Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Closer

TNT has been promoting the heck out of this series. I've seen ads for it every time I've gone to the the movies this summer, but I've never tried to watch it. Last night found me in front of the TV and nothing else on, so I sat through it.

I can't exactly reommend it, or condemn it, but the episode (#10) was interesting for a few reasons. Kyra Sedgwick and her "Priority Homicide" team at LAPD are investigating the murder of an Iranian national. This murder draws the attention of the FBI. The plot, actually, wasn't so interesting as the way the story was developed. The audience, of course, has a presumption where an Iranian is involved: terrorist. The writers played that angle, slowly revealing a story of a man who had become more political after the invasion of Iraq. But it was the treatment of the FBI agents that was most telling.

First, we learn the FBI is interested in the murdered man because he had $2 million, which they think he was using to fund terrorist activities; or so you think. It turns out the money came from the FBI, and they were going to track its movement through channels that presumably included either drug dealing or funding of terrorist activities. But then their informant was killed, and the money disappeared. They want their money back.

Enter the angry son, and the wife in headscarf and head to toe clothing (no burqa, however). Son is an angry young man who wants to send Mom back to Iran, and who may himself be involved in terrorist activities (aren't all Muslims?). Eventually Kyra and the FBI find out where the money is, and son is arrested and, we are told, sent to Egypt.

Now all along, Kyra Sedgwick has made pointed remarks to the FBI liaison agent working with her about Gitmo and torture. At one point she even confronts another FBI agent with the assertion that torture doesn't produce good information (she is, apparently, the expert at getting criminals to confess). Jump to the end of the story, where Sedgwick reveals to us (and her team) that the wife's lover murdered the husband so he couldn't take her back, as the wife tearfully says, "to the 17th century!" It was the husband who planned to return the family to Iran, it seems. But again, that's the plot. The devil here is clearly in the details.

In the interrogation of the wife, her lover tries to convince her to stop talking and ask for a lawyer. But Sedgwick as a trump card: she tells Mom that her son has been arrested and sent to Egypt. Mom immediately knows what that means. She then tells Mom that if she asks for a lawyer, Sedgwick will turn the whole affair over to the FBI. But if she cooperates? Well, son will be brought back to America.

Got it? Extraordinary rendition, terrorism, torture? But no one is a terrorist, and the murder was simply to end a marriage she apparently couldn't concieve of ending in divorce court. All the elements from the headlines are in play, but the story is a simple Perry Mason plot in the end. And through it all the FBI looks particularly dirty (at one point the FBI agent tells the son to review the PATRIOT act, because there are lots of things, he implies, that the FBI can do to the son). Well, that last part you might expect, too; LAPD is the "star" of this vehicle, the FBI should come off as "bad cop." But then, once the wife has confessed to the crime and to where the $2 million is, the FBI steps in and takes her away. She's dragged out tearfully pleading with Kyra Sedgwick to "save my son!" Kyra, of course, is both aghast, and powerless.

Drama, indeed. Not exactly film noir; but a fair simulacrum, for these times.

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