[12 July 2010]
The Season Six premiere of The Closer throws Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) and her Major Crimes Division squad into disarray. Reluctantly moving into new $10 million headquarters, they also confront a new power structure.
The new space proves surprisingly disconcerting. For one thing, the team can’t make their new high-tech rooms work right. An irritating mechanized “murder board” keeps freezing up, so Johnson sends someone to retrieve the old white board, preferring the tactile to the digital. Like students in a new school, they hate their new seating assignments, finding it necessary to shout to communicate, as well as the endless hallways and maze of conference, interview, and break rooms. Lieutenant Provenza (G.W. Bailey) fights back: he buys his old desk from surplus and brings it with him, because, he says, “It’s the longest relationship I’ve had in my adult life.”
Though the series isn’t generally known for its comedy, this episode, airing 12 July, offers lots of it. The team entertains itself by letting office-less Robbery-Homicide Commander Taylor (Robert Gossett) beg Johnson to let him use a conference room. Like a man without a country, Taylor seems a little too relieved that Johnson and her tight-knit squad will let him stick with them. The change of location doesn’t change the familial dynamic that characterizes The Closer.
It does, however, provide for some slapstick humor, mostly because the new building brings out still more of Johnson’s behavioral tics. She bangs into everything from furniture to boxes, and gets lost every time she tries to go somewhere in the building. That problem occasions a funny bit where the squad must repeatedly point her to the interview rooms, the rooms where she’s going to be working her closing magic. Witnesses keep walking in on her freak-outs, making her desperate to regain her professionalism.
She’s hardly helped by the basic architecture, apparently designed by someone without a clue as to how she does her job. When she sees one room labeled “Hard Interview Room,” bedecked with an obvious two-way mirror, she rages that she can’t get someone to confess when her tricks are revealed. Comically, she argues that she has to be the one to “decide when to intimidate people around here.” Pope (J.K. Simmons) tries to calm her by insisting, “All the really important stuff hasn’t changed at all.” But she knows better, arguing, “Not all remodels go as planned.”
She refers here both to the new digs and this week’s murder case, which involves a dead contractor. When a suspect observes that some people don’t like contractors, because a remodel involves “changing the center of their lives,” we see how the episode’s thematic pieces are coming together, a design that’s also typical of the series.
As Johnson and her squad try to cut through the moving dust to focus on their work, the new power structure also emerges. She questions her own abilities to get suspects to confess (Pope tells her she can’t blame the new building if she loses her mojo). As she watches Pope pursuing his own ambitions (to move up in the police hierarchy, to chief), she realizes he loves the new building because, she says, “He thinks it’s his.” Since he’s sending her to do his bidding, that begs the question of how much she is like a contractor, charged with organizing the pieces to his specs. Forced to work on his monument, her efforts to exert her own agency drive the episode’s less comic moments.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/128138-the-closer/