I can’t believe I didn’t figure out Brenda’s mystery illness in last week’s episode of The Closer. It clicked for me early this week, but still — how did I miss it? I felt the same way about this week’s mystery — it’s obvious, once you look at it clearly, but it still took me a while to catch up. I like to think Brenda would have cracked it immediately too, if she weren’t dealing with things that cannot be named for fear of making them real.

I feel spoilers coming on.

This week’s crime: Two Latino gang teens, members of the Catorce gang, were shot dead outside a house in their territory. This normally wouldn’t involve Priority Homicide, but Pope and Taylor think this is a part of an escalating black-on-brown gang war between the Catorce and the 1-5s. They figure they’re going to have to solve this crime, or the city will erupt. Is it just me, or does that imply that without the threatened gang war, the cops could care less about another dead gangbanger? And they wonder why they keep running into folks who aren’t fond of the police.

Brenda twigs to several weirdnesses: the victims were shot by someone on foot, not in a drive-by; the gun used was a small-caliber weapon, not standard gang equipment; no one noticed anyone, much less a black gang member, running away from the scene; and all of the "witness" accounts turn out to be based on supposition, not actual witnessing. Maybe they’re not dealing with a gang shooting after all.

But who else could have done it? One person jumps to mind: Miguel, cousin to one of the victims, who is rabble-rousing and talking about how the Catorce defend the neighborhood, how anyone could be a victim of the 1-5s, and how he wants to go kick some ass. His father tries to calm him down, and announces loudly to anyone in earshot that his son isn’t in a gang, he’s a good boy — he’s got a baseball scholarship! He’s not one of them! After his third appearance, I finally realized he was protesting too much — Dad had way to much of his own identity invested in his son not being in a gang. I’m not saying wanting to keep Miguel out of the gang was wrong, I’m just saying he started to sound a little obsessed, like that was the only thing that mattered, He was incapable of seeing his son as anything but Not A Gang Member. It’s like he would be fine with Miguel killing puppies or running over nuns, just so long as he wasn’t in a gang.

Franciscapra_veronicamars_240_001Miguel can’t stick to that — he joins the Catorce, which causes Sanchez almost
physical pain. (Granted, it causes Miguel outright physical pain, but I’m more invested in Sanchez at this point.) Miguel even pulls a gun on dear old dad, and what do you know, it’s the murder weapon. Brenda tries to get Miguel to confess, but he’s not the real killer — Dad is. Miguel skipped baseball practice, Dad got suspicious that his nephew was trying to corrupt poor, sweet, innocent  Miguel, so he shot him and his drug-dealing friend.

A couple of things really stood out in this episode. One, Miguel was played by Francis Capra, who played Weevil on Veronica Mars. Hi, Weevil! I miss you, and I miss your show! Two, we finally really saw Sanchez shine. He’s sort of faded into the background for me, not developing a distinct personality like Flynn (the schmuck), Provenza (the mischievous elder), Tau (the know-it-all), Gabriel (the golden boy) or Daniels (the girl). (And yes, I know "the girl" does not constitute a personality trait, but that’s pretty  much what I’ve gotten from her. She’s professional, but her defining characteristic is her gender. Sounds like it’s time to have a Daniels-centered episode, ok, writers?)

But this week, Sanchez turned into a three-dimensional character for me. I loved how solicitous he was when he saw Brenda sweating through the first interview with Miguel; I loved even more that he didn’t let that concern stop him from telling her when he thought she made the wrong call, like when she decided to let the gang initiation go ahead. That cell phone snapshot of Miguel getting the crap kicked out of him was a lot more eloquent than any lecture or plea. And finally, he really nailed his reactions to Miguel, Miguel’s dad, and the whole situation. He lives in that neighborhood, he is one of the people affected by this. He avoided getting sucked into a gang, and he wants to keep other people safe from them, but he has no sympathy for Miguel’s dad when he went off the deep end. If he was that obsessed with keeping his son out of the Catorce, why the hell didn’t he move?  The whole case just shook him, hurt him where he lives. Great job by Raymond Cruz, and good job writers, for finally giving him something to do. It’s about damn time.

And finally, great job again, some more, as always, from Kyra Sedgwick. When she started sweating though her clothing, I finally figured out that it might be menopause. I didn’t catch that before because I thought Brenda was too young. Brenda obviously does too. Kyra nailed Brenda’s discomfort, panic, and complete inability to deal with change. I was sort of annoyed at her at first for freaking the staff (and me) out, raising the prospect that she was facing something life-threatening, but the last scene with Fritz really brought home how world-shaking this is for her. The poor thing: now even her body is betraying her, forcing her to change when she desperately wants everything to stay the same. She just can’t get a break.

Posted by:Sarah Jersild