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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 690 minutes
• Unaired scenes
• “To Catch a Lie” featurette
• “A Day in the Life…” featurette
• Gag reel
“It’s like The Wire! meets the debate club in a bloodless battle of wits!”
Kyra Sedgwick, J.K. Simmons, Robert Gossett, G.W. Bailey, Jon Tenney.
Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson (Sedgwick) has a reputation around LAPD as being a tough old bitch. Put her in a room with a suspect, and ten minutes later you’ve got yourself a confession. But the ATL transplant isn’t such a dab hand at bureaucracy, and if she doesn’t learn how to handle the press, her entire department could end up shut down.
See No Evil, Comprehend No Evil, and… Shove Fucking Scissors Through No Evil Chin?
First and foremost, Kyra Sedgwick is still the anchor of this show, and she’s still just as enthralling as ever. Her portrayal of Brenda remains as funny, uptight, divided, and brilliant as ever, a beautifully balanced fish out of water who just happened to bring a tank with her. Each episode sticks to a formula that allows Brenda a verbal showdown with her suspects, and they are, without exception, well-tensioned scenes culminating in violent confessions which provide a much more satisfying payoff to a mystery than a simple, procedural revelation of answers.
The strength of purpose that Brenda exemplifies in the interrogation rooms carries over naturally into her private life with FBI Special Agent Fritz (Tenney). This relationship, though it occupies only a fraction of each episode’s running time, fascinates me to no end. Brenda is plainly a strong woman; Fritz is, likewise, a strong man, emotionally-speaking in both cases. Their moments of connection continually walk a fine line between vulnerability and staunch independence. Neither depends on the other, fully, but at the same time neither imagines pushing the other away.
J.K. Simmons is Donnie Darko.
It’s a relationship that stands thanks to mutual respect and admiration more than romance. In fact, the most visible sparks between Brenda and Fritz fly from dramatic friction rather than sex. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the writers have strong male and female characters butting heads; instead, I’m kind of pleased to report that both strong personalities co-exist, resonate, and even allow space for an honest affection, even if there’s something of an arms race in there every once in awhile.
The meta-story tying this fourth season together doesn’t have quite so compelling a tension. You’ve encountered it before: the media wants to tell the story, while the law enforcement authorities want to be left alone so that they can do their jobs. There’s plenty of meat on that skeleton plot, but the writers here don’t give the audience anything new and tasty to digest. If you have seen Zodiac or, hell, Superman then you’ve got about all there is to get. As an engine for some behind-the-scenes action, it does a serviceable job, bringing about a few irreversible changes for Brenda’s team. As a plot hook, it’s nothing special.
The Ignoble End of the Great Mouse Detective
Individual episodes are kind of hit-or-miss in terms of their mysteries and investigations, as well. The cases seem to alternate between creative crimes and simple murders invested with pathos, and ne’er the twain shall meet. Largely because of my personal preferences, I think the more dour episodes work better as a whole. The emotional situations are portrayed with gravity and dignity and enough soul-crushing to evidence Brenda’s great resilience. The lighter episodes (comparatively speaking; we’re talking about murder here, after all) allow less room for Brenda’s character, instead focusing on her cleverness, which is undeniably fun but at the same time frustratingly shallow.
The lesser episodes also happen to feature way too much of Brenda’s co-workers. Everyone on her team stands in the dole line and receives a moment or two of character development during these episodes. They are uniformly weak, holding no relevance to the case at hand or to the group as a whole. Brenda is the only one with enough depth of character to hold on to audience interest; the flashes of growth her compatriots receive from the stingy hands of the writers amount to white noise, and don’t even really create situations for Brenda to react to.
Since when does “Bros Before Hos” count in social networking?
When it’s trying to be serious, The Closer succeeds admirably. When it’s trying to be breezy, open, and inviting, the show breaks down to — at its lowest point — uninteresting. It never gets bad, but it sure as hell is uneven. Still, Kyra Sedgwick has a terrific role, fills it admirably, and doesn’t look as though she has wrung out all the nuance from Brenda Johnson just yet.
Selected episodes come with bonus scenes and background information. The “To Catch a Lie” featurette, which centers around some on-the-job advice from an FBI interrogator. It’s survey-level information, and mostly tied to events from within the show, but it’s some fun background nonetheless. There’s also a light, largely actionless behind-the-scenes look at homicide investigation from a retired LAPD detective, and a gag reel.