Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Closer “Red Tape”: Murder, Politics, RIP Kitty

All photos from TNT

Monday’s episode of The Closer titled “Red Tape” meant trouble for Sgt Gabriel (Corey Reynolds), Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick), and for Kitty, not necessarily in that order.

It seems while Sgt. Gabriel was out having a drink with Commander Taylor (Robert Gossett) they hear shots outside. When Sgt. Gabriel goes out to investigate, he too comes under fire, and shoots back. Problems ensue for Sgt. Gabriel when Commander Taylor convinces him to leave the scene – against LAPD policy - and accompany Eric Roth, who Sgt. Gabriel shot and injured while returning fire, in the hopes he can get some answers from him. This puts Gabriel in the crosshairs of Captain Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell) of Force Investigations Division, who is later on the scene and who also blocks Brenda’s team from investigating the first shooting.

While the detectives mislead Raydor as to which hospital that the injured – and suspected – shooter was taken, Brenda goes to the right hospital to help Gabriel, and gets him counsel before Raydor can attempt to question him. But Raydor does have grounds to demand a Breathalyzer test from Gabriel. An instant pissing match ensues between Raydor and Brenda which carries through the entire episode. While it is somewhat stereotypical to put two headstrong and powerful woman at odds in this manner whenever territorial issues are involved, I must admit it was very entertaining.

As Raydor tries to exert her influence and control over the case, with hanging Sgt. Gabriel as her top priority, Brenda manages to get her way and get access to the crime scene so she can investigate the initial shooting and murder of the newspaper vendor, which started the whole thing. During her investigation Brenda weasels her way into the hospital room of the man that Gabriel shot, much to the displeasure of his parents. A reporter, Ricardo Ramos (Stephen Martines), who is constantly in Brenda’s face trying to get any story he can, wants to break a story with the case. Brenda convinces him to wait and promises him an exclusive story that is better than the one he has now. (She later delivers on her promise.)

Brenda and her team find the bullets from the gun that shot at Sgt. Gabriel back at the scene. Later, her team finds the same bullets fired from the same gun in the fence of the neighbor of the Eric’s uncle, who had been killed in Afghanistan. Apparently Eric and his cousin were using the fence for target practice and the neighbor filed a complaint. This scenario was a bit of a stretch and a very lucky break for Brenda, who uses the information to browbeat Eric – during which time she actually pointed the (unloaded) gun at him – into confessing his involvement in the shooting with his cousin. They were shooting at the newspaper vendor because he was a Muslim, but the man was really an American citizen who was Jewish.

Bottom line is Sgt. Gabriel is cleared and the murderer(s) of the newspaper vendor were identified. The interesting story here is that Brenda may have a new enemy with Captain Raydor. Mary McDonnell played the territorial, cold, and calculating Raydor with convincing ease. She would make a formidable roadblock for Brenda should Raydor ever have another opportunity to cross Brenda's path again. An amusing sight is Asst. Police Chief Will Pope (J.K. Simmons) who had that “get me out of here” look on his face when forced to mediate between the two. While it seems that movies and TV shows like to portray any scenario where two women must interact on a profession level as turning into a bitchfest, Sedgwick and McDonnell’s skills made this particular encounter believably realistic and almost enjoyable.

Despite the fact that Brenda is tough as nails when it comes to dealing with murder and other major crimes and all the politics that go along with it, she is like a bowl of Jell-O when it comes to her Kitty. Again, her husband FBI Special Agent Fritz Howard (Jon Tenney) has been relegated to contributing his kitty-sitting skills and provides Brenda with the much-needed push to have Kitty put out of her misery. It is a shame that the series seems to waste Tenney in such a manner. It is clear, however, that while Brenda is at the top of her game in her job, that she needs the stabilizing influence of Fritz. His influence, and his clear thinking, helps Brenda to make the decision to have Kitty put to sleep. Brenda goes so far as to have the vet come to her home to perform the procedure, so Kitty will be more comfortable. And as the show closes, Brenda is embracing her cat, with the heartbreaking tears of her final goodbye.

The Closer is more than just a crime show. It is probably one of the best dramas on television, which successfully blends in crime, workplace politics, work and family relationships, and pets, all into an interesting hour that seems to fly by. Kyra Sedgwick is one of tiny number of actresses whose performances I feel are Emmy-worthy, and this makes the show all the more enjoyable to watch. It’s truly a shame we get such a small number of episodes each season, maybe that Emmy would be the perfect incentive for more episodes next season?

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