by Deborah Harter Williams
Just a note, there are several details about the July 11 episode in this review, in case you haven’t seen it yet. It does not however give away the killer.
On Monday July 11, 2011 the TNT series The Closer began its seventh season. Kyra Sedgwick is Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, a Georgia police detective and former CIA interrogator brought to LA to lead what has evolved from the Priority Murder Squad (PMS-really?), later renamed Priority Homicide Division and currently called the Major Crimes Division.
Attired in sweater sets, pearls and ladylike skirts Brenda Leigh Johnson smiles sweetly and says, “Thank you. Thank you so much” with a Southern drawl that is immediately at odds with the image of a high-ranking LAPD officer. She works the assumptions made about her to her advantage.
She may use the ploy that she’s carrying out an assignment for someone else, or just taking care of paperwork in order to put a suspect off guard. Her other tools are feigned sympathy and offers of leniency played against threats of prison or family distress, as she finds appropriate. Her incredible rate of getting confessions is what makes her “The Closer.”
The season begins with the whole structure of the LAPD hierarchy in play under a new chief – Chief Delk. A sneak peak at the new organization chart shows Brenda’s boss and former lover, Chief Pope, about to be demoted to Traffic Captain in The Valley (the LA equivalent of Siberia).
Meanwhile, Captain Taylor, a longtime competitor of Brenda’s is set to become Assistant Chief and her new boss. Taylor, a man of considerable ego, has suffered the entire last season as a man without an office in the new LAPD headquarters. The look on his face as he carries his box of belongings to take over Pope’s office is a story unto itself.
Politics and politeness are not Brenda’s strong suit, she can see she’s in for a rough time, which gets even rougher when she is informed that a wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against her unit. Displaying a mixture of annoyance, anger and fear, Brenda offers, or threatens to resign but is checkmated by the threat of this being used to label her guilty.
At the same time, there is a case to solve and that will always come first in Brenda’s mind. Seven people are shot dead at a party thrown by a couple of newly successful rap singers. In contrast to the carnage their video plays over and over on a wall sized screen showing them living large.
Ultimately this episode is about loyalty. Even as he prepares to leave the building Pope intervenes for Brenda. Her squad, who resigned en masse in the very first episode of the series, now supports her and ignores Taylor’s attempts to supervise how she conducts her investigation. Loyalty ultimately becomes the key to the case as well, which Brenda ferrets out through her astute questioning, even though rap-gangs-drugs is the knee-jerk assumption of most of the cops.
It’s a fine ensemble, with its own quirks and contradictions that watchers have come to know and love over the years. There’s Tao, the “expert” on just about everything; Provenza and Flynn the old-school, affectionately bigoted buddies Sanchez, a gang expert from personal experience with a soft place in his heart for kids; and Gabriel, Brenda’s sergeant who backs her up, even when he doesn’t agree with her methods, and who has his own loyalties to the black community.
The wild cards are Captain Sharon Raydor, who almost seemed like a friend when she pushed Brenda to campaign for the Chief job. Now she has the assignment of investigating the lawsuit charges. Brenda’s husband, Fritz is the FBI’s liaison to the department and while he goes out of his way to help her, she doesn’t always let him in on her thoughts and plans. And lastly, there is the new chief, Chief Delk. At the end of the episode, Brenda has solved the case and he actually seems impressed. He calls the squad together and is publicly thanking her just as he falls to the floor with a stroke.
It’s not too late to get in on the action. While this is The Closer’s last season it is scheduled to be 21 episodes long and will stretch out for more than a year. There will be 10 episodes this summer, five in the winter and the final six in summer 2012. Learn more about The Closer on the show’s website.