The Closer

TV Series Review

It's the twang you notice first.

Each word that falls from Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson's mouth holds hints of Georgia. Every syllable seems scented with magnolias and potluck suppers. Her voice softens her physical angularity and turns her from intimidator to intimate. As she plays confessor to Los Angeles' crooks and killers, and dorm mom to her all-male team of detectives, her twang makes her feel somehow … genuine.

Which, when you think about it, may be The Closer's oddest irony. Because Deputy Chief Johnson is one of television's most duplicitous characters. She lies, cajoles and cheats to get possible perpetrators to confess. And she'll walk to the edge of legality—and dangle her foot over it—to try to make L.A.'s streets safer.

This closer is a poser.

If we've learned anything from the last decade of television, it's that America loves crime procedurals. And, for the most part, The Closer follows the genre's playbook point by point. Every week in this telegenic la-la land, someone dies who shouldn't. Every week, Brenda and L.A.'s Major Crimes Unit sift through evidence, witnesses and suspects to find out who did it and why.

But what sets The Closer apart from  CSI and  NCIS is its titular character, hired away from Atlanta for her ability to get criminals to hack up confessions.

"Murder is the only crime I care about today," Brenda tells a pair of auto thieves. And when the thieves tell her that the dead guy might've been killed by a stray bullet from one of their would-be carjack victims (who fired warning shots in the air to safeguard his Cadillac), Brenda seems ever-so-sympathetic.

"I completely understand," she tells them as they unwittingly write out detailed confessions for attempted robbery and, because they feloniously triggered the chain of events that led to the accidental death, murder.

Brenda is the show's moral core—but she's often an "end justifies the means" sort. Not that we're asked to embrace everything she and her squad of detectives do, mind you. As the series has worn on, we've seen some of the unit's questionable decisions come to haunt them all. In The Closer's seventh and final season, Johnson and her team are under more scrutiny than ever—fallout for some questionable decisions made in a case the previous season. The result of these moral quandaries, as far as viewers are concerned, is one part escapism and two parts thinkism, meaning the show takes serious issues, lightens them up a bit, then encourages us to … ponder.

In one episode, Brenda and crew must investigate the torture and death of a murderer, inviting us to mull vigilantism. In another, the Major Crimes Unit explores the seemingly senseless death of a neighborhood "saint"—a reformed gang member who was working at a local parish before he was killed—and in so doing asks us to think about where God might be in the midst of random horror.

A quirky, self-deprecating levity is smoothed onto the top of those deep thoughts, and that sometimes gets in their way. But a bigger roadblock here is the fact that TV shows seem to all want to be PG-13 (some of them R) movies these days.

Brenda, in the hands of Kyra Sedgwick, is curiously old-fashioned. Her movements and dialogue at even crime scenes give her an air of authoritative gentility. She's not known for her swearing, which in our context is a good thing. But the criminals who surround her—and the rest of her squad, for that matter—aren't quite so courteous. The s-word sometimes makes an appearance, as well as "a‑‑hole," "d‑‑n" and "b‑‑ch." God's name is habitually battered.

Rarely do the murders happen onscreen, but the aftermath often makes the cut: bloody holes in foreheads, bruised and lacerated limbs. When we don't see the fallout, we're sure to still hear quite a bit about it, descriptions proffered with cold, graphic precision.

Series writers seem to shy away from sex scenes. But sexual content is common, from investigating the murder of a minor celebrity who built a cable show around the documentation of his one-night stands, to strategic salacious pictures, to detectives detailing their sex lives.

The police are the good guys here, no questions asked. It's the world they inhabit—and the worldview they accept—that are the perps.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Closer: 8-6-2012
Closer: 7-25-2011



Readability Age Range


Drama, Crime



Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson; J.K. Simmons as Assistant Chief Will Pope; Corey Reynolds as Sgt. David Gabriel; Robert Gossett as Commander Taylor; G.W. Bailey as Lt. Provenza; Michael Paul Chan as Lt. Mike Tao; Jon Tenney as Agent Fritz Howard; Anthony John Denison as Lt. Andy Flynn; Phillip P. Keene as Buzz Watson; Raymond Cruz as Det. Julio Sanchez






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Year Published



Paul Asay

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