(Photo from TV Guide.com)
Technical difficulties have kept me offline most of the day, but I promised to post about "The Closer" so here I am at last. ...
As "The Closer" has gone along, it has had to face a problem that plagues a lot of long-running shows: keeping the main characters fresh. What are interesting quirks to begin with may fade or become predictable as a show goes along. ("House" has faced that dilemma straight on this season, but having House interact with new characters who are not as aware of his tics and tendencies, so their reactions -- and presumably ours -- will feel new.) A flawed character may appear less flawed or more likable over time -- think of the people who consider House or Tony Soprano lovable -- and so less plausible as people.
"The Closer" has seen this possibility coming, and even precipitated it. In the first season, Brenda was at odds with entrenched powers at LAPD and with her own squad; by the end of that season, the squad was on her side, and the office politics were for the most part manageable.
The series has accordingly turned in other directions, giving us peeks at other characters' personal lives, and showing more of Brenda outside the office -- working out her relationship with Fritz, facing her mother and father. But those situations can also make Brenda seem more likable, since Fritz obviously loves her and her parents' ways indicate Brenda grew up with tough, complicated love.
So tonight's two-hour "Closer" is important because it reminds us of what a bulldog Brenda really is when there's a case to be handled, and that she's not nearly as nice as she sometimes pretends to be. And we see that, however aggravating her parents may be, they dote on her in a way that probably makes her siblings grind their teeth.
Short version: Brenda has a nasty case that leads her back home, where her parents (played so splendidly by Frances Sternhagen and Barry Corbin) think she's coming from Christmas. They even change their travel plans with the rest of the family to be home with her. But Brenda is far less interested in her family than handling the case. Still, events put Brenda, her family and several other folks on a cross-country RV trip where they're all going to have to deal with each other.
In the course of that trip, Brenda commits a ruthless act to solve the case. She does so in full view of her parents, and that will have repercussions. Among them is the sense that Brenda isn't all that nice at times, or considerate of her family. And that makes her once again pretty intriguing.
As sometimes happens with "The Closer," the case itself is far less interesting than watching the characters at work and play. But I'm still happy to watch the work and play.