I read once — somewhere in the long ago — that character must be tested like a blacksmith tempers metal. Our personalities are forged in the furnace of our circumstances, pounded into shape between the hammer of our ambitions and the anvil of daily life. I have taken a bit of poetic license here, mainly because this particular metaphor seems slightly overwrought, but let's stay with the fiery image because, when confronted with flames, heroic characters often run toward them instead of seeking safety.
Of course, there is no safe place, and our lives are best lived by seeking out that which we most want to do. If you were meant to run toward the fire, then that is probably the safest path for you to be on. Certainly, whenever I talk to police officers, sheriff's deputies or other law enforcement officers, I am always amazed by their cheery take on their chosen vocations. They not only run toward the fire, they search for it. To me, they seem brave.
Personally, I don't think I could ever choose an occupation that required me to carry a gun to work: I do well to remember my keys and my cell phone when I walk out the door in the morning. But even if I weren't somewhat absent-minded, it is probably better for everyone that I usually range the streets unarmed. Not so our detectives in the LAPD Major Crimes Division, all of whom carry weapons on their person and in their cars. How did they come to be so determined to face the perils of this world? Why does a hero take up arms against injustice? Who runs toward the fire?
We have several, different answers to those questions tonight, the most worrisome coming from a victim, whose own determined quest to make the world a better place ends when he is shot to death, rolled up in a rug and deposited on a corner near an urban garden in gangland. Rusty Beck, who tags along on this particular investigation in an effort to see if he can follow orders, finds himself offended into curiosity about his constant companions: Provenza, Tao, Sanchez, Flynn, Sykes, Buzz and Sharon, all of whom would throw themselves in front of a bullet to save his life. One by one, his older friends tell Rusty brief versions of how they came to be detectives. And though I will admit we also took a little poetic license with these snippets of backstory, each character's mini-autobiography comes from a real life cop.
Along the way, we also meet Jon Tenney, who returns this week as Special Agent Fritz Howard, helping lead an FBI-LAPD joint task force dedicated to dismantling The Rounders, a dangerous Los Angeles gang menacing an entire neighborhood outside the fence line of a well-heeled University. Did this task force adequately consider the risk of leaving the Rounders in place to incriminate themselves over wires and in front of undercover cops? Or were Fritz & Company indirectly responsible for more murders than necessary? This is a question we can't fully answer, but which an emotionally wounded Congressman keeps asking through a grey-shaded episode directed with imagination and pace by Stacey K. Black, and written with flare by Duppy Demetrius. Our guest stars tonight shine brilliantly, as does Phillip P. Keene, who gets the ball rolling with effortless irritation, a side of him I know well!
Next week, we greet the coming of 2014 with an explosive murder that puts us smack in the middle of a new sort of divorce, and deep inside a very old scam.
In the meantime, Merry Christmas to one and all, and we'll meet back here to talk about New Year's Eve!
Until then — James Duff