Major Crimes “The Shame Game” Review

Major Crimes (TNT) Episode 7 The Shame Game (4)

The first season of The Closer spin-off Major Crimes continues to head into the final run of episodes with “The Shame Game,” the seventh of a ten episode run. At this point, the show is already chugging along like a well-oiled machine…perhaps a little too well-oiled, if you ask me.

To be sure, the crime procedural drama is a genre unto itself, and by now, everyone knows how it works: a crime is committed and, more often than not, our team, typically with prominent help from one key member, solves the crime and fingers the wrong-doer, all within a single episode. Sure, occasionally someone foils the cops or gets away, more often than not in service of an ongoing story arc that carries over the season, sometimes into the next; but eventually, the criminal is caught or killed.

Major Crimes had a lot going for it going in, more than most of its ilk. Namely, a cast viewers were already familiar with, thanks to the enormous success of The Closer, which will no doubt continue to run ad infinitum in reruns for the foreseeable future. One can never underestimate the value of a solid supporting cast, and Major Crimes certainly has that going for it.

On the other hand, shows like this also need a strong lead, and The Closer certainly had that in Kyra Sedgwick, who won both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her efforts in the career-defining role. One of my favorite things about TV is that it often gives actresses who never quite broke through-or whose careers were on the wane- a second chance at the brass ring.

Mary McDonnell already had hers’ with Battlestar Galatica, where she landed the plum role of President Laura Roslin. There’s nothing to say she can’t have another, but the interesting thing about her role on Major Crimes is that her character on The Closer was one that was brought in as a foil to Sedgwick’s. In other words, we were supposed to root against her, not for her. Then Sedgwick opted to bail out and the show was faced with a choice: continue on with a new lead, or close up shop.

Far be it for me to not wish the cast well in their endeavors, but the jury’s still out on whether the right choice was made. As ever, G.W. Bailey still gets the best lines, and he and McDonnell have a nice prickly anti-chemistry. Basically, Major Crimes resets the cast so that it’s back to square one: just as our now-familiar supporting cast bristled at the arrival of Sedgwick early on in The Closer, so do they have an uneasy relationship with McDonnell. The problem this time around is that our predisposition is to dislike McDonnell’s character right along with them.

In the most blatant attempt to soften McDonnell’s character, a teenage character was brought in towards the end of The Closer, which she has been saddled with living with. More jaded viewers might see this as thinly-veiled attempt to recruit a younger audience, but the fact is, if they weren’t onboard by the end of The Closer, they sure won’t be interested in watching Major Crimes. After all, the median age of the entire cast is 40-and-up at best, which means its audience is probably the same age, for the most part.

Nothing wrong with that, but said character, Rusty (Graham Patrick Martin) isn’t particularly endearing. Yes, his character is a former gigolo that has undeniably had a hard life and has good reason to be surly, but still, it’s not really doing the show any favors, save maybe a nice scene where McDonnell was almost driven to tears. Even I almost got a bit choked up, finally seeing a softer side to that thorny veneer.

Wherein lies the show’s true problem. As nasty as Brenda could be on The Closer, she had just enough quirks to make her likable: that twangy Southern accent that was often deployed both seductively and as a concealed weapon, plus her love of junk food and her cat(s). McDonnell has no comical side, nor seemingly any sense of humor whatsoever. That’s a problem in a lead, unless you’re playing it completely straight, and The Closer never did. If The Closer was like a comfy new slipper in a style you liked that fit just right, Major Crimes is that slipper almost ten years later- still somewhat comfortable, but showing some wear, nonetheless. Not that it has to be the exact same show as The Closer, but it does feature almost the entire cast from that show, so…

“The Shame Game” was a decent enough episode, if predictable overall. It was nifty seeing David Naughton, of “An American Werewolf in London” fame, for the first time in ages. Unfortunately, he was wasted in a small role that didn’t turn out to mean much in the grand scheme of things. However, the door was left open for his return, so we’ll see if that pans out later.

The plot revolved around prostitution and a man supposedly trying to help teens get off the streets who was murdered. Was he a pervert, or a saint who got in the middle of a situation with a pimp? Or did he see something- or someone- he shouldn’t have?

The answer was vaguely predictable, but I’ve seen better episodes of TV involving a similar plotline, notably on CSI: Miami” I’ve no doubt Major Crimes could make a comfy living churning our episodes of TV just like this, but if it doesn’t fix the inherent problems keeping it from rising to the heights of The Closer at its finest, it might just be case closed before it begins for the freshman series.

  • terracotta

    I don’t agree Raydor has no sense of humor. It’s dry, it’s not big and brash, but it’s there and it’s lovely.

    Personally, I find her a much more likeable character than Brenda ever was. I struggled with Brenda because of her ‘quirks’, which I just found irritating, and the fact that the whole show revolved around her made me tire of it quickly. I love that with Major Crimes, as well as loving Raydor, I’m getting to love all the squad far more as well because we’re getting so much more of them. To me, MC is a far superior show, but everyone’s mileage varies!

    • Mark Trammell

       Love your perspective, and I needed it in a way, simply because I did like Brenda, and I have been struggling with Raydor. I definitely know some people (and critics) that hated Brenda’s quirks, but I thought they were endearing, so you can see where Raydor being so dry would leave me cold. However, the fact that they had that moment where she almost lost it & broke down wouldn’t have had the impact it had if she hadn’t been that way from the start. I’m hoping that crack in the veneer will lead to a slight softening of the character. She doesn’t have to become too much of a softie, but she could stand to loosen up a little!
      Agreed that it’s great getting to know the supporting cast better!
      Thanks for your comments! I will definitely take them into consideration for the next one…

      • terracotta

         I think it really does boil down to the fact that Brenda and Sharon, whilst having some similarities,  do have incredibly different personalities, and most viewers are going to fall one way or another in terms of which kind they prefer. For myself, I’m always drawn to the quieter, more reserved, more introverted kind of characters because I’m like that myself, and I love watching out for the cracks in the armor and the subtle moments, whereas very emotional, louder, quirkier characters leave me cold because I struggle to relate to them. Friends of mine prefer things the other way around. And both are fine.

        I think Sharon will slowly start to open up more, as she gets more comfortable around the squad. To some extent, she’s bound to still be on edge a little bit because she’s spent more of her working life as their most despised colleague. One of the little things that I’m really loving about her leadership style is her use of everyone’s first names on a fairly regular basis, which seems to be encouraging all the squad to start using first names amongst themselves too, and even led to Provenza calling her ‘Sharon’ last week. It makes the whole squad feel more personal, which I really enjoy.

        Anyhow, I really hope that you start to enjoy her more! I think the past two episodes have been utterly wonderful, and I’m very much hoping for a renewal order 🙂

  • Christian Chick who Thinks

    The crime-of-the-week was immaterial this week, and it showed.  It wasn’t supposed to be much nor was it to overshadow the real drama, which was Rusty and Raydor, with healthy doses of Flynn and Provenza.  Those four were the core, and did a fabulous job.  

    But for you to say Raydor has no lead-worthy qualities or sense of humour, really shows you aren’t watching the show, you’re just gathering enough to pass judgement.  She is funny with a very smart, sarcastic sense of humour that comes out quite regularly.  She also knows how to cut people off at the knees with a smile on her face.  I’m getting tired of Raydor being compared to Johnson, as if Johnson was some example of perfection.  Johnson’s never did impress me, with her snarl and her seeming carelessness of other people’s feelings.  Raydor is the far more compassionate of the two while being equally brilliant.

    Perhaps the dynamic you should be looking at is how Raydor has moved and developed from an un-liked outsider to the core person, respected and increasingly admired by those around her.  That transformation is hardly ever written or allowed to happen in the stereotype world of entertainment.  

    • Mark Trammell

       Agreed on the crime-of-the-week, and that’s why I didn’t devote much time to it.
      This was my first review of the show, so you’re not wrong about gathering my bearings, but I did watch “The Closer” religiously, and I think you’ll agree that Brenda & Raydor are apples & oranges, personality-wise. Not that Raydor should be a carbon copy, by any means, but she is tough to warm up to. You were right on the money about focusing on the transformative qualities of the character, though. I even had it in my notes & was gonna write about it, but the review was getting a bit long, so I decided to postpone it & talk about it next week. This was my first review of the show, so I wanted to sort of show where I stood this time around. Rest assured, though, the matter will be addressed.
      Good comments, and love yr handle!

  • alameli

    The Closer was ALWAYS predictable. I knew who the killer was the moment he appeared in the story. And than Brenda would suddenly get a clue out of nowhere, and use this guess while interviewing a suspect… I still enjoyed the show, but well, investigation was never it’s strong side. I like Rusty’s storyline in Major Crimes much more, than Brenda’s parents, or cats, or niece, or sweets, or menopause (oh, particularly awful). I like it even more, than Brenda’s relationships with Fritz, which were boring.  As for the plot – it seems that, just like in the Closer, one out of 5 episodes is really good, the rest is nothing special for those, who enjoy only strong detective line.
    Raydor has a sense of humor, don’t you remember f.e. that perfect line about Catholic Church?
    Looking forward for season 2!

    • Mark Trammell

       Agreed that “The Closer” crimes were somewhat predictable most of time. Though it’s always nice to be fooled by shows like this so far down the assembly line of there being so many, it seems to me that they were barely trying this week, and there was the germ of an interesting story there. As another commenter noted, it seems to be more about getting to know the squad better with “Major Crimes,” which is fine, because I do like the supporting cast a lot, and it’s nice to see them still getting gainful employment.
      We will have to agree to disagree on Rusty, but enough people had alluded to Raydor’s “dry” sense of humor that I feel I will need to pay more attention to it in the future. Perhaps the jokes were so dry I missed them?
      Rest assured, though, I do like the show. I just haven’t warmed up to the “newer” characters yet. I’m hoping it will all gel by the end of the season and come back strong next year.
      Thanks for your comments!

  • Interesting points you are making, Mark. I agree that the storyline with the teenager can sometimes feel cumbersome but I have the sense that this episode is marking a turning point in that relationship and we should see less of those whiny moments.

    Overall, as much as the series is not perfect, I still like watching it. As you said, I care a lot about the supporting cast and even wish they kept Gabriel in the mix. 

    • Mark Trammell

       Agreed that the storyline with Rusty does seem to be winding down into something else. It remains to be seen what that is, but maybe the character will grow on me. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!
      Agreed as well about Gabriel. That was so heartbreaking when it was revealed his GF was the mole. I almost just want to see if he’s okay, if anything! 🙁
      I do like the show, it just hasn’t quite clicked for me as much as “The Closer” yet, but the elements are there for it to become a better show in time. We;ll see how strong they finish the season!
      Thanks for your comments!

  • HG

    I liked the case in this episode. It had several good twists, last 15 minutes being about tempting the killer into a trap. But the greatest thing – how investigation was interlacing with Rusty’s story. No action actually – but still seemed like a good action!
    Raydor will never be as comical and awkward as Brenda was sometimes. But Raydor’s devotion to rules, her restraint, her ladylike manners put her in funny situations, and there are a lot of jokes about that in the show. I like her, and I’m totally in love with Mary McDonnell.

    • Mark Trammell

       I did forget to mention how nicely the story at hand dovetailed with Rusty’s. That’s a good point. They could have hit a bit harder than they did, but there’s something to be said for restraint. Besides, we might not have had that great moment where Raydor softened a bit otherwise.
      Agreed that Raydor is no Brenda, nor is she trying to be. What would be the point of a carbon copy? I like that McDonnell is forging her own path, and that she’s the type of actress that needs time to develop a character. I do think her attention to detail will eventually pay off, it’s just a bit frustrating at times that the progression is so slow. Hopefully, we’ll see some real growth by the end of the season without it going in a cheesy direction, i.e. a “kinder, gentler” Raydor, lol.
      Thanks for your comments!