Reviews

The Closer - The Complete Second Season

Leigh H. Edwards

Deputy Police Chief Brenda Lee Johnson cracks cases because she knows what makes cracked people tick.


The Closer

Distributor: Warner
Cast: Kyra Sedgwick, J.K. Simmons, Corey Reynolds, Robert Gossett, G.W. Bailey, Tony Denison, Jon Tenney
MPAA rating: N/A
Network: TNT
First date: 2005
US Release Date: 2007-05-29
Amazon

TNT's The Closer landed star Kyra Sedgwick a 2007 Golden Globe for Best Actress, and the honor is well-deserved. As Deputy Police Chief Brenda Lee Johnson, Sedgwick serves up a "complex" woman heroine. But instead of being narcissistic and weak like Ally McBeal and her offspring, this imperfect career woman is fully drawn. Her quirks don't seem like cutesy window dressing covering the same old sexist stereotypes.

Yes, Chief Johnson is not-so-secretly addicted to chocolate. But she's much more addicted to solving murder cases as a detective for her LAPD homicide team. Yes, she is caught up in love triangles [her paramour, FBI agent Fritz (Jon Tenney) moves in with her this season but her old flame, Chief Pope (J.K. Simmons) still pines away for her]. But she's much more caught up in figuring out the psychology of killers, survivors, and people with self-destructive streaks. Yes, she has trouble getting along with her mom (Frances Sternhagen) when she comes to visit from Atlanta. But she has more trouble getting her cases off her mind.

The show is based on a fish out of water premise. Johnson has been recruited to L.A. from Atlanta by her former boss Pope, now the LAPD Chief. While in the first season of the show, she had to fight to earn the respect of her team and department (both because she is a woman and because she sports a Southern accent), this season, they work together like a well-oiled machine. While Sedgwick's trademark "Thank Yew" is a bit too much of a caricature for this Southerner, what is more compelling is how Johnson insists on importing Southern manners even into the seediest back alleys and police interrogation rooms. The DVD extras include an enlightening making-of featurette that emphasizes the delight the series takes in the fish out of water juxtapositions.

But what is interesting about the premise is that she's mashing up two value systems: polite Southern lady meets hardboiled LA detective. The joke is that these two identities are not as far apart as one might think. If you ever underestimate the little lady with the drawl because she seems so polite and kind, then you don't know much about steel magnolias. They can kick your butt faster than you can blink -- and they'll smile sweetly while digging in the knife. Her streetwise colleagues at first find her incomprehensible, but gradually come to respect and love her. She gets enraged at people who break the law and harm others. She also gets infuriated when people have bad manners. Both are affronts to law and order, in her book.

The enemy this season is on the outside. One two-episode arc (with some directing by Sedgwick's hubby, Kevin Bacon, making the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game even easier) follows Johnson as she does some work for the CIA, trying to uncover a terrorist cell. Not surprisingly, what she also uncovers is corruption among the ranks of the CIA. Other topical story lines include an episode about a woman who wants to charge surgeons with killing her son on the operating table. When it turns out that the surgeons did make an error and the hospital and medical establishment all try to cover it up together, Johnson and the woman share the same righteous anger. In another episode, Johnson must solve the case of a paparazzo who is murdered because he had pictures someone didn't want seen. While Johnson and her colleagues at first find it hard not to see the camera bugs as parasites, they also eventually humanize them -- though the episode does decry the degree to which ours is now a society of constant surveillance.

We've seen these kinds of stories before, but this series manages to make them new and fresh. The signature scene of each episode is always Johnson's interrogation. When she gets key witnesses or evasive murderers in the room with her, she breaks them down through both her smarts and her humanity. She tries to understand them -- what would motivate them to kill or to cover for their loved one, what kind of deep shame or human need are they trying to assuage in their warped behavior. Most seem secretly relieved that she catches them, for their own varied reasons. She slams chaos with reason, incoherence with logic, and everyone involved seems reassured by her virtuoso celebration of rationalism. But she also marshals emotion. She gives these perps a sense of deep listening and understanding. While the show is a bit psychobabbly in implying that that's what most are really looking for (if only someone had understood them, they would not have become killers), the dramatic intensity of their exchanges with Johnson makes for compelling episodes. She cracks cases because she knows what makes cracked people tick.

7

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image