Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Closer “Strike Three”: Women Behaving Badly

Last night’s episode of ”The Closer” (TNT) “Strike Three” involves a case of the murder of two police officers in the line of duty, plus the death of a civilian at the same scene. It seems that the police officers were led into an ambush, and one of the people involved was killed when the police returned fire. But this episode was more about women behaving badly, and it annoyed me somewhat that two women in positions of power can only be portrayed as controlling and bitchy (not necessarily in that order).

Sparks fly immediately when a turf war between Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) and Captain Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell) from the Force Investigations Division flares up. Brenda is claiming the scene is hers as two policemen were killed, and Raydor says that she needs to investigate the killing of the civilian to make sure that the police used deadly force appropriately. Ultimately Chief Will Pope (J.K. Simmons) rules that it is Brenda’s scene but that Raydor can shadow, and it’s obvious Raydor isn’t happy with that role.

While Brenda’s team works the case – with a brief and frankly worthless appearance of her husband and Agent Fritz Howard (Jon Tenney), Raydor manages to get her hands on all the evidence and removes it from the Major Crimes squad. Brenda is apoplectic over this and a tug of war begins between her and Raydor, with Pope mediating. Of course, he isn’t pleased either that Raydor ignored his instructions and orders her to give everything back to Major Crimes. She reluctantly does so, and gives them information that her team already found out about a piece of red taillight that was left at the scene. Information about this taillight comes in handy when someone calls in who may unknowingly have the car that was involved in the shooting, and it subsequently nets two suspects, which they arrest.

The episode is basically a back and forth between Brenda and Raydor, with Brenda using every chance to make Raydor out to be a controlling bitch, and Raydor making Brenda out to be, well, also a controlling bitch but one who is clueless about the importance of what Raydor is trying to do to protect the force from a civil suit. Raydor does show that she knows what she is doing when she insists she question a suspect before Brenda, as the suspect was asking for medical assistance as a result of the arrest, which automatically triggers a use of force investigation by Raydor. Brenda is not thrilled over this but she must comply. Raydor coolly reads the suspect his rights, and while Pope thinks this now will prevent them from getting any information from the suspect, Brenda now thinks this can work to their advantage. When the suspect gets annoyed at Raydor, he yells, “eat me” to Raydor, and he gets upset when she coyly asks him to clarify what he means. When he bangs his head hard on the table twice, she’s happy, because now she can photograph his self inflicted injuries, which seem to mask his impending black eye from the arrest.

When Brenda goes to the second suspect and reads him his rights, he lawyers up. But Brenda tells Raydor this is OK and she will take them home, where they will confess. As Raydor tags along, we find that Major Crimes has rigged a police car with a camera and audio to monitor the suspects in the back seat of the car. While the team searches the house before they let the suspects out of the car, Brenda tells one of the suspects not to forget what they talked about. Of course he had said nothing, but the other suspect becomes suspicious and they begin to argue. In doing so they unwittingly give clues to where the guns used in the shooting – plus some drugs – were located, underneath an outdoor planter.

Later, Brenda and her team, dressed in full uniform to attend the funeral of the police officers, hear a pep talk from Chief Pope. Raydor, also in uniform, stops Brenda in the hall. Brenda states the situation, saying that when officers are killed in the line of duty, Brenda’s team investigates, but when they fire back, Raydor does. Brenda expresses concern that knowing they'll be investigated might stop officers from defending themselves, and asks Raydor if she ever wonders what her principles cost. Raydor gives a terse reply that she does: $70 million, the cost in the Rampart case, not to mention cases overturned and trust lost. Brenda says, "There has to be a better way" and Raydor responds, "Until then, you've got me." An uneasy truce, for sure. As they leave for the funeral in their dress uniforms, the flags fly at half-mast.

Who did I side with in this episode – Brenda or Raydor? I have to admit that I was more on Raydor’s side. Considering the problems that have occurred with the (real) LAPD in recent history with questions of the use of excessive force with police, I can completely understand why Raydor would want to be sure that the police were right to shoot back. I also think that Brenda was wrong to jump to quick conclusions about the dead civilian. It doesn’t matter that it turned out that the man had involvement in the ambush and the shooting of the police. It could have easily turned out another way. In the real world, I would like to think that the LAPD and all of their other law enforcement agencies would know how to share jurisdiction in a case such as this. In the same vein, I would like to think that in the real world, women in such high positions would not be so pissy at each other during such times. OK, I’ve seen people like Brenda and Raydor in my own career, but I wasn’t in law enforcement and never dealt with matters like murder and crime scenes.

In this episode, Brenda came off as a petulant child who must get her way all the time. I actually found her annoying. Her inability to work with colleagues without inciting conflict is turning out to be a detriment. Sure, she is very skilled at what she does, but there are others out there who are likely skilled in what they do as well, and Brenda needs to give them the proper respect. It may be time that Brenda show a little growth as a person and learn how to collaborate. I don’t expect a humble Brenda, just one who can learn to play nice with others.

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1 comment:

Xiao said...

While I agree with some of the things you say, I think I side with Brenda more. The point that you are missing (I think) is that Brenda as well as her team see the two killed officers as part of their family. The loss of family members surely pains them, which is one of the reasons why Brenda and her team are so irritated by Sharon's apparent indifference and lack of emotion towards the officers' death. Of course, Sharon has her job to do, and her job is a very important, practical one. But I, as a viewer, am very irritated by her lack of understanding.