sent us all RVing. Vicariously, anyway. Aptly titled “Next of Kin,” it was a cross between Where’s Waldo (er, Brenda), a Bing Crosby Christmas Special (thanks, Lieutenant Provenza) and a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie (‘cause I kind of felt all choked up at the end).

And in the true spirit of the holiday season, Brenda and Co. gave us some serious food for thought: how often do we actually question her?

Her methods?

Her ways?

And how much it all weighs on her in the end?

Another CCC (Classic Closer Curveball) I did NOT see coming.

I questioned Brenda’s actions.

For the first time ever.

The case centered on a group of serial bank robbers that ol’ Commander Taylor’s Robbery Homicide couldn’t quite get a handle on for the past 11 months. Chief Pope had seriously grown tired of having bank robbers play cowboys and Indians whilst shooting up parking lots and people.

BJ and Priority Homicide get the call to solve the case.

This most recent armored bank car heist seemed to have gone pretty darn bad. It was a job being worked from the inside – employee joins the security company that handles the routes of the armored car, gives it to his buddies, and voilá, bank robbery worth a whole lot of extra cash. Turns out the “insider” employee of the security company, Wesley Reed, wasn’t too keen on watching his fellow security guard friends get shot, or having his own partners turn on him. So, he up and flees to Georgia all the while leaving his little brother, Grady, behind to fend off the murder investigation. Not too cool considering his little bro’ is the only family member he’s got left in his life.

Ah, family.

Did someone say Georgia?

Christmas with the Johnsons?

Too bad mom and dad thought BJ and Fritz were actually coming to spend the holidays down South, not trying to extradite a suspect. Especially since mom and dad up and canceled their plans to RV-it down to Florida for a Johnson family-reunion-type Christmas.

Mom: “Your father’s not mad, Brenda Leigh. Just disappointed. The child that comes home to visit the least is the one you want to see the most.”

Did anyone just feel like slapping some sense into BJ for a minute? As in, it’s the holidays, and you’re using your parents to help you solve a murder investigation?

Questioning BJ’s actions #1.

But so begins the tale of Where’s Brenda, seeing as Wesley isn’t all that cooperative of a witness (go figure) – especially after Lieutenant Provenza and Lieutenant Flynn red-eye it over to Georgia to take Wesley back to Los Angeles only to have him act up a bomb threat in the Georgia airport that promptly gets all three of them on the Federal terrorist no-fly list.

Road trip!

All aboard!

Mom, dad, BJ, Fritz, Provenza, Flynn and Wesley board the RV, which was all shined up, festively decorated and spiffed out to head down to Florida before mom and dad aptly canceled their plans (read: now help Brenda with her suspect).

You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me!

So, a couple of misplaced Perry Como Christmas CDs later (and mom doing one heck of a job of driving), Wesley still isn’t being all that cooperative, still is trying to escape wrecking dad’s RV, still throwing himself out a window and refusing to get back on the ol’ RV.

And then it really happens.

Lieutenant Provenza: “I don’t know if that was such a good idea, chief.”
Brenda: “If it gets him to talk, it’s a great idea. Before you get back on the RV, I want you to call Lieutenant Tao and have him go back to Wesley’s apartment and have him fake a crime scene depicting Grady’s murder.”

Yes, Wesley is a jerk.

Yes, he really needs to be thumped upside the head.

Yes, he’s a criminal.

But fudging about his little’ brother’s death, then getting him drunk to fess up about his partners-gone-wrong plans for yet another bank heist on Christmas Eve?

Fritz: “You know Wesley has a drug and alcohol problem …”
Brenda: “And his friends are killing people with Uzis. Pick your poison.”

Questioning BJ’s actions #2 and #3.

Now, this is not an easy to thing to do.

Brenda is So. Darn. Good.

Her absent-minded Southern charm coupled with wickedly keen investigative skills that put her at the top of her game and of which continues to reaffirm why she is worthy of the title of Deputy Chief.

We know she always gets her suspect. We know we’re probably going to laugh in the process. We know she fires off enough one line humdingers to fill up a book. We know we do not want to be sitting opposite her in the interview room. And we know there is the chocolate obsession.

Do we ever ask, “Is BJ right?”

If we do, it usually lasts about five milliseconds and is written off to her having a bad day. Yes, even BJ can take her work home with her. And yet, she’s got Fritz to balance it all out and give her a much needed reality check. This is unlike another homicide detective who is at her breaking point, haunted by nightmares, alone, isolated, depressed, drinking and still having nothing in her life to balance out her obsessive work nature.

Lilly Rush could learn a thing or two from BJ. As could the Cold Case writers on how to create tangible balance between the work and the personal lives of their characters. I’m sorry, but I don’t watch that show for the cases. I watch it for the detectives, and specifically, Lilly. Call me crazy, but didn’t that show start out being centered on the "lone female Philadelphia homicide detective who finds her calling working cold jobs?" I’m pretty sure every piece of first season promotional gear I read used that exact phrase. So, when did it become only about the predictable cold jobs, and the detectives falling into some sort of gray oblivion of emotional zombiehood?

The Closer, refreshingly, has not fallen into the procedural trap of recycled predictability and stagnant character growth. The show continually entertains and challenges the audience by striking a balance between the personal and professional. This episode followed on the heels of the revealing struggle Fritz and Brenda worked through in the season finale by giving us yet another glimpse into how Brenda makes her decisions – the decisions no one would want to have to make but of which she has to enter into on almost daily basis.

Brenda: “I feel just horrible about how I had to treat Wesley … But if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
For BJ, this case hit her from both sides – personal values and professional responsibility. She had a job to do, but knew the process of how she went about doing that job this time out crushed her own family, and ultimately, made her question her own self. Yet she still emerged triumphant, if not substantially humbled trying to do the best she could whilst also being at fault.

This is the show’s absolute brilliance.

Striking a balance.

In the end, BJ was left to sort out the truth of her lie - especially after Wesley reneged on his deal to turn state’s evidence against his buddies, then sent a poignant videotaped Dear John to Brenda to look after Grady given he knew it was probably going to end badly for him.

And it did.

Brenda’s lie came back to haunt her, and she still ended up doing the right thing. She had a tough line to walk - had to do what was right for they system whilst figuring out how to explain it all to those closest to her.

Including the now orphaned Grady.

Perhaps most poignant was her true realization of the importance of her parents in her life.

Brenda: “[Wesley] told how me how lucky I am to have you – and I am!”
That bond – and the truth in that bond – both crushing and triumphant was what sealed this episode’s brilliant premise.

Dad: “You have a tough job. You have to make tough decisions.”
Brenda: “I try to do what’s right … I do … to the very best of my ability.”
Dad: “I guess if I had to trust anybody to make tough decisions, it’d haveto be my little girl.”

Like I said, can this show get any better?

Happy Holidays BJ and Co.

Look for The Closer’s fourth season to premiere in Summer 2008 on TNT.

1 comment:

TVFan said...

Another excellent episode from The Closer!! I found myself questioning Brenda the entire hour. It was uncomfortable, but that's what made it work so well. Kudos to The Closer staff!!!