You'll never make Judge Dan Mancini talk, coppers!
Our reviews of The Closer: The Complete First Season (published June 21st, 2006), The Closer: The Complete Second Season (published July 4th, 2007), The Closer: The Complete Fourth Season (published May 26th, 2009), The Closer: The Complete Fifth Season (published August 18th, 2010), and The Closer: The Complete Sixth Season (published June 29th, 2011) are also available.
"Congratulations, Chief Johnson, you've become the most downloaded fully-clothed woman on the internet."—Assistant Police Chief Will Pope
I'm ready to confess. Prior to viewing this boxed set, I'd never seen an episode of The Closer from beginning to end. To be honest, I hadn't been all that impressed with the little bit I'd seen. It came off like Law and Order but with Kyra Sedgwick doing an atrocious Southern accent. To my surprise, however, The Closer: The Complete Third Season grabbed my attention from the opening moments of the first episode. I genuinely enjoyed it despite my prejudices going in. Let's take a look.
Facts of the Case
The Closer chronicles the exploits of Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick, Singles), a Southern belle from Atlanta transplanted to the West Coast to head up LAPD's Priority Homicide Division. Her team includes promising young cop Sergeant David Gabriel (Corey Reynolds, The Terminal), grouchy veteran Lieutenant Detective Provenza (G.W. Bailey, M*A*S*H), contrarian a-hole Detective Andy Flynn (Tony Denison, The Amy Fisher Story), forensics expert Lieutenant Mike Tao (Michael Paul Chan, Spy Game), Detective Julio Sanchez (Raymond Cruz, Alien: Resurrection), Detective Irene Daniels (Gina Ravera, The Great Debaters), and tech guy Buzz Watson (Phillip P. Keene, The D.A.). In addition to the diverse personalities on her team, Johnson must deal with her perpetually exasperated boss, Assistant Police Chief Will Pope (J.K. Simmons, Spider-Man).
Johnson, a fish-out-of-water female cop, leads the charge on LA's most high-profile murder investigations because she's a closer—an interrogator skilled at charming, manipulating, or cajoling confessions out of suspects. Her powers are built on keen observation, a finely tuned understanding of human psychology, a disposition that both puts suspects at ease and encourages them to underestimate her, and good old-fashioned police legwork. Regardless of the depraved nature or seemingly impenetrable mystery of the crime at the center of any given episode, you can be sure of one thing: Somebody's going to spill the beans to Deputy Chief Johnson before the hour is over.
The third season of The Closer is 15 episodes long, including a two-part season finale:
Season Three of The Closer hits the ground running with "Homewrecker," an episode involving the brutal murder of an entire upper middle-class family except for the teenage son, who is found high on Ecstasy and hiding in the attic. Its gruesome crime scene (as seen from the perspective of Buzz's handheld camera) and tangled mystery make it one of the top three or four episodes of the season. It also has the distinction of containing perhaps the snottiest weeping confession in the entire history of television police dramas.
In addition to the police work, "Homewrecker" lays the groundwork for two season-long story arcs. LAPD budget cuts have Assistant Police Chief Pope stressed out—mostly because he has to break the bad news to Brenda that she must either convince Det. Lt. Provenza to retire or lay off one of the other members of her team. This is the sort of story arc I'd normally become impatient with (I understand that bureaucracy is part of the job for real-life cops, but I don't necessarily want to watch that part of the job on TV). But rather than exploring the horrors of budget cuts and downsizing, The Closer's writers use the arc to highlight Brenda's stubbornness and to create conflict between her and Pope. Their verbal sparring is the source of much comic relief.
The second story arc introduced in the first episode is Brenda's neurotic fear of commitment as she and her boyfriend, FBI Agent Fritz Howard (Jon Tenney, Tombstone), search for a house spacious enough to allow them to fully integrate their lives. I normally hate it when a cop show is unnecessarily muddied with storylines involving the characters' personal lives, but doing so here plays to The Closer's greatest strength: Kyra Sedgwick. I live in Atlanta and have never met anyone with the cartoon Southern accent Sedgwick uses in the show, but its goofiness soon becomes invisible in the context of Sedgwick's full-on embodiment of Brenda Johnson's oddly compelling mix of strength and vulnerability. She and Tenney play well against each other, creating a palpable if sometimes unstable romantic spark. The fact that he is an FBI agent allows the show's writers to maintain a strong connection between Brenda's personal and professional lives, ensuring that the off-the-clock plotlines never feel as soap opera silly as they otherwise might. Plus, the rising tension between Johnson and Howard is brought to a satisfying conclusion by the arrival in season's final four episodes of Barry Corbin (Northern Exposure) and Frances Sternhagen (Misery) as Brenda's extremely Southern parents.
Proceeding from the solid launch of "Homewrecker," the third season of The Closer offers a solid set of one-hour mysteries. From the discovery in a landfill of the body of a street gang member murdered in the early '90s, to a case involving a serial murderer of young black girls, to a nearly universally disliked Department of Homeland Security auditor found partially eaten by coyotes at the bottom of a ravine, to suspicious goings on at a nursing home, Brenda Johnson and her team diligently ferret out the truth from the guilty parties. Other highlights include Johnson's scuffle with a snooty young bride on the steps of a cathedral that became a crime scene moments before the wedding was to begin. When video of the fight lands on YouTube, the LAPD ends up with a boatload of unwanted publicity (an ongoing motif of the show, reflecting the real-life riots and high-profile trials that have smudged the department's reputation in the past). The best episode of the season, though, is "'Til Death Do Us Part," a two-parter that breaks the show's established formula as Johnson goes to court as a prosecution witness because she failed to get a confession from a man she believes murdered his wife's divorce attorney.
The Closer: The Complete Third Season is presented on four discs packaged in two slimline cases housed in a cardboard sleeve. Pretty basic stuff. The show is shot on film and the 1.78:1 anamorphically enhanced image on the DVDs is superb. Detail and color reproduction are excellent. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio is also excellent. The entire soundstage is utilized, though not aggressively. Dialogue, effects, and music are all pristine and well-mixed.
This Season Three boxed set isn't exactly loaded with supplements, but it does have a few. In addition to the deleted scenes on each disc (referred to as "Police Files"), Disc One contains a gag reel and a featurette called "The Art of Interrogation." The featurette is brief but fascinating. Police officers and legal experts discuss the methodologies and psychology of interrogation both pre- and post-Miranda v. Arizona, offering context for the style of interrogation we see on the show.
Fans of The Closer are sure to be as pleased with the quality of the audio and video in this Season Three boxed set as they are with the episodes themselves. Newcomers may want to start with Season One, though I found the third season a fine entry point into the series.
The Closer: The Complete Third Season is not guilty. Yours truly, however, is guilty of underestimating Kyra Sedgwick and her show. Now that my confession is written, this is the part where Deputy Chief Johnson tells me that I'm going to jail for a very long time—in an icy tone that says she's relishing every word.
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