PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Reviews

The Closer: The Complete Third Season

Jennifer Kelly

Johnson is a new breed of television heroine: smart, driven, successful and about three-eighths of an inch away from unlikeable.


The Closer

Distributor: TNT
Cast: Kyra Sedgwick, J.K. Simmons, Robert Gossett, Jon Tenney, G. W. Bailey, Corey Reynolds
Network: Warner Brothers
First date: 2005
US Release Date: 2008-07-01
Amazon

The first thing you have to know about Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson is that she’ll do anything to get her confession. She’ll lie. She’ll flirt. She’ll pretend to be your first. She’ll threaten. She’ll lean way over your way with her considerable cleavage showing, and pretend to be far dumber than she is. She’ll even tell you that your little brother has been murdered – she’ll do this right in front of her parents, her fiancé and two of her colleagues -- when if fact that little brother is fine and asking about you every ten minutes.

Johnson, as Kyra Sedwick portrays her, is a bundle of conflicting energies, deeply committed to what she sees as right, but willing to do all kinds of morally questionable things to get there. She is moral without being especially trustworthy, truthseeking but not terribly truthful, and though she seems to care, more or less, about the people around her, she will toss them over the side anytime, anywhere, if it gets her closer to catching the criminal.

It’s kind of a strange part for a Hollywood beauty to be playing, when you think about it.

Add in a thick (and indeterminant) southern accent, a middle American taste for sweater sets, the brightest, reddest lipstick available at the JC Penney’s counter, and a penchant for ladylike “Thank yews!” as she dispatches officers to the morgue or the crime scene, and you’ve got America’s first post-feminist crime star. In this role Sedwick presides over the most successful scripted series on cable TV, viewed in this third season by more than nine million people.

For her trouble, Sedwick has been nominated for two Emmys, three Screen Actors Guild Awards and in 2007, she won a Golden Globe. Her fan site, clearly dominated by women, catalogues hundreds of messages on where to find the purses her character uses and what would happen if love interest Fritz Howard (Jon Tenney) left the show. You get the sense that Sedwick, like her interrogator character, has found the magic combination of common sense, toughness, charm and vulnerability to gain the trust of the vast middle class female audience that follows her. (Her diagnosis with “early onset menopause” in the “Manhunt” episode seems like a blatant attempt to bond with them.)

This third season of The Closer, however, is not all about Brenda Leigh Johnson, but rather makes effective use of the full ensemble. Corey Reynolds as the lanky, stylishly cool Detective Sergeant Gabriel gets a chance to stretch as he is torn by his admiration for an activist inner city priest and his professional commitment to solving a long-dormant case. Later, in “Ruby”, he is pushed to the brink by a racist child molester and jeopardizes his career by beating the suspect.

Detective Lieutenants Provenza and Flynn are played mostly for laughs, but it is a tough, knowing kind of humor that seems entirely consistent with their grim jobs. And J.K. Simmons (lately the father in the wonderful Juno) adds subtlety, cunning and warmth to every scene he’s in as the budget obsessed bureaucrat, boss, and old flame to Johnson.

The third season also brings Johnson’s personal life to the forefront in subplots involving her health, her relationship with her fiancé Fritz and their endless, conflicted search for a house that will accommodate both of them. Her parents, especially in the double-length Christmas special, also add dimensions to Johnson’s character. You can’t watch her, with her southern belle wardrobe and manners, and help wondering how the heck someone like her got into the corpse business. Her prickly, manipulative, but nonetheless loving relationship with her parents goes a long way towards explaining that – she must have been fighting expectations pretty much from birth.

Moreover, these side plots keep Sedwick’s character from becoming a one-dimensional career obsessive. Even when she ignores or abuses her parents (at one point, she herds them onto a Chinese-language bus tour of LA to give her time to interview a suspect), the fact that they love her makes her a lot more human. And her relationship with Fritz also provides much-needed warmth, though she gets away with a lot more than most working women do, in terms of putting her job first. (She is always missing house viewing appointments, for one thing.)

The Closer’s episodes open with graphic shots of murder victims, often shot in grainy video for court evidence. Later scenes can also be bloody, even shocking. This is not a show that glamorizes violence. Yet neither does it have the somberness of Law and Order: SUV or the Prime Suspect series (which Sedwick reportedly studied closely before joining the cast.

The best shows in the series – “Saving Face”, for instance – are leavened with broad humor. A naked woman’s corpse rolls out of a dropped policeman’s casket, as the show opens. (Provenza’s observation: Provenza “Wow, looks like you can take it with you.”) When it becomes clear that investigation at the site may delay an elaborate wedding, the bride attacks Deputy Chief Johnson and the tussle is recorded on camera phone. As Assistant Chief Pope itemizes the damages later, in perhaps the best line of the third season, “You shut down a church and a funeral home. You arrested a bride…and congratulations, you’ve just become the most downloaded fully clothed woman on the Internet.”

The story lines occasionally seem far-fetched. The very first episode hinges on bigamy, while the finalé, with its cross-country holiday RV trip complete with murder suspect, seems unlikely, at the very least. Other episodes seem inspired by an LA for Dummies handbook. Gang wars, Chinatown sex slaves, homeland security follies (the entire crew spends most of one episode in hazmat suits), and plastic surgery all figure in one or more segments. And yet, you never get an indelible sense of place, the London of Prime Suspect, the New York City of Law and Order…perhaps because LA is such a plastic sort of town.

The bonus features on this four-disc set are mostly unremarkable – a not-very-funny gag real, a series of deleted scenes. The best by far is a short documentary called The Art of Interrogation, which blends commentary from legal experts with scenes from the series. You see Deputy Chief Johnson leaning in over a suspect, and the talking heads remark on breaking into a suspect’s comfort zone. They show clips of her lying to suspects, and the experts debate whether it is prudent to lie in the interrogation room. What hits you immediately is that all these experts (one of them is a woman) are far less glamorous and fascinating than the star of The Closer. Who knows, maybe the crime rate would plummet if our real police force was just better looking.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Music

Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."

Music

50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

Film

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.

Film

The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.

Music

Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.

Music

'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.

Music

Matt Berninger Takes the Mic Solo on 'Serpentine Prison'

Serpentine Prison gives the National's baritone crooner Matt Berninger a chance to shine in the spotlight, even if it doesn't push him into totally new territory.

Music

MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Metal Albums of September 2020

Oceans of Slumber thrive with their progressive doom, grind legends Napalm Death make an explosive return, and Anna von Hausswolff's ambient record are just some of September's highlights.

Television

'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Nudges Out Conscience in Our Time of Crises

Avatar shows us that to fight for only the people we know, for simply the things that affect us personally, is neither brave nor heroic, nor particularly useful.


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.