Review: Exit The Closer, Enter Major Crimes
Kyra Sedgwick | Photo Credits: Karen Neal/TNT
One of the things I'll miss most about Brenda Leigh Johnson is her sweet tooth: that secret compulsion and most shameful addiction indulged by the Deputy Chief of the LAPD's Major Crimes Division whenever she reaches for that overstuffed top desk drawer, a Pavlovian response to the nerve-wracking stress of her high-profile job. In a more typical L.A. crime story, the hard-driving boss reveals a weakness for booze. With Brenda, it's the soothing waft of chocolate when she peels back the foil from a Ding Dong, savoring the guilty pleasure.
We all know how she feels. For the last seven summers, The Closer has been a delicious summer treat, a smartly executed, wonderfully cast and winningly accessible procedural that was an instant hit and powerful signature show for TNT, putting the network on the map as a player in the crowded field of cable drama. What set this show apart from countless other police chronicles was Kyra Sedgwick's Emmy- and Golden Globe-rewarded performance as Brenda — which I first reviewed back in 2005, praising the "intoxicating mix of drawling honey and steely vinegar" she brought to this deceptively dithery Atlanta-bred belle, a provocatively charming yet unexpectedly cutthroat hybrid of Scarlett O'Hara and Lt. Columbo.
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Early on, The Closer's debt to the British classic Prime Suspect (and the character of Jane Tennison, immortalized by Helen Mirren) was unmistakable. Here was a pushy female interloper, further distinguished by a thick Southern twang and an inability to find her way around the Los Angeles sprawl, initially resented by the nearly all-male homicide squad she ruled. Didn't help that she had a messy past with the superior officer (the invaluable J.K. Simmons as now-Interim Chief Will Pope) who brought her in.
Though Brenda's sugar highs proved less debilitating than Jane's alcohol blackouts, both went after their prey with a single-minded aggression-bordering-on-arrogance that ruffled bureaucratic feathers and would come back to bedevil them. Soon enough, though, Brenda's co-workers and fans came to admire — the cops grudgingly, the viewer delightedly — just why she deserved the title of The Closer. What a blast to watch her use her feminine wiles week after week to disarm, maybe even seduce, the unwitting suspect so they'd underestimate her, then go in for the kill and wrap things up with a clipped "Thank yewww." It was the best stationary dance act on TV. As I wrote in my initial review, "The closer she gets, the better The Closer looks."
But nowadays, we expect our TV heroes to have clay feet (even in stylish stilettos), significant character flaws to make them interesting. Once again, Brenda aimed to please. Or displease. Her competitive zeal often put her at odds with her long-suffering beau and eventual husband Fritz (Jon Tenney), an FBI agent whose own job never seemed to come first. When there were territorial disputes between agencies, Brenda always expected Fritz to step aside, which he didn't always do willingly. In one of their more heated battles, she learned after they were engaged that he was an alcoholic with DUIs on his record from before they met. She accused him of lying, and he tore into her as a hypocrite, given the cavalier way she plays with truth on and off the job.