In its fifth season, TNT's The Closer continues to be an enjoyable and intelligent series. If you're not familiar with the show, here's a brief recap: Kyra Sedgwick portrays Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, a CIA-trained detective who, in the first season, was brought from Atlanta to Los Angeles to head up the Priority Homicide Division. This division handles sensitive, high-profile murder cases. Brenda's a world class interrogator and, when it comes to obtaining confessions, an expert "closer." Hence the show's title, if you had not divined that already. Subsequent seasons, building on this premise, have concentrated on Brenda bonding, as it were, with her team and establishing a life in L.A — a life far away from her southern family and other issues in Atlanta.
The ensemble cast includes J.K. Simmons, Corey Reynolds, Robert Gossett, G.W. Bailey, Tony Denison, Michael Paul Chan, Raymond Cruz, Phillip P. Keene, and Jon Tenney. They are all very comfortable with their characters. The interaction between characters is believable, and seems much funnier this year than previous seasons. It really is a delight to watch; the cast deserves the accolades it has received.
This fifth season follows the same formula it has for years, a formula that is still compelling. Writers get the story set early and swiftly. In just a handful of shots and voiceovers, interspersed between the opening credits, the episode's central crime is established. From there on, Brenda obsesses over it, works herself and her crew around the clock to round up suspects, interviews the important ones, frets over the case at home until some innocent phrase uttered by her under-appreciated FBI agent of a husband or other family member (or a piece of chocolate or a foggy bathroom mirror) gives her the clue she needs to solve the case in her mind. Then she hauls in the bad guy and interrogates him till he confesses. Yes, you always know how it's going to go but it's such fun watching it go there.
This season's highlights: a wrong address plagues the detectives, not to mention an innocent family; a body is delivered COD and they meet Dick Tracy. Yes, well, let's just say it, a crazy civilian impersonates an officer, fools Chief Pope and the two grumpy old men of the show, Flynn and Provenza, and manages to always be one step ahead of the detectives. He passes himself off as Richard Tracy as he brown-noses the Chief. They end up letting him help in the investigation, to a degree, and his presentation of his theory of the crime is just hilarious.
A serial killer who dresses like a ninja is also featured. In that episode, Brenda gets to compete with a detective from Texas. Two Southerners going after a redneck ninja – how can you forget that? What an ad that episode was for the capital punishment laws in Texas. And let's not forget Brenda's faceoffs with Captain Sharon Raydor, portrayed by Mary McDonnell. Raydor has her own division, investigating officer-involved shootings. She was supposed to be just as intimidating and single minded as Brenda, her nemesis. But there was never any fear that ol' Brenda wasn't going to get her way, so I think they could have done a little better with their fencing. Here's a little glimpse of Brenda and Sharon.
Highlights of Brenda's personal life include: the death of Kitty, Brenda's cat, which seems to be quite traumatic to her, and their 'inheritance' of a teenage niece. A few other shows I've seen of late have done this similar thing, give the stars a child to deal with. Now Brenda has to balance home and work and try to be a good example and such. The few episodes with the niece were good vehicles for focusing on how much time Brenda spends at work and how she never thinks twice about choosing what she needs – closing her case – over anything her family may need. She also has no compunction about manipulating facts to close her case.
The season seems to have an undercurrent about lying and fact manipulation. It's presented as a necessity for closing cases, which perhaps it is. You decide. Oh, that's the whole point, is it? Well done. The writers of the show also say it was a season of change. They set up Brenda all season to think only of herself and her career at the expense of all else. Fritz Howard, her FBI agent husband noted earlier, gets a job offer at the end of the season and what will she do?
The crimes aren't always spectacular or groundbreaking, but let's face it – fans of The Closer watch it just to see Brenda. Sedgwick has created an intense character, professional and flawed. The relationship between her and Fritz, for example, can be aggravating, to be sure. I'm not certain how he continues to deal with her without reverting to drinking. He's a recovering alcoholic and all she does is complain about her job to him constantly, ask for his help when it's convenient for her and drink wine in front of him every night. At the same time, she does not let up in pursuing criminals, violent criminals, and putting them away. You love her for that and for her loyalty to her team and then she drives you crazy, too. It's a great character, flawlessly performed.