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Does ''Closer'' Brenda Need a Foil?

By RD Heldenfels Published: August 11, 2006

I finally caught up with Monday's episode of ''The Closer'' and for the most part liked it, at least until it got to that cliched justice-in-the-parking-deck moment. I felt as if the show wanted things both ways -- to show that the system sometimes lets bad guys get away, but also to satisfy the audience that the bad guy was punished. But I've seen that kind of payoff before, and I would have preferred if the show just let Brenda Lee Johnson -- Kyra Sedgwick's wonderful character -- be frustrated for a change.

One other surprise about the show was how suddenly it dispatched the hospital administrator -- played by ''Boston Public's'' Anthony Heald -- after doing so much to set him up as an obnoxious, irritating counterpart to Brenda and her team. Indeed, the show seems to be searching for a strong, consistent rival to Brenda, someone who can get under her skin on a recurring basis. After all, her original foes have all been softened or co-opted; the detective squad that was once so hostile to her now consists entirely of allies, and her one major bureaucratic foe is allowed to take her side at times and even to be reasonable. (Who wouldn't want help dealing with a possible spree killer?)

So it feels as if the show is trying things out, trying out Heald, trying out Ray Wise's defense-attorney character (who's due back on the show).

It has played with the idea of tough-to-crack criminals (like the one who murdered his wife and hild in a recent episode), but that goes against the grain of the show. Fans want Brenda to get the bad guy at the end of the hour, with character flourishes and developing relationships along the way.

So it has to be someone who is in the middle of her cases without being the target, like Wise has been, or Heald could be (if his hospital becomes a Cabot Cove-like hotbed of murder). The snotty prosecutor, sneering at Brenda's case, is another possibility, and one that would give her trouble not only in dealing with cases but in making progress in her own shop. But it sure seems that, to keep the show fresh, they have to come up with someone who might even outmaneuver Brenda now and then. Any thoughts from you viewers?

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