You know, I was pretty excited when it was announced that Mary McDonnell would be doing an extended guest spot on The Closer–two strong women going toe-to-toe sounded like a lot of fun. Too bad I was wrong–the presence of McDonnell’s internal affairs-type cop has highlighted what’s made The Closer less fun over the years: Deputy Chief Johnson’s blazing lack of professionalism. The show keeps trying to tell us Brenda’s coming out on top, but the actions she takes to get her results don’t make her look like much of a winner.
There’s no question that pretty much everyone who ends up in Major Crimes’ interrogation room is reprehensible (and since Brenda is never, ever allowed to be wrong, they almost without exception deserve to be punished). But the show seems to be getting closer and closer to the idea that since these people are reprehensible, it’s okay for Brenda to do absolutely anything in order to wring a confession from them and give them that punishment they so richly deserve. “Three Strikes,’ in which two policemen are killed by Aryan gang members (who, as if we needed additional reason to despise them, are also running meth), edged right up to asking the audience to cheer for waterboarding.
The show sets Brenda’s rage and grief over two of the (very) good guys being killed by the (very) bad guys up against Captain Raydor’s more pragmatic claims that investigating cases correctly and following the rules protects the good guys (mostly from the threat of lawsuits, which is somewhat less sexy than Brenda’s emotional appeals). And Brenda’s insistence that Raydor’s rules make the job of convicting criminals harder probably resonates with the audience’s wishes that justice was easier to come by, suggesting that maybe it’s okay to bend those rules in order to protect society from the worst of the worst. But when Raydor has to march into the scene and demand that our main characters put a stop to Culprit #1 trying to strangle Culprit #2 with handcuffs in the back of a police car rather than standing around enjoying the show, they’ve crossed the thin blue line. The rules that create a free society are only meaningful when they protect the worst in that society along with the best, and our crew seems to have an interest only in the kind of justice that punishes criminals, not in the kind that ensures it’s only the guilty who are punished. Ending an episode that shows that Brenda and her crew are more than happy to turn their back on American ideals as long as it helps them get a confession by zooming in on an American flag being lowered to half-mast is audacious indeed.
Brenda’s audacity has recently taken a turn that asks us to believe that a woman who would disregard basic rights, tell lies, pout about her team doing their jobs, and use her cat’s death to manipulate people is someone who is good at her job because she always gets her man. But being good at a job isn’t limited to an end result–to some extent, the journey matters as much as the destination, and as long as Brenda continues down this unprofessional road, it’s less fun to take that journey with her. Don’t make us cheer for Captain Raydor, Brenda–we already thought she should have your Emmy nomination slot. Don’t make us think she should have your show, too.