The finale of “The Closer” only had to do one thing — provide an ending for Brenda Leigh Johnson and her time with the LAPD. But because its spinoff, “Major Crimes,” was premiering immediately afterward, the last episode also needed to give Brenda an exit that would plausibly set up the new show.
It succeeded on the first count. The last case of Brenda’s LAPD career saw her finally get a confession out of her nemesis, Phillip Stroh, and provided a (mostly) very fitting exit for her.
The political winds at the department have turned increasingly against Brenda over the final season, and after her attack on Stroh in the LAPD offices, there was pretty much nowhere for her to go but out. But in getting herself fired, she also set the wheels in motion to finally catch Stroh.
She probably would have rather it not happen in her house, with a teenage boy who’s the only witness to Stroh’s final, imperfect crime caught in between them. But she finally, satisfyingly gets her man. And when she has the upper hand and Stroh offers to confess, she gets to deliver one heck of a kiss-off line: “You know what? I don’t want to hear it.”
It’s both a fantastic one-liner and a nice summation of why Brenda’s time to leave the LAPD is at hand. Her style of eliciting confessions by whatever means she can has taken too much of a toll on the department, and on her. The lightness in her character that was so evident in the show’s early going has faded some, as it would after several years of going head-to-head with some very depraved criminals in small, windowless rooms.
On the second front — setting up “Major Crimes” — the finale doesn’t hit the mark quite as well. It would have been cleaner to have Brenda just leave Los Angeles altogether, but that then would have precluded Jon Tenney‘s Fritz from appearing on “Major Crimes” (which he’ll do from time to time).
The offer from the DA’s office means Brenda will can be talked about without being seen (at least for now — if the new show runs long enough, there’s got to be a guest spot for Kyra Sedgwick in there somewhere), but it also feels a little unsatisfying. Brenda doesn’t ride off into the sunset as much as slip out a side door.
Still, for a show that was built on the creaky foundation of a criminal of the week, “The Closer” managed to create one of the most captivating characters of the past decade. Sedgwick and the show’s writers made her mix of sweet, steely and occasionally neurotic incredibly compelling to watch. She had a whole team working with her, but she often came off as a 21st-century Columbo, easy to underestimate until she drew the perps in and nailed them. For that, TV fans can be very grateful.
What did you think of “The Closer’s” series finale? Are you happy with the way Brenda exited?