Television

'The Closer' Season Seven Premiere

As always, Lt. Brenda Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) is navigating a bureaucratic police culture by means of her signature spunk and feminine know-how.


The Closer

Airtime: Mondays, 9pm ET
Cast: Kyra Sedgwick, J.K. Simmons, Corey Reynolds, Robert Gossey, G.W. Bailey, Jon Tenney, Mary McDonnell
Subtitle: Season Seven Premiere
Network: TNT
Creator: James Duff
Air date: 2011-07-11
Website
Trailer
Amazon

The Season Seven premiere of The Closer brings back the formula that has made the show one of the most popular on cable television. As before, Lt. Brenda Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) is navigating a bureaucratic police culture by means of her signature spunk and feminine know-how. Also as in previous seasons, the hurdles set up for her are low. Viewers who are easily annoyed by feminist platitudes and unrealistic cop procedurals will not miss anything by skipping it.

The episode centers around the murders of six people, gunned down at a famous hip-hop musician’s house party. We open with a forensic team snapping photos and combing for evidence on the scene, while a rap video plays loudly on a nearby TV. Johnson enters in a slow motion shot, the soundtrack providing a counterpoint to the primness of her appearance. She's in her element, and quickly directs her team as to the specifics of the investigation. Surveying the room with a furrowed brow, she seems to feel every bullet as hit its target.

What follows shows how Johnson exploits and also struggles in this "element," but the problem, as usual in The Closer, is that the cops' experience here is more familiar than believable. The next scene is another staple in cop shows: Johnson and her team huddle around a dry-erase board with photos of the suspects taped up in a row. A briefcase with $125k seems to point to a drug deal gone wrong (one detective points out, “If gangs are involved, drugs are involved”). Johnson absorbs such observations, reassembling them into a theory of the crime. The other detectives seem helpless without her calm direction (another typical feature of the genre).

The opening sequence reinforces the series' focus on Johnson's ever precarious position. If Colombo was underestimated because of his frazzled demeanor, she's misjudged -- by colleagues, by criminals, even by friends -- because she's a woman. This undercurrent is made clear each week, as Johnson takes charge and solves cases, despite and because of her overtly "feminine" attributes, like her worry about whether to start a family with Fritz (Jon Tenney) or her emotional ups and downs.

The season premiere revisits another familiar source of tension, the talk of promotions. Again, Johnson distracted from the case at hand when Asst. Chief Will Pope (J.K Simmons) tells her she will be promoted, while he will be transferred horizontally to a much less desirable position. She's drawn even farther from her team and their white board when she learns she is being cited in a legal suit against the department. In a previous case, she had released a gang member from custody who was murdered later that same day. The suit claims she knew the man in question would be killed and didn’t offer police protection. She shrugs off the accusation, more troubled by the involvement of one of the detectives liaising with the legal team. She confides her uneasiness to Cpt. Raydor (Mary McDonnell), seeming to miss the point that she’s currently under investigation for misconduct.

Johnson finds some solace at home, where she and Fritz are preoccupied by their respective jobs, yet clearly glad to be in each other’s company. We're glad too, as the bedroom setting, where Sedgwick flosses her teeth in the bathroom mirror while delivering her lines, rings much truer than the cardboard cutout police station. Then comes a very disturbing exchange. FBI agent Fritz hands over an important file to Brenda, thereby simplifying her investigation and relieving her stress, after which she promptly rewards him with sex. This question has come up before in the series, but it remains troubling: the suggestion that women need men to fix their problems, and that sex should function as a bargaining chip in such assistance, flies in the face of Johnson’s characterization as a capable professional who wants to be taken seriously.

As usual, Johnson commands the most respect in the interrogation room, where she uses low expectations to her advantage. When, in this episode, she interviews a suspect, he sits glowering at her. As usual, she is untroubled by his defensive postures and his lamely urban lingo. Then she takes an unnecessary risk, setting into motion a turn of events that helps her investigation but throws her already sullied reputation into further disrepute. She is informed by a stolid-faced superior that if she wants to continue her career in the police, she’s going to have to stop all the shenanigans. She demurely flashes a “Who me?” look at him, another behavior we've come to expect.

Such interactions reinforce the idea that Johnson mirrors working women's everyday hassles, in a slightly exotic setting. But this setting is both too familiar from other cop shows and too often made incidental to Johnson's other concerns. While she is plainly exceptional at what she does, The Closer doesn’t create a world around her that's credible or even very compelling.

Johnson isn't alone in this TV world, of course. But Glenn Close’s Patty Hewes and Emily Deschanel’s Bones seem like they belong in their versions of it, as did Cagney and Lacey and The Wire's Lt. Greggs (Sonja Sohn). The balance Johnson works so hard to maintain is one of femininity and toughness. But she could just as easily be Teacher Brenda Johnson, or Business Executive Brenda Johnson. What would be an admirable message suffers for a lack of nuance.

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.

Music

Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.

Music

Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."

Music

David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.

Music

On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.

Music

Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.

Music

Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.

Music

Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."

Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.