A little twist on the column this week as I preview shows that are coming out this week such as the series finale of The Closer and debut of spinoff series Major Crimes as well the very early season return of Grimm and the lackluster treatment of Black characters on Falling Skies and the primetime return of Tyler James Williams.
Regular readers of this column know that The Closer is clearly one of my favorite television programs. In the premiere season seven years ago, series creator James Duff injected the show and star Kyra Sedgwick’s character deputy chief Brenda Leigh Johnson with a Prime Suspect-inspired plotline of being the female boss of an elite unit of (mostly) male LAPD detectives and lieutenants who are uncomfortable following the lead of a woman, most especially one who is an outsider from Atlanta and has unconventional techniques in getting suspects to confess to their crimes. Since then her crew learned to trust her instincts and even embrace her Southern charm as they developed into the crack unit they were created for, with many humorous crime situations and squad personality quirks to make them more distinct from other procedurals. The Closer relied more on character than on ‘the case of the week,’ which is why when the producers seemed to abandon that format and become more procedural in recent years is why the show suffered creatively and critically. *SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN LAST WEEK'S PENTULTIMATE EPISODE*
However, having a through-line within this final season – the fallout from Brenda leaving a guilty gang member suspect who was offered a deal released into enemy territory and murdered – saved the show from going out on a sour note. Though Brenda was cleared of corruption charges before this last half of season seven returned a few weeks ago, the story of the mole in the unit just got cleared last Monday with both a twist and truly emotional results.
As suspected, Detective Sergeant David Gabriel (Corey Reynolds) was involved deeply in the mole controversy…but wasn’t the mole. He was sweating bullets as Captain Raydor, played by Mary McDonnell who’ll be taking over the Major Crimes Unit after The Closer ends (more on that below) brought him in to meet with Asst. Chief/soon-to-be Chief of Police Will Pope (J.K. Simmons) and the conniving Commander Taylor (Robert Gossett) and, to everyone’s surprise, Gabriel’s teary-eyed girlfriend Anne (Shanti Lowery) who first appeared two episodes back (see my review of her and that HERE). Lovely law student Anne was approached months ago by lawyer Peter Goldman (played nastily by Curtis Armstrong), who held corruption charges against Brenda, to approach and get to know Det. Gabriel better in order to find out more about how and why gang member Terrell Baylor was killed. Gabriel, like many other cops, though it’s illegal to do so, share their on-the-job stress with their mates and thus Anne go the goods on how he felt and what Brenda might or might not have done wrong. Through watery eyes Anne claims she did it for more than getting her student loans paid off – she did it because she was told he was a corrupt cop. But, she says, when she realized he wasn’t one she stopped reporting to Goldman and continued their relationship as she was falling in love with him. The anguish on Reynolds’ face was strong as he turned in what was perhaps his best performance on the show ever. This is a DVR worthy scene and episode, worth watching over again. His follow-up when he admitted to Chief Johnson what happened, most notably her reaction and his response, capped this fantastic performance, highlighting why Gabriel is – or it looks to be was – the heart and soul of his unit. Somebody hire this brother to be in your next movie! (And no, not you T.P.)
The past three episodes of The Closer have been among the best ever for the show and it’s good to see them end the show on the top of their game. The previous week’s episode ender with Brenda’s mom dying in her sleep, though foreshadowed throughout the episode still had me shaking at that episode’s end. Mrs. Johnson’s death, along with her father’s cancer treatments and Chief Pope’s moving up the ladder and not being able to protect Brenda’s um, funky techniques, will apparently be the impetus for Brenda to retire from the LAPD. Tune into TNT at 9pm (EST) for the series finale of The Closer.
Spinoff series Major Crimes also debuts tonight, at 10pm following The Closer. As mentioned, Mary McDonnell’s Captain Raydor takes over the titular police unit with most of the cast intact, surprisingly including Jon Tenney who plays Chief Johnson’s husband FBI agent Fritz Howard on The Closer, save Reynolds and Sedgwick and adding Graham Patrick Martin as Captain Raydor’s son and Kearran Giovanni from the soap opera One Life To Live as Detective Amy Sykes (where do these TV shows find all these pretty female cops?). I assume Commander Taylor will be her boss too. I’ve only seen clips from the show and it seems to take on a more action-oriented vibe than The Closer. I’ll let you know how it is, and please let me know what you think of it as well. UPDATE: recurring Closer cast member coroner Dr. Kendall, played by Ransford Doherty, has been added to the main cast as well.
This is a heavy DVR Monday as Grimm also returns to the television schedule tonight, well ahead of any other show. As the show had a hard time getting strong viewers, but consistently beat its main competitor Fringe in the ratings, it barely made it back to the lineup so it makes sense to get viewers involved very early. I have to admit I was wrong about Grimm – it’s a good show. While I had to and would always choose Fringe over it, I watched a few episodes from the end of its first season and they did a good job of incorporating more monster mythology into the show and raising the stakes, pun not intended.
More importantly, Russell Hornsby’s character Hank has a stronger presence on show and is now able to see the true form of creatures disguised as humans just like his homicide partner Det. Nick Burkhardt, show star David Giuntoli can as his other profession is a “Grimm” and his family destiny (he’s descended from The Brothers Grimm of legend) is to be judge, jury, and sometimes executioner for crimes among the Wesen, various creatures like werewolves, witches, dragons and such for which there are no human laws that apply. Wesen-witch Adalide manipulated Hank to work against Nick for a good portion of the season and even cast a love spell on him that was ultimately countered by Nick and his Blutbad (like"Big Bad Wolf") ally Monroe, played by Silas Weir Mitchell.
Season 1 saw a lot of action as Nick learned a lot more about who he is and who the different monsters and players are in the creature world, as well as that his parent’s death was not a car accident but a deliberate plot by the Wesen high-command. Finally in the season finale, it is revealved that the mysterios Woman In Black that helped Nick repel an assassin is his mother, who’s not dead at all. Played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrontonio (The Abyss, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), according to the cool comic-book like marketing images it looks like she’ll be around for the foreseeable future.
Catch up on season one with the video below.
Keeping with the sci-fi angle, though it aired last night and doesn’t return until next Sunday I advise you not watch Falling Skies anymore. They have a higher disregard for their Black characters than they do their plot lines…and that’s a lot. Okay, perhaps it was best that they killed off alien Skitter-slave Rick (Daniel J. Gordon aka Daniyah Ysrayl), but they way they killed-off cool azz recurring character Jamil , having his body invaded by all these spider-like insects (see that image HERE), was unnecessarily gruesome. Played by Brandon Jay McClaren, who also got the snot beaten out of him on season one of the recently cancelled AMC show The Killing, I hope on his next new series on the USA Network he’s treated more kindly. Worse of all is the indifference they play toward Mpho Koaho, who is supposed to me a supporting cast member on the show. His character Anthony disappeared for half the season, stupidly to keep watch over the irascible Pope as he left the freedom fighters troop, then returned for a little while but is barely seen again. I’m done with this show and you should be too.
Meanwhile, check out Tyler James Williams, or as Black people call him Everybody Hates Chris, on the new Matthew Perry series Go On, which had a sneak preview last week and is available online to watch on NBC.com or on the video below. Voiceover actor Khary Payton (Teen Titans, Young Justice, G.I. Joe Renegades) aslo co-stars and veteran actor Bill Cobbs (one of my favorite all time actors) has a recurring role.
Other goings in new Black television this week you can see Malik Yoba tonight in the new season of Alphas (SyFy Channel – 10pm EST), Jahmil French as Dave Turner and Shanice Banton as Marisol Lewis on Degrassi: The Next Generation (TeenNick – Tuesdays through Friday’s for the summer), my man Aldis Hodge next Sunday at 8pm on Leverage, somehow try to sit through an episode of Michael Jai White, Tasha Smith, Crystle Stewart, Kent Faulcon, Jason Olive and Bobb’e J Thompson on Tyler Perry’s For Better Or Worse, and try to do the same for Michael Boatman on Anger Management (FX – Thursday at 9:30pm).
Speaking of Michael Jai White, stay tuned for a future special edition of This Week in Black Television highlighting the best of his and Scott Sanders’ continually amazing Adult Swim cartoon Black Dynamite: The Animated Series, of course based on the 2009 movie.
In closing I would like to pay a melancholy goodbye to Al Freeman Jr., a fantastic actor who not only was a shining example of great acting but a teacher to generations of young talent at Howard University. I was just showing my girlfriend his episode of The Cosby Show (season 1, episode 20) just a few weeks ago (though she didn't enjoy my history lesson on him as much) and I will truly miss this giant. May you rest in peace sir.