"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Closer: Tijuana Brass

With the end of the season in sight, "Tijuana Brass" started wrapping up the major ongoing story. The infamous Ramos article was finally published, and the the effects were many and varied. It couldn't have come at a worse time either, as Priority Homicide found themselves in the middle of a very delicate case.

Let's start with Ramos, and the reorganization of the department. There is still a little work to do with how things will shake out once titles and responsibilities are shuffled, but I have enough to pass a grade on the Ramos story. All things considered, it worked well. It was an interesting issue to tackle for the simple fact that law enforcement does have a very tenuous relationship with the media. It makes sense that I would see my favorite law enforcement officials struggle with it.

The addition of Ramos injected a whole new tension that I haven't really seen before, and it really spread. I could see the issues between Pope, Brenda, and Taylor coming as it all came to a head. But the entire team ended up being stuck in the middle. It also set the stage for the line of the night as Provenza cautioned Brenda, "Let's fight one Pope at a time."

I'm curious to see what it all means for the show as it moves ahead. It certainly seems that the reorganization will be largely cosmetic, as Ramos feared. Brenda is keeping her job, and her entire team. The crucial difference may be what kind of cases they are assigned. It's a clever move after fifty episodes. Opening up the story options to any "major crime" should offer some creative breathing room.

Getting back to the case, I really liked how this one played out. I was completely caught off guard by the opening, simply because they chose to cast Silas Mitchell as Father Donohue. The last two things I've seen him in were My Name Is Earl (Donny), and Prison Break (Haywire). Both were such over the top performances that his presence brings an expectation with it, for me anyway. It took a second to get on board with just what he was up to.

That's no reflection on Mitchell's performance, of course, just an odd artifact of modern television. He actually had a really good performance here, and his scenes with Brenda were my favorite part of the episode. It was given a little extra weight by everyone freaking out at the idea, given the post-article climate, of even going near the church. On a couple of different occasions, as the two went back and forth, neither really giving, it really looked like it would be a no go. The way they found common ground, and the confession at the end, were both really well done.

I was also tripped up when Fritz showed up to vouch for Mateo. The fact that he really was one of the good guys, and had given up everything to fight the good fight, was unexpected. Even with the FBI endorsement, it was still easy for the me to remain just as skeptical as Brenda and the team as the evidence piled up. The skepticism did start to wane rather quickly with the appearance of Commandante Vasquez.

It was pretty clear from jump street that he was going to be mixed up in the case somehow. When Donohue mentioned that a hit had been put out on Mateo, I had him pegged for that role. I didn't fully catch on to just how deep in it he was until everyone looked so surprised at who the owner of the truck was. Having the big gotcha scene on the other side of the glass was a nice change. And kudos to everyone for the take down scene. When Vasquez went after Brenda, that was truly frightening. But that's also right where they lost me.

The gambit of booking Vasquez as Mateo was the typical Brenda genius. And I was perfectly willing to go along for the ride as it led to him turning on his bosses and going away for a very long time. But to actually go through with it? Really? I can almost twist it to fit with Brenda's quest for justice, but this was conspiracy on the grandest of stages. It wasn't one person omitting a fact to send someone to death. It was a whole group of people. Despite that questionable ending, still a pretty solid episode.

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