The Closer – Season 3
by Karen Petruska
The new season begins June 18th on TNT.
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The Closer ranks as advertisement-supported cable television’s highest rated series ever. A police procedural, it was a surprise hit when it premiered during the summer of 2005. In a medium dominated by crime procedurals like CSI and Law & Order, The Closer distinguished itself from its peers and found a loyal following. Based on the first episode of the new season, the producers are eager to multiply their already impressive numbers.
The third season premiere, airing on TNT on June 18, welcomes viewers new to the series with open arms. In the opening moments, the police are investigating the gruesome murder of a family. Each police officer introduces him or herself to viewers through the conceit of filming the evidence at the murder scene. Director Michael M. Robin and writers James Duff and Michael Berchem waste little time in what could have been a purely utilitarian device to catch up newcomers. In their brief descriptions of the crime scene, each officer reveals some aspect of their personality while also demonstrating that murder never becomes routine or easy for these characters.
The Closer stars Kyra Sedgwick as Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Brenda Johnson. Sedgwick, now a producer for the series, was initially its primary selling point, and justifiably so. As Chief Johnson, she runs her team with confidence and treats suspects with impressive grit. As Brenda, Atlanta-transplant cum fish-out-of-water, she is neurotic, insecure, and candy-obsessed. Beautifully melding her femininity and iron will, Sedgwick creates a delicately nuanced and complicated female heroine. Her performance won her a Golden Globe this year.
More impressive, perhaps, The Closer offers much more than just one stellar performance. Ably supported by a cast that includes J.K. Simmons, Jon Tenney, and Corey Reynolds, Sedgwick’s performance only improves when she spars with her supervisors, banters with her beau, and collaborates with her team. The Closer offers a fascinating look into the team dynamics of police work. Chief Johnson heads a team of six police officers, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and unique relationship with the chief. The drama often derives as much from the interplay between these talented actors as from chasing the bad guy.
Episodic in structure, The Closer almost always contains one scene in which Chief Johnson must use her wits to force the truth from a suspect during interrogation. Whether she uses saccharine sweetness, feigned ineptness, or brutal honesty, she always finds a way to break those she’s questioning. The first episode demonstrates this in melodramatic fashion. Chief Johnson interviews the sole survivor of a murdered family who claims he slept through their slaughter. Johnson reenacts the death howls of stabbing victims and assures the young man that he did not sleep through those cries. While this scene is over the top and even cruel, considering the boy Johnson wants to break has just lost his entire family, it also reinforces how seriously the chief takes her job. Southern charm aside, she will allow no one to lie to her, whether a murder suspect or a member of her team.
Complicating the usual twists and turns that the chief encounters during her investigation are budget cuts. Her boss has forbidden overtime and has asked Chief Johnson to choose one member of her team to transfer or to force into retirement. A running joke throughout the episode (yes, the show is funny, too!) features the chief and her team getting caught clocking out but continuing to work through the weekend. The chief’s struggle to do her job while facing the reality of fiscal constraints promises to feature strongly throughout season three.
Season One of The Closer concentrated upon Chief Johnson’s fight to win the respect of her team. Season Two delved deeper into her personal life as Brenda negotiated her relationship with FBI agent Fritz Howard (Jon Tenney) even while she felt herself drawn to former love and current boss Assistant Police Chief Will Pope (J.K. Simmons). Based on the first episode, season three will return its focus to the inner working of her team. No doubt Sedgwick and the rest of the talented cast will continue to earn their position as TNTs #1 scripted television series.
Karen Petruska is a writer and film reviewer living in Chicago.
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