The Closer Series Finale: “The Last Word”

Brenda Leigh Johnson
Thank yew…
The episode starts with sirens and an aerial view of Griffith Park. Brenda is driven up to the crime scene slowly and we see her squad members looking through the window of the van at her one by one. We know this is the beginning of the end.

The body of a 22-year-old senior at UCLA has been found—the third victim of a serial killer. She was raped, strangled, and buried naked with her purse. Lieutenant Tao determines that she may have been buried last night, but the grave was dug out days ago—there’s standing water in it from rain two nights earlier. The killer is smart.

As the squad searches for evidence amidst the foliage, we see a flash to nighttime where a middle-aged man is about to have sex with a teenage boy. While the two are discussing payment for services about to be performed and the teenage boy is pulling his pants down, they notice a man in black carrying a woman’s body. Not really what you want to see in a deserted park in the middle of the night.

The middle-aged man runs away, but the teenager can’t because his jeans are around his ankles. He falls down and a cell phone rings. He gets his pants on quickly and tries to turn off the cell phone, but the ringing and the light from the phone ensure that the man in black sees him. The man in black goes after the teenager with shovel. He hits him over the head with the shovel and throws him off a cliff, but not before the boy grabs the ski mask off the killer’s face.

The boy survives and still has the cell phone in his hand. He gets back to his car and calls 911. He doesn’t give his name and throws the phone away.

Back in the squad room, the team has recovered security camera footage of the third victim in a department store from earlier the day she was murdered. Although we can’t see the man’s face in the footage, Brenda knows he’s Philip Stroh.

Into the conference room we go with Pope, Raydor, Taylor, Brenda, and DDA Hobbs standing around watching the Stroh video. Pope doesn’t think it’s enough to nail Stroh. He’s worried about getting sued. Raydor says she will sign off on the investigation, which should protect them. Pope is still worried but they can proceed.

Brenda tells him that this is the result of him signing off on the Johnson rule, “We have to worry more about what the suspect will do to us that what we’re going to do to the suspect. You didn’t think of that, did you?”

The cell phone that made the 911 call is traced to the man in the woods, who helps them find the boy.

Fritz tells us that the serial killer now has a fourth victim. The fourth victim’s roommate told the police she was approached by a photographer in a department store who wanted to use her as a model. Just like the UCLA coed. The third victim’s rape kit comes back with no DNA to match. Our rapist killer is careful and smart. Hmmm. Just like Brenda, we know its Stroh, and Flynn agrees. Raydor tells them to go for a warrant even though the MO is different.

Flynn also wants to look at Stroh’s financial records and says no one will know because Gabriel is out of the room. He’s still mad because Gabriel didn’t transfer out. Provenza stands up for Gabriel and then makes a comment about Sanchez not being supportive. Taylor stops the argument, “Gabriel isn’t the suspect.” It’s clear that Gabriel can’t stay with Major Crimes.

Brenda interviews Rusty, the teenage boy. Sixteen years old, the boy was abandoned by his mother at the zoo. He spent his 16th birthday turning tricks. He says he was abused in foster care and will only cooperate if they pretend he is 18. Brenda agrees.

Since the team can’t arrest Stroh, they take a photo of Rusty which Tao doctors to make it look like it was taken the night of the murder. The photo runs with a transcript of the 911 call on the evening news.

We move to Fritzie and Brenda talking about a fifth victim and Fritz’s impending business trip to Washington to gather information on the case. Before he goes, he asks Brenda if she is sure the serial killer/rapist is Stroh. She’s sure. She also feels she has something in common with Rusty—both of them make their living from bad men and neither of their mothers are ever coming back. But Stroh will come back and she will have to deal with him.

Fritz asks Brenda where Stroh will come back to and she replies, “Where the bad men go.”

They set up the boy as a decoy back on the street and, sure enough, Stroh takes the bait shows up in a rental car. He approaches the boy and they arrest him.

Pope is annoyed because Brenda picked up Stroh without evidence, but Raydor is okay with what Brenda did.

Brenda hits the interview room with Stroh and shows him the video and the mask. She has a witness that saw him at the grave with the body. But Stroh is not worried. He knows she would have already arrested him for murder instead of soliciting a minor if she could. Besides he only stopped to talk to Rusty because he recognized him from the news programs and wanted to bring him in to help LAPD.

Brenda has to let him go and they walk him to the elevator. But the title of this episode, the last episode, is “The Last Word” and Stroh thinks he’s going to be the one who has it. He says that since Brenda has been keeping such good tabs on him, he wants to return the favor. As the elevator door opens he says he was sorry to hear about her mother.

That’s too much for Brenda. She jumps into the elevator alone with Stroh just as the doors close and begins to attack him. They get the elevator open and Pope gets to them first and drags Brenda away. Stroh’s face is bloody but his smile tells us he’s happy. Brenda’s hands are covered with blood.

Brenda tells Raydor that she knows she is now suspended pending an investigation. She takes her bloody hands to Medical Examiner Morales and asks him to plant the DNA on the mask. She tells him she’s probably going to be fired. He’s concerned, and rightly so, about planting evidence. DDA Hobbs tells him it’s part of the plan to get Stroh to freak out in the interview room that it won’t be used in court. Morales agrees and DDA Hobbs offers Brenda a new job as chief of the district attorney’s new bureau of investigation. The job is mostly administrative but she can get in the trenches when she wants to. Brenda knows she will need a new job. She asks if she can take someone with her. While she thinks about the job offer, she takes Rusty home with her so he will be safe.

DDA Hobbs calls Stroh and asks him to come in and voluntarily give a cheek swab. They found DNA on the mask. We don’t see Stroh’s response.

At home Rusty won’t cooperate further unless Brenda finds his mom. She doesn’t think there is time to do that right now, but promises she will. Rusty won’t be used by Brenda. He tells her that because he is dealing with bad people so much he feels like they are becoming part of him. We can tell from Brenda’s face that she is beginning to see his point, but she still needs his help to catch this killer.

Rusty reminds her that these women are dead and that she can’t help them anymore. It’s not even her job. She’s been fired.

Upset, she goes into the bathroom. Still talking to Rusty she notices that the window is open and the screen is inside the house. She keeps talking to Rusty even though she knows Stroh is in the house. Her gun is in her purse in the kitchen, so she grabs a curling iron. Stroh is holding a knife to Rusty’s neck. He knows Fritz is in DC and if he kills Rusty he can’t be a witness. Brenda tries to talk him into letting Rusty go, but we all know that’s not going to happen. She tells Rusty to relax and let his body go slack, then he flips away from Stroh and Brenda goes for the gun. Stroh gets her first and the fight begins. Stroh pins her to the ground, but she is able to reach for our absolutely very favorite fashion accessory on TV and shoots him through the bottom of her fabulous black handbag. That’s one way of making an accessory work with an outfit.

Brenda Leigh Johnson
How will it end?
Stroh is on the ground and still alive. He wants Brenda to call an ambulance, but Rusty thinks she should kill him. It takes her about thirty seconds to decide against making the Baylor mistake again. She calls 911.

Pope, Taylor, and Captain Sharon Raydor are meeting in Pope’s office discussing the future of Major Crimes, and Brenda. She can be cleared of the shooting charges, but there is still the elevator attack. Taylor says they need to make a change if Major Crimes is to operate without liability issues. We don’t hear them offer the job to Raydor, but we all know what’s going on. Raydor objects and that’s when Pope hands Raydor a letter from Brenda, she starts to read it aloud and then we see Brenda finishing it as she reads it to the squad.

“I thank you all for the honor you bestowed on me that allowed me to run this division as deputy chief for the last seven years. Once I come back from Atlanta, I look forward to working with you all again as chief of the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation. Sincerely, Brenda Leigh Johnson.”

The squad is disappointed, but then Fritz points out this lets her leave the department by taking confessions not giving them. He suggests that they bring out her going away present.

She calls them one by one by their first names, except for Provenza, who she can only call Lieutenant Provenza and says the only gift she needs is their friendship.

The squad jokes that when Brenda leaves it would put Provenza in charge, but he’s not so sure—“I hear rumors.”

Brenda asks them to find Rusty’s mother, and promises they will see one another as we all have at one time or another knowing it won’t be the same. Tao brings out the present. They have replaced her black handbag and filled it full of Ding Dongs. And then we get our very last, “Thank yew. Thank yew so much.”

They ask if it looks okay, and she says, “It looks like love. That’s what it looks like.”

Walking to the elevator she plucks out a Ding Dong. Once in, she peels away the foil and takes a bite. She looks a little wistful before she smiles. Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson finishes the series by not only getting the last word but also the last bite of the Ding Dong. 

Well done Brenda. Well done Kyra. Well done TNT. This is the best series finale I have seen of a show I’ve loved in a long, long time. And now I am ready for the first episode of Major Crimes.

What did you think of this fitting finale?
 


Deborah Lacy likes speakeasies, yellow heirloom tomatoes, and crime fiction. She blogs over at Mystery Playground. She’s on Twitter @quippy.

Read all posts by Deborah Lacy for Criminal Element.

 

Comments

  1. Saundra Peck

    The first thing Brenda said to her new squad on the very first episode was that the murder “looks like love”, now the last thing she tells her squad is that they look like love to her. This show, from first to last episode has made me think, cry, laugh and remember, now, to live in the moment. It was awesome from start to finish, and it looks like Major Crimes will carry on a fine tradition in a fresh yet familiar way.

  2. Carmen Pinzon

    I enjoyed this finale. As you say, it was better done than most finales I’ve seen. A fitting goodbye to Brenda, imo. Plus, it leaves the posibility for future cameos!

  3. Betty McBroom

    The third victim had DNA evidence in her. Surely the blood on Brenda’s hands could have pointed to Stroh as the killer of the third victim.

  4. Leigh

    Such a great show and a beautiful ending. So glad Brenda Leigh’s moving on to something that make her skills as a detective an asset. Bravo to TNT for a great series and a perfect ending.

  5. marain

    Thank you for the great review!

    So who is Brenda going to take with her? Gabriel? I noticed he is not in the Major Crimes photo.

  6. Clydia DeFreese

    I enjoyed the final “Closer” episode, but I wish that her boss had gotten some kind of “come-uppance” to end the series. He was such a “sleaze-bag” and got away with so much ! Instead …he gets promoted….and
    lives happily ever after!!! (just like in the real world, huh?)

  7. Jo Anne

    I am really going to miss Kyra Sedgwick and “The Closer.” The show provided an amazing amount of real acting talent, exciting action, and well-thought out plots. I don’t know what we would do without TNT these days for great series. Thanks to all of the cast, and especially Miss Sedgwick for these entertaining and, often, thought-provoking episodes.

  8. Deborah Lacy

    @sj1336 – thank you for remembering that. I had forgotten about it until your reminder. It really completes Brenda’s arc. Thank you for sharing it.

    @bungluna – TNT has left the door open to cameos on MC. I don’t think any happen this season though. It is interesting that we’ve seen more of Fritz at work than we have in a long time.

    @Betty McBroom – I thought the same thing when I first saw it, but I think it might have been excluded from evidence because she took it forcibly. Are there any lawyers out there who can verify this?

    @marain – She does take Gabriel with her. I thought this was fitting as well since she admitted to him that she should have listened to him about the Baylor thing. She should have been there for him. She has also relied on him so much throughout the show. He was the first one to support her.

    @clyida – It is just like the real world. I guess I didn’t give him too much of a thought this episode.

    @Jo Anne – I totally agree. They did an amazing job.

  9. Dr. Lewis Preschel

    Thanks for the review. The finale was so good because it didn’t play as a finale. No weaping at the beginning. It was solely the last episode with an ending similar to some many others. Still Brenda Leigh moves on. The story arc is complete, but we are saddened by her departure.
    Maybe a cameo or two on Major Crime. Is she the producer on that show as well? Hope springs eternal.
    We all mourn the end of this series. It was written so well and acted to the level of the writing. We can only hope that Major Crimes rises to this level. I want so much to like it almost as much. And if not, maybe Brenda Leigh will be drafted back to correct the failures while bending the law so that it works for justice.
    Sometimes ethics and justice and fairplay don’t live at the same address.

  10. Deborah Lacy

    @ ThaMadMutt – the co-creator, exec producer says there is a possibility that Brenda will show up some day in Major Crimes. I don’t beleive it’s planned in the first ten episodes that TNT ordered for this season.

  11. RonMorgans

    What a brilliant actress she is! Able to portray brilliant, quirky, funny, angry but always sincere. All the emotions that made Brenda so loveable.
    Fortunately, in the UK we still have some episodes to go. We’ll miss her.
    RonMorgans.com

  12. Deborah Lacy

    @RonMorgans – Lucky! You’ll get Sherlock before we will and you still have more episodes of Brenda and The Closer.

  13. Kjs

    I don’t understand why Brenda Leigh requested that Taylor come be her assistant? I didn’t think she ever liked him or respected him. I just got to see the finale.
    Thanks.

  14. Deborah Lacy

    @Kjs – she takes Gabriel with her. Taylor gets promoted to Assistant Chief and Pope gets bumped up to Chief. Corey Reynolds, Gabriel, has a talent holding deal wtih NBC for an unnamed series and Pope is in a new show this fall.

  15. Joyce

    You are so right. Brenda was a force the likes not seen in any of the police shows. Smart, intelligent, deductive, tough and gutsey without trying to be a “man” and took no prisoners. She is going to be missed mightly.

    • AndreaOConnor

      The Closer was one of the best shows I have ever watched. I give the show 💯 percent. Brenda was just wonderful. Her performance was brilliant. I do watch Major Crimes thou most of the same actors are on this show. It’s just not the same. Brenda keep them all on point. She was the thread that kept them together. I am sad that it’s over 🥲.

    • AndreaOConnor

      The Closer was one of the best shows I have ever watched. I give the show 💯 percent. Brenda was just wonderful. Her performance was brilliant. I do watch Major Crimes thou most of the same actors are on this show. It’s just not the same. Brenda keep them all on point. She was the thread that kept them together. I am sad that its over 🥲.

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