Major Crimes returns this Monday, November the 25th, with eight new episodes running through the holidays and on into the first of two weeks of January. Last summer ended as threatening letters to Rusty were discovered by DDA Emma Rios, and Sharon Raydor was taking her material witness into Chief Taylor's office for a conference on his future.
We will leave them there for a moment while I briefly discuss the difference between identity and character. The former might be best described as who we are by virtue of birth and upbringing, the latter as the set of clear, distinct abilities and flaws that define us as we venture through our lives. The assumption in our new episodes — and feel free to disagree — is that character and identity are not necessarily inseparable. Yes, much of what we become seems decided by biology and environment. Yet not every beat of the human heart is predetermined by genetic predispositions. Some things are immutable, like eye color and our dominant hand; some things are less certain. It's not just evidence in the courtroom that can prove circumstantial. Character can also be revealed by the manner in which we rise - or fall — to the occasion. Which brings us back to Rusty and Sharon.
How on earth is our rule-obsessed LAPD Captain going to manage a willful street kid, and help him realize his potential, while performing the Herculean task of preparing him to testify in a trial against a serial killer? If nothing else, I think Major Crimes has properly detailed the ordeal of the witness in our criminal justice system. Perhaps nothing says more about Rusty's character than his grudging acceptance of this heroic burden. Perhaps nothing says more about Sharon's character, than that she has convinced Rusty he must appear in court despite all the personal sacrifices involved.
But not everyone challenged by circumstances rises above them, as the bodies of two teenage, Russian brothers demonstrate when they're discovered on the floor of their grandmother's den. Lt. Provenza leads Major Crimes on a seriously disturbing house call. And when Det. Amy Sykes finds a bag of white powder within arm's reach of the victims, alarms go off that could lead to an international incident. I don't want to give away much more than that, but I'll add that this episode does expose a little more about just how crafty the LAPD is on a macro basis, especially when it comes to our public schools.
Daily life offers us a host of temptations. The chance to do wrong is (almost) always just as available as the opportunity to do right. What makes us opt for good over bad, when bad often looks like more fun and is by far the simpler choice? Identity? Or character? Certainly, we choose, even if we don't know it at the time.
Many thanks to our favorite pessimist, Steve Robin, for wielding the camera so expertly through our winter premiere, and to Jim Leonard, creator of Close to Home, Skin and Thieves (as well as author of teleplays on countless other dramas, including Dexter) for a tremendous script. Also to Det. Mike Berchem, Ret., of the LAPD Robbery/Homicide unit and District Attorney for the County of Los Angels, Gil Garcetti, Ret. (and father of L.A.'s new mayor) for keeping us on the straight, narrow and authentic while telling our story.
And to answer a few questions I get on a regular basis doing this show, "Yes, witnesses are really treated this way by our justice system. No, you have no right to an attorney as a witness in a criminal trial. And, yes, minors who are also material witnesses can be held against their will." I don't know whether any of this is right or wrong, it's just in character with the way our justice system works.
Next week, two alumni from NYPD Blue join us for more revelations as the squad searches for a dangerous rapist who goes missing while on parole.
Until then — James Duff