The Closer Top 10 – A Fond Farwell

13 Aug

The Closer,( TNT Monday’s at 9pm EST/6pm PST), will air the series finale on August 13th. When The Closer debuted in 2005, the basic cable drama landscape was much different than it is today. The Closer quickly became and still is a ratings champ, it also redefined the role of women on TV, we valued woman over 40 again.  Below are a few thoughts on the series followed by a list of my 10 favorite episodes.

James Duff, the series creator and his team, not only gave us an interesting yet flawed lead character, but, built multi layered supporting characters with complex plot lines that keep the viewer engaged.  I tuned in for the case of the week (COW), but kept coming back to see how other plot points would play out.  In season one we immediately had conflict between Chief Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick), Commander Taylor (Robert Gossett) Chief Pope (J.K. Simmons) and Detective Flynn (Anthony Denison). 

The development of the Commander Taylor character over the years is a solid example to other TV writers of how to treat a secondary character. His path from antagonist to ally, developed slowly, Taylor and Johnson didn’t make up in two episodes it took seasons. And how their story ends will be told tomorrow night.

I couldn’t possibly say good bye to The Closer without mentioning the good and the bad. The good, no doubt hands down, Brenda’s parents, hats off to the casting department, I couldn’t have picked two better actors than Frances Sternhagen and Barry Corbin. I wasn’t always a fan of the Flynn/Provenza keystone cops episodes, but these two actors, G.W.  Bailey and Tony Denison really know how to play off each other and make the silly work. The relationships between Brenda and all of her staff, chief among them Detective Gabriel (Corey Reynolds) showed respect and genuine care and concern for each other.

Brenda’s relationship with Fritz, completely unbelievable, no man especially one who works for the FBI is going to be at his wife beck and call the way Fritz was. He finally told her that in last week’s episode “Armed Response”, and I said thank God Fritz grew a pair. But I guess if your primary demo is woman, then you need to write the fantasy man woman wish they had, but instead it does a great disservice to both men and woman. 

Brenda’s relationship with sugar, at first it was cute and quirky but as the show goes on, her dependency on sugary sweets diminishes her.  The last scene of the weeding episode when we see Brenda digging the cream filling out of a Ring Ding with such satisfaction sent the wrong message.  You will not find solace in food, and if you do, you will not be as thin as Kyra Sedgewick unless you do an hour of cardio everyday.

My Top 10

Pilot – Brenda Johnson arrives in L.A. where she faces resentment from her peers and squad during her first investigation involving a woman beaten to death whose suspected murderer has disappeared, along with all evidence of his existence

Fatal Retraction – Brenda is asked to help keep a criminal imprisoned when the woman he was convicted of murdering shows up recently dead, and her actions alienate everyone. Meanwhile, Captain Taylor makes a fateful decision about supporting one of his men. This is the episode that introduced us to Bill Croelick, the first of Brenda’s foils, too bad Jason O’Mara wasnt available for another episode.

Power of Attorney -Brenda and her team match wits with a sex offender’s lawyer in a case involving murder and a serial rapist, and when Deputy DA Garnett forces an unpalatable plea bargain no on is prepared for the result.  Billy Burke’s creepy performance of attorney Phillip Stroh is memorable, and so different from Bella’s dad in the Twilight series.  Will Stroh be Brenda’s undoing, tomorrow night will tell the tale.

Manhunt – Brenda and her team deal with the grisly case of a serial killer who seems to have re-appeared after an absence of many years. The cases all have the same type of victim and the same results. Attractive young women – all divorced and recently re-married – are kidnapped and tortured with a cattle prod, among other things, and then dumped nude on the beach along the Pacific Coast Highway. There would always be three victims, found several days apart, with a Roman numeral branded on the heel of their foot. Three victims were found in 1998 and again in 1999 but nothing since then. 

Blindsided -A reporter dies while Brenda is helping him profile the LAPD, but she’s barred from participating in the case by Pope until the department psychiatrist clears her for duty. At home, she and Fritz are expecting her parents for a visit.

Till Death Do Us Part (1 and 2) – Brenda and the priority murder squad investigate the death of Oliver Henry, a prominent divorce lawyer, who is found at the bottom of his swimming pool. His wife Valerie, who was also his law partner, is the only beneficiary of his $10 million life insurance policy and is an obvious suspect. There are several others, usually the ex-spouses of his clients, including one, Dr. Jonathan Schaeffer, who may have been particularly vexed with him. Brenda finds herself in unfamiliar territory when she is unable to get a confession from him and has to testify at his murder.

Sudden Death –  When Det. Julio Sanchez brother is murdered in a drive-by shooting, Brenda has the rest of her team put into full force to find out who was responsible, but finds her work compromised by residents in the South-Central L.A. neighborhood reluctant to come forward, and a vengeful Det. Sanchez determined to find the culprit on his own through any means necessary.

The Other Woman – The death of a meth-head has Brenda looking at the Narcotics division, and a deposition may reveal a deeply held secret

War Zone -In order to satisfy military authorities after three Army Rangers are killed outside a nightclub, Brenda is forced to make an immunity deal with a gang member who is the twin brother of one of the victims, which backfires badly.

The final episoes desere a mention even though it puts us over the top 10 limit. “Last Rites”, “Armed Response” and “The Last Word” deserve to be mentioned because I can’t recall when a series dedicated so much time to the episodes leading up to the finale as they did to the finale.  Sure the second to the last episode of  The Sopranos was tight, but it was a single episode. The Closer has given viewers a complete send off, Momma Johnson’s death, Gabriel’s betrayal and Brenda’s ride off into the sunset.

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