The Closer played commercial-free for its third season premiere on Monday. Not all that much has changed since we last watched detective Brenda Johnson pull confessions out of high profile Los Angeles murderers. She is still using every trick at her disposal to get the job done, be it playing the busty dumb blonde, the schoolmarm or the fierce ball-buster. Watching Johnson morph into whatever it takes is but one of the alluring traits of the TNT series.
Brenda Johnson heads up the homicide unit for the rich and famous, or at least that was her original assignment. It appears she’s been given a broader scope, but still works on those murder cases the media obsess on. Her personal life is still a work-in-progress and she refuses to play by the rules. Although this sounds like the description of every female character on TV; what keeps it from being such a cliché is Sedgwick’s versatile and charismatic performance.
With a few solid film roles under her belt and a long marriage to actor Kevin Bacon, Sedgwick has mostly played second fiddle to a bigger star. Television has allowed her to reinvent her career. Now a mother of two and in her 40s, she is at the top of her game.
In the season opener, a family has been stabbed to death by an intruder. At the same time, the police department is being forced to make budget cuts. Johnson will have to lose one of her trusted team, something she can’t abide. Sedgwick needs these actors as much as Johnson needs them. Her right hand man, Sgt. Gabriel (Corey Reynolds), is as necessary to the balance as Provenza (G.W. Bailey) or Detective Tao (Michael Paul Chan). They’ve got a formula that works to the tune of six million viewers per week.
The Closer comes at a time where many of the heavy hitters are on hiatus, which means it won’t disappear in a sea of other shows. Audiences needed time to get to know Brenda Johnson because she’s a peculiar breed of police officer and woman.
For instance, she hates change. Her live-in boyfriend Fritz (John Tenney) has been forced to cram all of his belongings into the house they share because she refuses to go look for another one. She is hopelessly addicted to sweets and always turns to them when her case reaches a crisis point. She can work a confession out of the most assured suspect, but she can’t figure out how to work an automatic coffeemaker.
This season, Brenda Johnson is even more chaotic, confused and good at her job. It’s difficult to tell if they’re pushing her too far into caricature or whether they’re only doing that so that Johnson will seem even better at her job. It is the contrasts and the contradictions that make her so compelling to watch.
Like Patricia Arquette in Medium, The Closer allows its main character to struggle with problems most women struggle with while also maintaining her professionalism when necessary. What is most remarkable about Brenda Johnson is that she is not only good at her job, but she’s better at her job than anyone else. Because of that, no one can push her around. One might be inclined, after watching her work, to say she is a woman with cojones. But the truth is, in Sedgwick’s hands, it’s the other way around, as in, wow, she’s got some ovaries on her.
The Closer plays Mondays at 9 p.m. on TNT.