Do the ends justify the means? That’s the question being asked in this week’s episode of The Closer, appropriately titled Necessary Evil. It’s a fine echo to the big question: Are Brenda’s actions justified?
In case you need a refresher…at the end of last season Brenda and the LAPD were being sued in the death of a gang member who died shortly after she, Gabriel, and Buzz drove him home to gang territory. The charge is that Brenda left this man—who admitted to murdering a man and his young grandson because he didn’t want to pay for a beer—even though she knew that he would die at the hands of his fellow gang members in retribution. Of course, this murderer made a deal before the confession, so he was beyond prosecution. We saw the scene. Brenda left him, despite Sergeant Gabriel’s protests.
And now, someone on the squad is leaking information to Peter Goldman, the lawyer handling the case who sees himself as the defender of those at the mercy of Brenda’s shoddy law enforcement tactics. (Goldman is played by Curtis Armstrong, whose character I liked much better on Moonlighting when he played Herbert Viola and was dating the sweet, but ditsy, Miss Depesto.)
As the episode opens up, Captain Sharon Raydor, brilliantly played by Mary McDonnell, is meticulously reviewing the actions of the members of the Major Crimes Unit at a fresh crime scene of a murdered high school principal, just as she has been reviewing their work in the office. The detail is excruciating. The team is visibly annoyed, but cooperating through gritted teeth. We get an excellent view of who takes the rules seriously on this squad and who doesn’t.
Brenda Can’t Help Being Brenda
Our murder victim is the principal of a troubled high school who was shot in his car. Raydor finds out that the wife, who reported the shooting, is being interviewed by Gabriel, but according to procedure, she should be with a grief counselor. Brenda has had everyone in the squad trained as counselors to get around this rule and get interviews done the same time.
Raydor is visibly frustrated that Brenda isn’t listening to her or taking the lawsuit seriously enough. Brenda hasn’t learned anything and is still prioritizing what she wants to do to solve the crime, over the procedures of LAPD.
“I feel less like a captain and more like a hall monitor every day,” Raydor says.
Then Raydor goes to Captain Pope and Commander Taylor to tell them she is going to resign. She’s had enough. Pope asks for her to wait a few weeks before she decides. He needs her to find the leak in the unit.
When Do the Ends Justify the Means?
As the team works through the case, they discover that the dead principal is hated for forcing football players to maintain a “C” average. They also learn that he is willing to discourage some kids from coming to school to help raise the schools’ test scores and he wants the football coach to stop helping them. The school will be closed unless test scores improve, but the football coach wants all of these kids to get a chance in life.
It turns out that Coach Carr wants them all to get a chance so badly that he has several of these underage problems kids living with him, without permission or the proper paperwork. The kids had no place to live before he helped them.
“I can’t decide if this man’s a killer, a monster, or just over committed to his job,” Brenda says.
‘Why can’t he be all three?” Taylor answers.
Who Are We Really Talking About Here?
The line between right and wrong is pretty murky here. Coach Carr was trying to help kids who had been both abandoned by the system and their parents, but his actions were illegal. The dead principal was trying to keep the school open, and prevent one group of hopeless cases from bringing all the rest of the kids down. Since one of those kids murdered him, I can see his point, but it is hard to say that any kid doesn’t deserve a chance.
“As good as Coach Carr’s intentions are, his actions were illegal,” Raydor tells Brenda.
“Or you could say that the challenges at work forced him to look for unorthodox solutions. And now, for going above and beyond the call of duty, he will probably lose his job.”
“Maybe it’s time for him to move on.”
“I don’t know.” Brenda says. “He seemed to be doing important work.”
And that conversation sums up seven seasons of Brenda Leigh Johnson closing cases any way she can.
Despite what Captain Raydor said, she is still looking for the leak, but you’ll have to turn in next week to find out more. It’s the 100th episode of The Closer entitled, “You Have the Right to Remain Jolly,” with Fred Willard guest starring.
Show creator James Duff tells TV Guide that we’ll also see the return of Brenda’s parents with news that overturns her life. And about the home stretch to the finale?
“What else can I tell you about these middle five episodes? Brenda’s peerless attorney, Gavin Q. Baker, returns to do battle with her legal nemesis, Peter Goldman. Captain Raydor searches tirelessly for the leak in the LAPD’s Major Crimes Division. The federal lawsuit moves to a conclusion. And Brenda Leigh Johnson finds that sometimes, even when you win, you lose.”
It promises to be a great show.
Deborah Lacy is an avid mystery reader who lives in California.