DVD Review– Major Crimes– The Complete Fourth Season
Major Crimes is an example of a spinoff living up to the original series, although in many ways, it is more a continuation of The Closer than a spinoff with a new premise. The big differences are that Kyra Sedgwick left her leading role on the show, a couple of the supporting actors departed, a couple of new actors arrived, and Mary McDonnell’s guest role became the central character. The lion’s share of the ensemble cast has been working together for over a decade now, and it remains one of the best ensembles on television.
McDonnell plays Sharon Raydor, the head of the Major Crimes Division of the LAPD. Raydor was introduced on The Closer as a foil to Sedgwick’s Brenda Leigh Johnson, who eventually became a friend and ally to Johnson despite antagonizing everybody as a no-nonsense head of Internal Affairs. In terms of personality, Brenda and Sharon were yin and yang, with Brenda being more visible and voluble about her emotions. Many viewers found Sharon to be emotionally frigid compared to Brenda, but this is inaccurate. Major Crimes makes a subtle but crucial distinction. Raydor isn’t cold; she’s controlled. Raydor is strongly protective of her loved ones and just as relentless in her pursuit of justice as Johnson, though Raydor is more willing to negotiate a plea deal rather than extract a confession.
Every season of The Closer and Major Crimes has a theme, and this year’s is “courage.” This is not my observation; it’s a statement by the producers. Most of the episodes reflect this theme to some degree, though arguably the same could be said about most of the other seasons. The mysteries remain almost uniformly solid, though the general tone of the show is substantially darker than previous seasons, perhaps in reflection of TNT trying to rebrand itself. A hallmark of The Closer and Major Crimes is that one never knew what tone the series would take from episode to episode. One might be a character-driven drama, with an action-paced nail-biter the next episode, followed by an emotionally devastating tearjerker, with a hilarious farce coming the following week. This season, only one episode is a full-fledged comedy.
Interestingly, this season’s twenty-three episodes can be divided into three acts. The first set of ten episodes resolve (through subplots) an unsolved mystery from Season Three, as the identity of a murder victim and her past are finally revealed. The second story arc covers the trial of the killer through B-storylines, and the third act, for the first time, uses a five-episode narrative in a single extended storyline to focus on a crime that could upend a community.
As usual, the best part of the show is the cast, with the standout, for the eleventh season in a row, being G.W. Bailey as Lieutenant Provenza. (Bailey has been robbed of a Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Emmy nomination for his work over the past decade—this needs to change.) There’s added focus on the romantic relationships between characters this season, but for the most part, I was underwhelmed by the pairings. In particular, though I really like the characters of Raydor and Andy Flynn (Tony Denison) and the actors who play them, I’ve never really bought their relationship due to the differences in their personalities and attitudes. Other romantic subplots fall flat, although one of the highlights of the season is Provenza walking down the aisle yet again—Provenza and his new love interest, Patrice, are the one couple on the show that have me rooting for them.
The fifth season of Major Crimes is currently airing, and though there have been some rumors that the fifth could be the last, I hope that the series keeps going for a long time.