“True Confessions”

The Closer in question is Atlanta native Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick), all Southern belle charm, who heads up a special division of LAPD (the Priority Murder Squad. Seriously, the PMS?). In a lot of ways, TNT’s The Closer reminds me of the show Prime Suspect: strong female lead (mirroring Helen Mirren’s Jane Tennison) in charge of a mostly male unit (used to doing things their way), good police procedural, with just enough politics, professional and personal, to sustain an air of intrigue.

As the show enters its third season, theme of family keeps rearing its head. From Brenda’s work family, her squad, which has taken her up until now to gel and develop trust; to the family she is trying to build with her boyfriend, FBI Special Agent, Fritz (Jon Tenney), as well as her own mama and papa. Her personal life is generally a mess, but she’s a genius at work. We are now used to the take charge Brenda, barking out orders and delegating duties all under a beaming smile followed by her trademark “Thank you.”

“I like to have the answers before I ask the questions.” –Brenda

“Closing” refers to her ability to push through the bureaucracy and shut cases quickly and accurately; in short, to get a confession from a suspect. Now, make no mistake where I land on the topic: Frank Pembleton (Andre Braugher) of Homicide: Life on the Streets was the best character in “the box”, out-closing any character. Brenda is number two. “The Box”, the interrogation room, is little different than a confessional booth.

There is a power of confession. There is something about looking someone in the eyes, face to face, and telling them what you’ve done. A burden lifted off you, a relief. Keeping secrets take work because the lies have a way of eating at you and the truth has a way of bubbling out. And yet, whenever someone spills the truth, they feel better or at least are now in a position to do something about what it is they kept bottled up inside them.

It’s foolish naivete to believe that people don’t sin or have their share of messes, but many people simply do not have a mechanism of confession. Of course there is an air of hypocrisy in most people’s lives: in constantly playing the sin game, we’ve created an environment of condemnation. People are quick to jump on a person’s sin and leave it at that, with the person ground under the heel of judgment. Thus it is no wonder that people find it easier, more convenient, to create the false persona of having their act together on the surface; never dealing with the reality of their unconfessed (or worse unadmitted even to themselves) sin. As a consequence of this, we get greater layers of secrecy and deceit.

Carlos: I did what I did for justice. Brenda: I know that, Carlos, but that kind of justice is against our laws. Carlos: Your laws didn’t work for my parents.

Rather than a hypocritical environment we need to create a safe one, one that engenders a spirit of honesty. We need an environment that still treats “sin” as a serious offense, but is mindful that the goal of restoration is always first and foremost. Like in The Closer, things don’t end with a confession. Things aren’t just forgiven and then swept under a run; there is still a penance. Acts have consequences, and criminal actions have penalties to be paid; with repentance comes a road to travel, one often paved with grief and regret. However, with the need for that secret to be there gone, there is a way to justice and redemption. There is a path to finding forgiveness along with the ultimate goal of restoration.

Brenda Johnson is today’s equivalent to Columbo, outsmarting her criminal counterparts with her deceptive charm and keen wits. Sedgwick has great charisma and shoulders the show easily, though her character has plenty of quirks (such as her sweet tooth and her efforts to hide it). When you think of a series built around the quirks of a detective, say for example, Monk, the act can get quickly tiresome, especially if the character doesn’t grow or worse, the personality ticks are piled on to wring out more laughs.

In The Closer, there is a great and largely under-utilized cast to spread things around. From grumpy, acerbic, just-this-side-of-lazy, Det. Lt. Provenza (G.W. Bailey) to her former beau now boss, Chief Will Pope (J.K. Simmons from Oz and Spider-Man), to the man who covets her job, Commander Taylor (Robert Gossett). The show is well acted and well scripted, with Brenda Johnson’s tough and polite charm holding it together.

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