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As The Closer has worn on in its seven seasons, I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with the Kyra Sedgwick vehicle. Early on, I tired of Sedgwick’s Brenda Johnson’s out-of-office immaturity; eating candy bars doesn’t always add up to character dimension, and her scenes coaxing confessions out of suspects (the crux of the show) felt easier and less earned. On the other hand, the show has one of the better ensembles on television, and is a diverse one at that.
“Hostile Witness,” the first of this summer’s final batch of episodes before Sedgwick leaves and the cast migrates into the show’s spinoff, Major Crimes, didn’t feature much of said ensemble, instead veering away from the precinct and into the courtroom. Brenda is testifying against a suspected rapist, George Harris (Scott Michael Morgan), and is sure there is a second suspect also guilty of the crime. Said client’s lawyer is Philip Stroh (the excellent Billy Burke), who has become Brenda’s Achilles heel; since season four, she is convinced that Stroh is a rapist and the one suspect who got away, and that maybe this case is the chance to nail him.
Causing a mistrial, Brenda identifies Stroh as a potential second offender in the murder-rape trial, creating an enemy in DA Claire Baldwin (Amanda Warren). She and her husband Fitz meet the first victim of the potential rapist, who seems willing to identify Stroh. They bring her into the station, but she doesn’t catch sight of either Harris or Stroh. Unlike the rape victim who passed away, this one had been drugged and awoke mid-attack due to interference with her anti-depressants, a nice medical touch for the show. As a result, the assailants had increased the dosage used to knock the next victim out, inadvertently killing her.
Baldwin stonewalls with Brenda, trying to keep the witness from being treated like a victim. Meanwhile, Brenda’s behavior has angered Chief Pope, who tells her she cannot treat Stroh like a suspect. The whole thing plays far more like a sweeps episode of Law & Order than a procedural like The Closer we are used to. Invoking the show’s self-created “Johnson rule,” in which an officer is not allowed to let a victim or suspect whose safety is at risk walk out of the building without protection, Brenda brings the victim, Natalie (played by Julia Whelan, one of the most awesome things from Once and Again, one of the most awesome shows ever!), home, and maneuvers her into helping with the investigation despite Baldwin’s resistance. This is all a little too slick and foreordained, however; it doesn’t really put Brenda’s slippery skills to the test.
At any rate, Brenda gets Natalie and Stroh to the same restaurant. Natalie doesn’t recognize Stroh, but does see the second assailant, who gets apprehended. Stroh taunts her, so I guess they’ll keep dragging this out for the remaining episodes of the show. I hope the ultimate payoff is worth it. Meanwhile, the immediate result is that Brenda is prohibited from investigating Stroh and she now has a major rival in Baldwin.
Meanwhile, will they do more about the supposed mole within the major crimes division? Stay tuned.