The appeal of a cop drama most of the time is that the focus is on the case of the week, and the mystery of solving it. It is a special kind of cop drama that gets you so invested in the case that you feel either a sense of victory or utter disappointment with the conclusion of said case. But it is a rare cop drama that paints its characters so precisely, so fully, that you pay more attention to them than to the cases they’re solving.
This week’s Blue Bloods made a strong case for why it needs to stay in CBS’ lineup for quite awhile. After last week’s trite case and conclusion, it returned to the formula that made the first two episodes so gripping. The case was heavily linked to the family’s history, and affected each of the members of the family in a distinctly different, highly realistic way. The episode was an emotional rollercoaster, with the occasional bit of humor thrown in for good measure, and to prevent such heavy subject matter from leaving audiences completely depressed, and while all of the cast members delivered (yet more) solid performances, it was Tom Selleck who stole the episode, and singularly commanded the attention of the audience.
After a police officer was gunned down by thieves escaping from a robbery in the Diamond District, the Reagans were forced to think about their own fallen police officer – Joe, the eldest brother – and were able to relate to the way that the family of the murdered officer would feel in the aftermath of her death. The entire department thirsted for revenge as they searched for the man responsible for murdering their fellow officer, and Danny (Wahlberg), especially, was on edge and looking for blood. With a new partner at his side (Jennifer Esposito), he came dangerously close to stepping over the line of propriety in a most Jack Bauer-esque way, but ultimately, his decency won out over his anger.
Although most of the episode was, indeed, very heavy, there were brief respites from the emotion, and they were provided by Renzulli (Nick Turturro) and Jamie (Estes) as they responded to domestic disturbance calls that involved a disgruntled wife hollering at her husband through a bullhorn while setting up an inflatable pig outside their home. It was a little bit silly, but it also provided a much-needed brief distraction from the heaviness that permeated the rest of the episode.
The most troubling parts of the episode plot-wise were the attempts that Henry (Cariou) made to “help” with the case. The involvement of a “good bad guy” mobster whose own hatred for cop killers made him a makeshift ally of the department in the past was something that’s been seen before, but the few twists thrown in thanks to the fact that Selleck’s Frank is a much different sort of Commissioner than his father was, and therefore was not at all comfortable with his father’s meddling made it palatable.
In addition to Henry’s hi-jinks, the conclusion of the case was really unsettling. Suicide-by-cop is an oft-employed plot device, and there is never an instance when it’s comfortable to watch. As what looked to be an entire precinct of police officers – including a SWAT team – congregated outside of a garage, all with weapons raised and ready to fire, there was no question what was going to happen. The fact that so many officers shot relentlessly at one man – cop-killer (and therefore public enemy number one) though he may have been – seemed to be overkill (no pun intended), and I’m not entirely sure that it painted police officers in a very positive light. Yes, they were hurt, and felt a collective need for revenge against the man who took the life of one of their own, but when it came down to it, it mostly seemed like bloodthirstiness, and execution by firing squad. With so many police officers in one place, I find it hard to believe that one of them couldn’t have rendered him harmless, or, if it was necessary, gotten off a kill-shot.
Even the discomfort created by less-than-pleasant happenings, however, couldn’t ruin the incredible performance delivered by Selleck. The way he looks at people, whether it’s his family, or one of his officers, is unbelievable; the man can speak volumes with just a glance, and the beauty of Frank Reagan is that he is the kind of man who wears his heart on his decorated sleeve. Whereas many people would possibly expect a hard, detached, impersonal man, this is a man who makes it a point to feel. His eulogy at the fallen officer’s funeral was eloquent and delivered in a such a genuine, heartfelt manner that it was almost disconcerting when one remembered that it was just a scene in a television show. When his voice broke, and he had to take a moment to gather himself, it was like a punch to the gut. It was believable that he empathized with the fallen officer’s family as both the police commissioner and as the father of a fallen officer. Followed by an exchange of salutes with the officer’s young sun (predictable, but no less jarring for the predictability), it was the emotional center of the entire episode, at least insofar as the emotions of the general audience could relate.
Also notable was the exchange between Linda (Carlson, who finally gets to display her talent in a scene longer than five seconds) and Sydney (Moore), where Linda explains to Sydney how she deals with hearing that a police officer has been killed, and the way it feels to know that her husband could always be next. It also served to showcase that Sydney probably doesn’t have what it takes to be a police officer’s wife, that Moore continues to be wholly underwhelming in the presence of much stronger actresses, and Sydney pales in comparison to the superior female characters in the lineup.
Overall, it was a tough episode to swallow, but mostly in a good way. Selleck alone would be a reason to watch the show, even if the premise and plots weren’t any good. Luckily, it seems to be settling into a pattern of delivering consistently at-least-engaging episodes, and the characters’ relationships continue to grow, evolve, and even surprise – the only hint of the Templar storyline tossed to us this episode was of Danny blowing off Jamie’s inquiries about the organization, which, admittedly, earned a raised eyebrow from me. I’m a little concerned about Danny, to be honest, because I’m beginning to have a somewhat sinking feeling that there’s something very important that we don’t know about him, and while it could be a total cliffhanger to lead into sweeps week, or for a holiday hiatus, it could be disappointing if done incorrectly.
As always, we’ll have to wait and see, but for now, my 10 PM Friday timeslot will continue to be filled.