Judge Katie Herrell wouldn't want to get too close to The Closer.
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 Third Season (published June 25th, 2008), The Closer: The Complete Fifth Season (published August 18th, 2010), and The Closer: The Complete Sixth Season (published June 29th, 2011) are also available.
Brenda's back. The Priority Homicide Division isn't.
If you like your cop shows dark, violent, and "ripped from the headlines," The Closer is not for you. But if you can't stand all the other cop shows for exactly those reasons, you might be amused and interested in this series.
Facts of the Case
Brenda Johnson is Deputy Chief of the Priority Homicide (which halfway through the season becomes Major Crimes—hence the above tagline) division of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). She's a Southern belle with a twang, miles of blonde hair, towering heels, and an indomitable spirit which forces her across many questionably ethical lines in the pursuit of justice. She has a team of detectives/technical assistants in her pocket and she parades them around as she Sherlock Holmes her way to a nice and tidy conclusion in almost every episode—no cliffhangers here.
If you don't like the character of Brenda (or the actress who plays her, Krya Sedgwick, who won the Golden Globe for a Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series in 2007 and was nominated the year before and the two years after for her work on this series), you won't like the TNT drama The Closer. There are a million reasons not to like Brenda; she's an intentionally imperfect character. In the early episodes, this fast-talking, sharply witted interviewer and investigator can never find her ringing phone in her bottomless purse; she is in cahoots with her cat; and she not only manipulates her suspects and/or victims by playing dumb (or playing something else—an IRS agent, a big sister, etc.) she also uses similar tactics on her F.B.I. fiance Fritz.
The character pulls on many Southern, blonde, and female stereotypes, while breaking all those stereotypes by having Brenda be a star detective with little interest in a flamboyant wedding (her impending marriage a thread throughout the series). Many of her quirks are exaggerated in the series (the missing phone is swapped for a nervous chocolate bar or SoyJoy habit later in the season), but Sedgwick is a presence on screen, a fiery force in a tiny, beauty queen body. Kyra is Brenda and vice versa. I don't know whether Sedgwick is a method actor or not (I'd hope not, seeing as this series is already on season four), but it's a high compliment when an actor and their character become inseparable in a viewer's mind.
The rest of the cast is equally strong and gracefully, but never demurely, takes a back seat to their chief. The supporting characters' importance varies throughout the series, with no one, aside from perhaps Brenda's boss, Assistant Police Chief Will Pope (J.K. Simmons, Spiderman), outsmarting or shouting the series' star. It's not that Simmons is particularly spectacular in this role, it's more that the character is the only one powerful enough to harangue Brenda and make her listen.
The storyline, as I indicated, earlier, is almost always a neat and tidy package. The opening credits typically roll over a critical scene in the crime about to be investigated and they range from the mundane (there are two murder-for-hire episodes), to the bizarre (a suspect takes a plea deal only to offer up his own attorney as his partner in crime—this episode being the only case which promises to keep rearing its ugly head). It's intriguing to watch Brenda, and the show, connect the dots of the crime, and they do so with a lot of pondering and double talk and much less forensics than other cop shows. In fact, the forensic evidence in this series is constantly blamed for being too slow—no match for Brenda's hamster wheel of a brain. If you're a words person rather than a science person, The Closer's old-fashioned sleuthing is intriguing, even if wrapping up a multiple homicide case in under a week in L.A. is completely ridiculous.
Without the fancy forensics, and with a set that waffles between the department's headquarters (where a lot of time is spent scribbling on a large white board or interogating suspects in the interview cells), Brenda and Fritz's appartment, and staged crime scenes, this series is completely character and storyline driven with nothing special as far as staging, costume, music, or special effects go. That's not to say these aspects of the series are lacking; Brenda's outfits are alternately ridciulously Southern and startling fashinoable, the crime scenes are all more-or-less respectable if not "on location," and there are enough decayed or mutilated dead body shots to maintain some cop cred.
As far as the four-disc DVD package goes, all four DVDs bizarrely include a special feature called "Police Files." This turns out to be unaired scenes, but that's only indicated on the DVD packaging. The scenes themselves are unceremoniously short snippets that cut to a black screen with the copyright credits after every one. Thankfully the special features on disc four redeem the rest with extensive interviews with real LAPD officers. The stoic, honest presence of the real people protecting the streets of L.A. is a reminder of the amazingly difficult and important work these departments do, work that this Hollywood series pays homage to on the two special features "To Catch a Lie" and "A Day in the Life of a Homicide Detective."
The Rebuttal Witnesses
If you've just come off watching the entire series of The Wire, as I have, and you agree with the (other) critics who feel the series could do no wrong, you will laugh at The Closer. This series is not gray or black in tone and color; there are a lot of soft, even laughable edges to The Closer, where The Wire lives up to its name in more ways than one. While The Closer is not all sunshine and beaches (for once in an L.A. series I don't think a single bikini-clad woman or board short wearing dude was on display), it does have annoying in-laws and disheveled, Crate-and-Barrel decorated apartments. Brenda employs unbelieveable and dishonest tactics to coax confessions from her suspects, and those tactics never have a viscious backlash as they might on The Wire or in real life. And she almost always wears high heels to a crime scene, and if not high heels then a skirt with knee-high galoshes. If the cops on The Wire lean on booze, women, and lies as their crutches, The Closer leans on SoyJoy bars, pouts, and oval eye glasses. Who would win in a fight?
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Deleted Scenes
Review content copyright © 2009 Katie Herrell; Site design and review layout copyright © 2016 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.