The Closer
STUDIO: Warner Bros.
MSRP: $30.98
RUNNING TIME: 694 Minutes
Unaired scenes
Behind-the-scenes featurette
Gag reel

The Pitch

"It’s Homicide meets House, with a bit more of that ol’ Southern charm."

The Humans

Kyra Sedgwick, J.K. Simmons, Robert Gossett, Raymond Cruz, Jon Tenney.

The Nutshell

Deputy Police Chief Brenda Johnson (Sedgwick) is in charge of a Special Homicide Division of the LAPD. No, they don’t investigate crimes committed at alternative high schools; they get all the delicate, political, and high-profile cases. Internal affairs, media darlings, that sort of thing. Your typical work day for this division seems pretty familiar; you’ve seen it in most police procedural dramas. That is, until it comes to drawing a confession out of someone. This is where Brenda shines, and is the reason she was hired out of her home state of Georgia and transplanted into the Big Grime. She has an uncanny wit in the interrogation rooms; victims and perpetrators alike are putty in her practiced, manipulative hands.

Who the fuck is Dod?

The Lowdown

Clever people are so much fun to watch. As an audience member, I’m often happy to sit back and let the smart ones on the screen fit the puzzle pieces together. It’s not much in the way of satisfying narrative, but it is great fun, similar to watching a great display of athleticism. You don’t participate much in either, but you get a good thrill out of watching someone else do their finest work, scripted or not. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy watching House do his job; he’s great at it. It’s also, I suspect, one of the reasons Law and Order has enjoyed such a long life.

There’s a big difference between those two shows, though: one is focused solely on the procedures of investigation, while the other also takes the time to develop character beyond the requisite cleverness. In that latter mode, enter TNT’s The Closer. In structure, it’s a lot like House; mysteries and personal lives intertwine for about thirty minutes, and then a burst of wit, stubbornness, or dumb luck tugs all the answers out and puts them on display for the audience. Case closed, personal life in shambles, and all is right with the world.

"Lookin’ like my rape port-fo-lee-o showin’ healthy growth this mornin’."

But a strange thing happens with The Closer. Instead of hanging on to every twist of the mystery, I find myself almost more interested in the character development that unfolds alongside. A final comparison to House, and then I’ll let that dead horse decompose: where Dr. House is concerned, I mostly get involved because I want to see who he pisses off next, whereas with The Closer‘s Brenda Johnson, I’m sold on her as a fully round character with disturbingly complex impulses.

On the surface, Brenda isn’t much more than a talented manager and interrogator. It takes a few episodes of the show to start fooling your sympathy into a sense of admiration, or unlikely kinship. That’s because a lot of her character relies on consistency; certain actions and quirks become commonplace, so the audience can recognize those moments when they disappear; personal mysteries of her past begin to crystallize based on those behaviors in the present that she holds to unswervingly. Plus, she’s pretty much adorable in her personal relationships with her mother and her boyfriend, and convincingly so.


The balance of the show’s interest lies in the inevitable tricky dealings that Brenda undertakes to pluck confessions from the mouths of her targets. This is where the character work is sent a couple steps into the background, and the pure joy of watching the springing of well-laid traps takes the fore. If the general mechanisms become consistent over the course of the season, the specifics for each encounter contain enough variety to make each distinct. Brenda’s mercurial technique has her playing both good cop and bad cop, separated by only heartbeats. She perfects disarming to an art, employing a toolbox of methods that contains her Southern charm, a love of brain teasers, and her moral authority, among others.

These fourteen episodes (including a wonderfully dour two-part season finale) are easy to absorb and reward you after you’ve done so. The Closer is a near-perfect balance of character and mystery, a procedural that doesn’t follow the numbers.

The Package

Several of the episodes have unaired scenes. The second disc has a gag reel, and a thorough behind-the-scenes featurette called "Breaking Down the Closer."

8 out of 10