Another female-led police procedural basic cable crime drama with a built in audience as loyal as the cast and crew that journeyed from one set to the other when one ended and the other began – on the surface, there doesn’t seem to be that much separating The Closer from its spinoff Major Crimes.
Yet what makes each series work so well – and in the case of Major Crimes actually exceed the original – isn't their many similarities but what each one does differently with (a majority of) the same ingredients, from its talented writers and directors to its stellar cast and crew.
While Captain Sharon Raydor, the character that Mary McDonnell embodies on Major Crimes is just as in charge as the tough but tender, powerful Southern belle Brenda Leigh Johnson (played by Kyra Sedgwick on The Closer), Major Crimes never lets us forget that there's much more Raydor than the level-headed calm she demonstrates week in and week out in any given episode.
A working mother who uses those same skills with her team in valuing honesty and loyalty above all, on Major Crimes, much more than The Closer, we truly believe – as early as midway through the very first season – that these characters have formed an on-the-job second family.
Driven more by its interpersonal dynamics than simply a crime of the week mentality, although the intricate mysteries and high profile cases still chart the course for the season, Crimes is less defined by grit than most procedurals including the at times emotionally distant, by-the-numbers plotlines and unflappable professionalism of The Closer and Sedgwick's otherwise beautifully played Brenda Leigh.
Venturing beyond the walls of the police department to show us Sharon's home life as the soon-to-be adoptive mother of former runaway teen turned material witness Rusty Beck (Graham Patrick Martin), even though we were riveted as early as season one, by the time we've reached Major Crimes' third season, we feel like we've gotten to know its supporting players better than ever before.
And this is especially true when it comes to G.W. Bailey's veteran crime solver Lieutenant Louie Provenza. Whereas he was little more than one half of The Closer's most consistent forms of comic relief in the past alongside Tony Denison's Andy Flynn, in yet another example of Major's character evolution, the oft-cynical Provenza has morphed Rusty's father-figure and the unexpected source for wisdom of the heart.
Of course, that's not to say, Provenza hasn't lost his sense of mischief – ribbing his old pal Detective Andy Flynn over what even Flynn's daughter perceives is a romantic relationship between him and Sharon that leads to some awkward situations for the two.
And this is just one of many subplots that tie into the season long theme of "expectations." Moreover, two of the strongest entries included in this four disc set (namely the episodes entitled "Sweet Revenge" and "Zoo Story" both of which should be sent immediately in to net McDonnell and company a well-deserved Emmy) show us the fierce determination of Raydor to proudly make Rusty a member of her family tree.
Understanding that the show is at its best when the stakes are high for others and we’re just as invested in the plotlines of its minor characters as its ensemble leads, season three gives The Closer regular and long-time fan favorite Deputy Chief Fritz Howard (Jon Tenney) a seriously close call.
Forcing Fritz to reevaluate things on two fronts when a personal scare coincides with a job offer, the situation forces Lieutenant Mike Tao (Paul Michael Chan) in the hot seat when it comes to Fritz and a sadly offscreen Brenda Leigh.
Left in the dark about that incident, the squad soon finds itself pushed into a test of loyalty of their own, when Detective Julio Sanchez (Raymond Cruz) finds himself getting too hot-tempered in the interview room and on the scene, putting cases and jobs at risk.
Mixing things up for our existing favorites, the third season brings Malcolm Jamal Warner aboard as a new colleague who becomes involved with Provenza's protégé, Detective Amy Sykes (Kearran Giovanni) in addition to reuniting the cast with old friends and enemies such as a few whose alliances aren't as easily or initially decipherable.
Expanding upon the ingredients that made The Closer stand out including making the femininity, intuition, and maternal instinct of its characters a strength rather than a weakness, Major Crimes continues to raise the bar in delivering viewers a much more organic law enforcement family of “blue bloods” than the ones we typically see on the small screen.
While the crime writing continues to be as uniformly excellent as it was on The Closer, by continuing to invest as much energy into its cases as it does its characters, Major Crimes has remained not only a major draw but a modern cable classic for those who cherish both character dramas and crime stories alike.
Not only proof that some spinoffs are better than the original, Major Crimes just also happens to be the best police procedural currently playing on basic cable TV.
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