‘Major Crimes’ Season Premiere- “Present Tense” Review (Season 5 Episode 1)

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After the ambitious-but-somewhat-exhausting five-part mini-series that made up the final episodes of last season, “Major Crimes” made a return to more short-form storytelling in its season premiere, “Present Tense,” which revolved around the disappearance of a teenage girl.

The end result was a twisty case with more than a few unexpected developments involving misguided teen love, helping the homeless in sometimes dubious ways, Foster Parents, disowned kids, and, of course, breaking in that newfangled control room at the precinct, which in lieu of an official name, I’ll dub “Mission Control,” as it all looked a bit sci-fi, what with those massive screens and all the tech and what have you.

The story began when Amanda Pond, a volunteer at a local homeless shelter, went missing. The obvious suspect was her somewhat estranged boyfriend, who had skipped town, reportedly to go camping at Joshua Tree. As Amanda was barely 16 and the boy in question had just turned 18, there were also questions of kidnapping and even possible statutory rape, particularly from her frantic parents.

This wasn’t exactly helped by the revelation that the boy wasn’t where he said he would be at all, but had given his phone to a friend to ostensibly fake out his family or anyone else who came looking for him, and had instead gone to Tijuana with some buddies to blow off steam on the sly. Or should I say, not-so-sly, as the doofus posted pics of the adhoc trip on social media, thus revealing his actual destination in the process.

Naturally, the boy was picked up and detained at the border, before being brought in and questioned at the precinct, where it was eventually discovered that the only thing he was guilty of was having a hangover and some illegally-imported Adderall. That led the investigation to focus on the homeless, given that Amanda was often interacting with them, and had reportedly even went so far as to offer to let some of them stay with her.

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That seemed like a dubious prospect until a little digging revealed that her parents had a secondary property in the area that they used to live in, but had since held onto and rented out after upgrading their own housing situation. As it turned out, several homeless people had taken Amanda up on her offer and were staying there, somewhat illegally, albeit with a key furnished by Amanda herself.

Even worse, her body was found lurking in a somewhat sealed-off basement that was obscured from plain view, but was spotted by Sanchez (Raymond Cruz) when exploring the grounds. Amanda’s parents confirmed that the basement wasn’t up to code, so they had covered up the trapdoor entrance and sealed it off as best as they could, then started renting it out, but the place had been empty for the better part of the year- or so they thought.

Further exploration revealed a bunch of toys in the basement area, but they were older than Amanda, so it seemed unlikely they were hers, but could they be the killer’s? A fingerprint lifted from a Gameboy revealed a link to a Foster Parent who had essentially been gaming the system for cash, with little concern for his given charges.

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Among those kids was a boy whose initials were DTY, which was identified as Dawson Tucker Yale, which just so happened to be the name of one of the employees at the homeless shelter. Indeed, it also turned out that said employee was a former Foster kid himself, who had once almost been adopted by none other than Amanda’s parents before her mother had unexpectedly gotten pregnant and the two had opted to drop the adoption just before making it official.

Understandably heartbroken, the poor kid bounced around various other places, including the aforementioned guy’s care (or lack thereof), before landing in medical school and trying to better himself. Unfortunately, he neglected to properly attribute a quote in his thesis and was expelled from school for plagiarism, so he never graduated, which led him to backslide somewhat.

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Landing back at the homeless shelter where he once got help as one of the homeless himself when his then-Foster parents dumped him when he turned 18, Tucker got a job and was doing alright when who should show up but Amanda. Having no idea who she was at first, he was shocked to see his former parents show up to pick her up on a few occasions, and ended up giving her a ride himself a few times and getting to know the girl.

Stunned to hear how ungrateful she was about how lucky she was to have parents at all, he hit his breaking point when she demanded he take her to her boyfriend’s house instead of home one night and he refused. Amanda tried to jump out of the car and chaos ensued, with Tucker snapping and strangling her in the melee, then immediately trying to save her via CPR, mouth-to-mouth and even an on-the-fly tracheotomy, all of which failed.

In the end, he got 19 years for kidnapping and manslaughter, so he didn’t get off that easy, but easier than he might have if his circumstances hadn’t been so tragic, that’s for sure. Indeed, the whole nasty affair so affected Sanchez that he seriously considered becoming a Foster parent himself, finding the behavior of the Foster parents in question just as despicable, if not more so, than Tucker’s own.

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Meanwhile, on other fronts, Buzz (Phillip P. Keene) started his investigation of his father and uncle’s murders in earnest, with Rusty (Graham Patrick Martin) taking an interest in covering it for his online vlog Identity; Sharon and Flynn (Tony Denison) contemplated moving in together rather than the latter selling his house and moving to be closer to her and his daughter; and Rusty dealt with the fall-out over his vague overreaction to his boyfriend Gus attempting to hold his hand in public, which rubbed him the wrong way, leading to a near-break-up between the two.

All in all, it was a solid enough premiere, with a decent amount of set-up for the season to come, without getting too far into the sort of long-term storytelling that defined the latter half of last season. Don’t get me wrong, not saying that was a bad thing- I dug the five-part run of final episodes last season overall, and it was nothing if not ambitious. But still, nothing wrong with resetting the clock a bit and starting over again, either, after all that.

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There were some cool moments as well, including what I’m fairly certain was a nod to star Mary McDonnell’s former day job as another sort of “captain” on “Battlestar Galactica” when the homeless guy known as the “Admiral” came up to her and said “Long live the Resistance!” and raised his fist at Raydor. I also got a kick out of the reaction of Provenza (G.W. Bailey) to the aforementioned “Mission Control,” in which he mentioned feeling like a dinosaur when they first saw the meteor on the horizon. LOL.

What did you think of the “Major Crimes” premiere? Were you also glad they went back to a case-of-the-week format? Or did you hope they would dive back into a more long-form case again? (They certainly still could later on in the season.) What did you make of “Mission Control”? How about the thing with Rusty and Gus? Or Sharon and Flynn? Is Buzz’s quest for information on his father and uncle’s death doomed to fail?

Sound off on this and more down below, and let me know what you’d like to see this season on the show. I’ll check back in, in a few weeks on down the line for a status report, but until then, I’ll see you later. Thanks for reading!