Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Closer: Brenda Has “Controlled Burn”

In last night’s episode of The Closer – “Controlled Burn” – we find Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) is the one who is burning inside. When the episode opens, Brenda, who is at the side of a large California brush fire where firefighters were killed, is told that a newspaper reporter has to tag along while she works the case. While at the scene, another body is located by a firefighter, and this body looks like a case of murder. Brenda's seething that she has to have a reporter with her at every step, and she lets Assistant Police Chief Will Pope (J.K.Simmons) know it.

Initially, she and her team suspect known firebug Bill Croelick (Jason O'Mara), who’s had a run in with Brenda before. During the investigation, the reporter gets in the way several times, including working with Croelick to get information and convince him to come in for questioning.

Croelick is enjoying the attention from Brenda, and in his own sick way, taunts her, but offers her nothing. Brenda continues her slow burn after she discovers the reporter was involved in getting Croelick to come in, and when he refuses to turn over his notes, they put pressure on him and his paper to get the information. When they finally get the reporter’s information, it helps point them to one of the injured firefighters, Kevin Merrick (Brian Krause), who turns out to be the murderer. Icing on the cake was charging the firefighter with the additional deaths of the other firefighters, seeing that Merrick was the one who initiated the fire when he burned the victim’s body.

Adding more fuel to Brenda’s stress for the day was a plumbing problem, which prevented them from using the toilet in her and Fritz’s (Jon Tenney) apartment. Complicating matters was her cat, which according to the landlord’s rules, she wasn’t allowed to have.

The episode closes, though, with Brenda receiving a surprise visit from Bill Croelick, and Brenda, to protect herself, keeps a gun on him at all times. When Fritz arrives as Croelick leaves, Brenda gives no clue to Fritz that Croelick was there.

What I like about this show, and this episode, is that the investigation moves quickly and efficiently, just as Brenda likes to have things run. But, her personal life seems at odds with her outward persona with her team, as it seems that even the smallest problem causes Brenda to get rattled. I sense, though, that Fritz may soon get tired of being Brenda’s fix-it guy, where he's relegated to fixing every problem that occurs at home. While we all know Brenda loves Fritz, she does appear to minimize his value by making him do all the dirty work. Good for Fritz that he brought the cat to Brenda’s office to care for so he could go on with his own day and job. At some point, I think Fritz will have to stand up for himself and tell Brenda that they have to be equal partners in their home lives. The situation with Brenda thinking that her job takes precedence and Fritz is there to do everything that doesn’t fit into her work schedule is probably a scenario that had been repeated in male-dominated households of the past, where the husband called the shots and the wife did all the house related issues. But, that scenario doesn’t work any more, no matter what gender has the perceived more important job, so it’s only a matter of time before Fritz gets tired of it.

The dynamics and chemistry with Brenda’s team also is strong and keeps viewers interested. In fact, this ensemble cast may be the best in any crime show at this time. It seems like everyone – even those with the smallest role – contribute to make the case interesting. And they all seem to retain their distinct personalities.

And while in the last segment of the show, we see Croelick telling Brenda he’s leaving; I suspect that he won’t be able to keep his promise.

All in all, this was a great season opener for The Closer. But, I think a rocky road is ahead for Brenda and Fritz.

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