By C.J. Bunce
Breathtaking. Gut-wrenching. This week’s summer season finale of Major Crimes should underscore for any naysayers TNT’s decision last week to renew the series for a third season. Major Crimes wrapped its eleventh episode of the second season this week with what may be the best dramatic episode of television this year. Revealing the murders by a “poster boy” model of several innocent victims, the producers took us on a different path through the Major Crimes typical police turf to a place we didn’t really want to go. Creepy and disturbing in the way Medium once revealed its violent crimes, the audience was left on the edge of their seats not for any grand climax but simply marveling at how each of the cast members aided in solving the crime.
A good balance of crimes of the week and the key thread of teenage informant Rusty kept this amazing 12th year of this ensemble cast fresh, intriguing, and impressive. Newcomer Rusty (Graham Patrick Martin) made us wonder if he will ultimately be around for his trial or whether he’ll skip out and run away, especially in light of a batch of harassing letters he is receiving that purport to be from The Closer carryover criminal Stroh.
The big shake-up this season—and the series thrives on shake-ups—was the entry of D.D.A. Emma Rios, played by Nadine Velazquez. Velazquez is hard to read. By all appearances she is playing Rios as an incompetent lawyer. Rios is completely out of her element in nearly each episode as the team ends up in the autopsy room, as she tries to simply communicate with the detectives (poor Det. Sanchez), or operate in a courtroom. Where last season we had doubts about Detective Amy Sykes (Kearran Giovanni), and before that even Captain Raydor (Mary McDonnell) herself toward the end of The Closer, this season Sykes fits right in and we’ve been on Raydor’s side for a long time now. Rios? Rios is painful to watch. What do the writers have up their sleeves? Are we supposed to hate her as we used to hate the scheming tactics of Assistant Chief Taylor (Robert Gossett)? The bottom line is we’ve grown to like Raydor, and Taylor, and Sykes, so we’re taking it on faith that Rios will come through for us at some point. She certainly keeps the crime squad on its toes.
A trilogy of episodes this season featured Tom Berenger as Captain Raydor’s semi-ex-husband Jack. Berenger hasn’t been better and here he played a failed husband who also understood–and seemed to want to help–Raydor’s live-in Rusty in a way that Sharon noted was something he failed to do with his own kids. Ultimately Sharon pushes Jack away, but we hope we see him in future episodes.
One of the highlights of the season was the completely off-the-wall episode “There’s No Place Like Home,” with a variety of guest stars from classic TV including Tim Conway (McHale’s Navy, The Carol Burnett Show), Marion Ross (Happy Days), Ron Glass (Firefly, Barney Miller), Paul Dooley (Alf, Sixteen Candles, Grace Under Fire), and Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond, Remington Steele, Barney Miller). The gritty, sometimes gory nature of the L.A. crimes in the series beg for more comedic episodes like this one. We’re still holding out for the next episode featuring the comedic duo of Provenza (G.W. Bailey) and Flynn (Tony Denison). We almost saw this as they were accused of bumbling a witness in the episode “I, Witness,” a fun episode that left the guys playing clean-up and catch-up.
Rusty’s fear and angst grew last week with the episode “Backfire,” as the Major Crimes squad pursued the murderer of a young woman who was an FBI informant. The FBI botched its protection of their witness, and as Rusty followed along at his normal after-school haunt he had more reason to believe neither he, nor those around him, are safe as he waits to testify against Stroh.
Where will Rusty end up now that his friend Kris (Madison McLaughlin, Supernatural) has revealed his secret about the letters?
We’ve got a long wait to find out. Major Crimes returns November 25, 2013, with the mid-season restart episode “Pick Your Poison.”