Well, it figures. Just as Mary McDonnell’s hard-edged, snub-nosed character on “Major Crimes” was really was starting to grow on me, the season has almost drawn to a close. With the penultimate episode “Cheaters Never Prosper,” things finally clicked for me, and I saw the true method behind her madness. It seems to me from the commentary I’ve seen on the internet, that some people love Raydor (McDonnell) and some actively do not, and it also seems that those who fall into the latter category tend to be the ones who miss mother show “The Closer” and Kyra Sedgwick’s indelible portrayal of Brenda the most.
I was among them, and it kind of threw me for a loop at first that they would even consider giving the lead to McDonnell’s character, who had been such a constant thorn in the side of nearly everyone on the show. Now I get it. The people behind “Major Crimes” went for the long con, and judging from their early renewal, it ultimately worked. The trick was subtly changing the character from the personification of an evil overseer to one who played it tough because she had to. You might not like Raydor’s methods as much as Brenda’s, but they too, get the job done.
Interestingly, more than a few have rallied to McDonnell’s defense, pointing out how the character had subtle shades to it that had revealed themselves gradually, trusting the viewer to be patient and hang in there, for ultimately, the reward would be great- when it finally came. Well, friends and neighbors, they may have taken too long for some people’s tastes, but by God, they’ve finally got there, and most importantly, without compromising the hard edge that made some gravitate to Raydor in the first place.
Note the sly nod to Raydor’s time in Internal Affairs in “Cheaters Never Prosper”- just to remind fans that, though Raydor may have a heart underneath all the gruff, when it comes to business, she’s got it well under control. In short, they hired the right person for the job.
As predicted, the business with Rusty came to an unpleasant head this week. I suspected the dastardly Daniel Dunn (Ian Bohen) was up to no good, and that proved true when, in a particularly nasty bit of business, he pummeled poor Rusty after he confessed his sordid past to his would-be stepmother. I have to say, although I certainly suspected Dunn to be up to something, I never would have thought he’d beat the kid up. That was kind of shocking and unexpected. Although, I don’t know what it says about me- or at least my mixed feelings about Rusty- that I afterwards wondered if maybe Rusty had done it to himself so that he could stay put with Raydor. I guess we’ll find out for sure on the finale. Whatever the case may be, it was the first time since his initial confession of what he’d been through that I truly felt bad for Rusty and sympathized with the character. Now.I’m not so sure.
Whatever the case, it led to some great emotional moments, with McDonnell in fine form throughout. Just as impressive was her ability to juggle that mess with her ongoing case of the week, a somewhat snoozy one about identity theft. If you watch a lot of TV, you tend to be automatically suspicious whenever someone relatively well-known crops up, so that blonde makeover didn’t keep me from automatically suspecting guest star Sprague Grayden, fetching though it may have been- she may well be the rare brunette even cuter as a blonde.
Grayden is a TV vet, from “24″ to “Sons of Anarchy” to the late, great “Jericho,” with plenty of guest shots in between, plus a big ticket role in the “Paranormal Activity” franchise. Is it coincidence that this premiered just before the next installment of the latter? Probably, but whatever the case, I knew she was the culprit here.
Speaking of TV vets, it was fun seeing the erstwhile Radzinsky, character actor Eric Lange in not one but two big shows, “Major Crimes” of course, but also including last Friday’s “Fringe,” where it looks like he’ll be joining in the fun for that show’s last season- for a while, at least. Lange excels at these sorts of characters, which is to say, computer-savvy pretentious a-holes. Ironically, he’s so funny and likeable on “Victorious,” also ending this year. (Hey, don’t judge- I have nieces! But seriously.Victoria Justice, I mean, wow. Ahem- back to our regularly scheduled program.)
Anyway, the main crime was so-so, but the cast was so good overall, it was hard to complain, especially after last week’s fun Tao-centric ep. On the whole, I’m going to give “Cheaters Never Prosper” a pass, if only because it was the week everything sort of finally fell into place for me.
What do you think? Is McDonnell finally coming into her own, or was she already there from day one? Did the writers do a good job with transitioning her into the lead or could it have been a bit more expedient? Do you think Rusty pulled a fast one? How do you think that whole plotline will play itself out? Let me know in the comments section!
Mark Trammell is the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s resident entertainment critic-at-large. Check out his work at: http://studentmedia.uab.edu/tag/marktrammell/ and his vid-cast at: http://www.youtube.com/user/uabkaleidoscope And follow him, if you dare, on Twitter at: @rip_mr_gordo