The Complete Third Season
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All photos © TNT
Reviewed by Will Harris
ay hello again to Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson and her crew in the Priority Homicide Division of the Los Angeles Police Department. After surviving a freshman season where its sister series, “Wanted,” was found to be relatively unwanted by viewers, “The Closer” secured solid ratings during its sophomore year (and found a new fan in this writer). In its third time around, the show continues to build on its established format while upping the dramatic ante on several different occasions.
As you may or may not recall, Season Two involved major turning points in both the personal and professional lives of Brenda Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick). The former found Ms. Johnson finally agreeing to allow her boyfriend, FBI Agent Fritz Howard (Jon Tenney), to move in with her; she also allowed her mother to become aware of the arrangement, but not her father. (Oh, LORD, no, not her father.) In the office, however, there were major repercussions resulting from Lt. Provenza (G.W. Bailey) having left his weapon in his drawer, thereby giving a prisoner the opportunity to grab it and shoot a man. Though Provenza managed to survive the situation with his job intact, no one has forgotten the incident, and when budget cuts are being discussed at the beginning of Season Three, it’s suggested that perhaps they could just have Provenza be put out to pasture. As for Brenda and Fritz, they’re still together, but now Brenda’s fretting about the inevitability of having to speak to her dad about their situation, and she’s also dealing with Fritz’s prodding to buy a new, bigger place.
According to the show’s creator, James Duff, the theme of the third season is “family.” Maybe there’s a “dysfunctional” in front of that, though, based on the various goings-on. Sgt. Gabriel (Corey Reynolds) clashes with Brenda over the handling of a case involving a former gang member turned politician, but it’s when he goes completely over the edge with the “questioning” of a pedophile that their relationship really goes south. Detective Sanchez (Raymond Cruz) takes the spotlight in an episode about a Mexican gang (hey, it’s L.A., there are a lot of gangs). The show has fun when, during a case regarding the murder of a Chinese prostitute, Lt. Chao (Michael Paul Chan) gets slightly indignant when he’s asked if he can help interrogate the suspect. “I’m fourth-generation American! I don’t speak Chinese!” The previous relationship between Brenda and Chief Pope (J.K. Simmons) also pops up on occasion; it’s prominent when he reveals that he once had an affair with a murder victim. But there’s a very subtle moment during the brilliant “Blindsided,” an episode where Brenda is involved in a shooting, and his expression of horror and heartbreak when he’s told about it is captured on film for all to see. It’s only topped by the look on his face when he first hears that Brenda and Fritz have gotten engaged.
As noted, Brenda and Fritz’s house search is a major thread, with a recurring role by French Stewart as their egotistical, talks-about-himself-in-the-third-person realtor, Gary, but the impending nuptials aren’t really a major point of discussion until Brenda’s parents – Frances Sternhagen and the invaluable Barry Corbin – turn up for a visit. There’s also a medical concern for Brenda this season, and though the symptoms look suspiciously like pregnancy, that couldn’t be further from the truth. (In a nice nod to the series that indirectly inspired “The Closer,” S. Epatha Merkerson of “Law & Order” appears as Brenda’s OB/GYN.) The final episodes of the season, the two-part “Next of Kin,” really delve into the turbulent triangle between Brenda, her family, and her job, with Brenda assuring her parents that she and Fritz have come to visit them in Atlanta when she really just wants to follow up on a suspect in a bank robbery. When the truth comes out, the results are brutal.
As with previous seasons, “The Closer” continues to impress with its blend of humor and drama, with realistic dialogue and characterizations and top-notch performances. G.W. Bailey’s dry delivery remains a highlight of every episode, but it’s a testament to Kyra Sedgwick’s abilities as an actress that she can make you sympathize with Brenda one minute and have you want to shake some sense into her the next. Will Season Four actually find Brenda and Fritz walking down the aisle? Don’t hold your breath -- but it’ll be worth watching to find out.
Special Features: Though not exactly packed to the gills, the set does include one nice featurette, “The Art of Interrogation,” which has real-life psychologists and law enforcement professionals explaining the interrogation process, with folks from the show chiming in on how they incorporate those elements into the show. There’s also a gag reel and a handful of deleted scenes, but, sadly, no audio commentaries are offered up.