The Complete Fifth Season (Warner Bros. Home Video-2010)
Cable television has become a nurturing destination for respected film actresses who have never quite found the stardom they perhaps deserved. Much like in the cases of Glenn Close (Damages), Mary McCormack (In Plain Sight) and Holly Hunter (State of Grace), Kyra Sedgwick’s has rejuvenated her career with her quirky leading-lady vibes in this above average police procedural.
In fairness, Sedgwick, though always a respected actress is probably better known for being half of a famous couple (her husband is Kevin Bacon) than her up and down film career which has seen both highs (Singles, Heart and Souls, The Woodman) and lows (Loverboy, The Gameplan). This is not even Sedgwick’s first attempt to translate her prickly southern charm to a TV series; she did a rather good short-lived sitcom about a radio host called Talk to Me.
However, for all the fine work Sedgwick has done in over twenty years of acting, The Closer is her true breakout role – and deservedly so.
Sedgwick plays Chief Brenda Johnson, the eccentric and wonderfully neurotic head of Los Angeles’ major crimes squad. Johnson is a big ball of problems – she is uptight, she is sometimes flighty, she is self-absorbed, she finds it difficult to relate to people and tends to obsess about things.
However, it is just these qualities which make Chief Johnson so good at her job. Her specialty is extracting confessions from criminals and her apparent scattered brain tends to get the criminals to underestimate her. Problem for the criminals is, behind that seeming absent-mindedness is a calculated pro who lulls them to a false sense of security and then strikes.
It’s not a new idea – in fact Brenda could be considered a neater, more obsessive compulsive ancestor of Peter Falk’s Lieutenant Columbo. The trick still works, though, and it makes The Closer one of the most intriguing series on the air today.
Beyond Sedgwick’s sterling work, The Closer has a crackerjack supporting cast including Jon Tenney as her FBI agent husband Fritz, a colorful squad of supporting actors including Corey Reynolds, Anthony John Denison, Raymond Cruz, Michael Paul Chan and GW Bailey (it’s nice seeing him again all these years after he made a splash as Sgt. Rizzo in the TV series of M*A*S*H). The greatest supporting role is her boss, Chief Pope – who is played by JK Simmons – one of the most reliable character actors working in television and film.
The episodes here also had an interesting cross-section of guest stars, including Mary McDonnell in a recurring role of an Internal Affairs officer who gets under Chief Johnson’s skin and Beau Bridges as a transgendered former detective.
Beyond the crimes, in this season the series followed two important character arcs for Chief Johnson. One was the surprisingly heart-tugging look at the slow death of her pet cat and her resistance to getting another kitten. This type of story can get maudlin quickly in the wrong hands; however The Closer handles it with a sure touch. As is her personality, Chief Johnson’s relationship with the cat is complicated. She does truly love the animal, and yet at the same time she keeps her distance. She can never remember if the cat is a boy or a girl (it is female) and never bothered to give it a real name, just always calling her Kitty. Yet, Brenda is completely distraught over the idea of losing her pet – more so than she would have ever imagined.
The second arc is a bit more commonplace. Chief Johnson’s angst-filled niece Charlie (well played by Sedgwick’s daughter Sosie Bacon) comes to stay with Brenda and Fritz. The wild girl causes problems between the control-freak policeman and her sometimes-too-understanding husband, but the aunt and niece form a bond over a particularly emotional case in which they arrive on the scene of the apparently random shooting of a young boy.
However, these arcs are just seasoning. The Closer lives and dies by its crimes and this season has quite a few fascinating mysteries. Add in an eccentrically funny way with serious scripts and a tour-de-force lead performance and The Closer truly is must-see-TV.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 9, 2010.