As many probably know, this past Monday was one of the big summer season premiere nights, with something like 6-8 premieres that night (if I’m remember correctly). I was looking forward to 3 premieres specifically: Eureka, The Closer, and Rizzoli & Isles. I was also at least mildly curious about Syfy’s new show Alphas.
Unfortunately, Monday was also the Home Run Derby, for which my brother took over the only cable-connected tv in the house, and I was left to record all the shows I’d been waiting for. And, because I was so busy yesterday and today, I still haven’t had a chance to watch them, except for Rizzoli & Isles.
However, I was planning on giving you a break for my scifi geekiness anyway, so let’s talk about my other favorite tv show genre: the crime drama. I love crime dramas. It started with Law & Order which, like Star Trek, I first started watching with my mother. I enjoy quite a few ensemble-cast crime dramas, my favorite of which is now Criminal Minds. But the biggest trend in crime shows now is the tough female lead, found in: The Closer, Bones, Rizzoli & Isles, In Plain Sight, Covert Affairs, and Castle (because Det. Kate Beckett is a co-lead), as well as several scifi shows that include a crime drama element such as Fringe and Haven.
I do get annoyed that so many writers and networks feel the need to copy the tough female cop format seriously most of them are even blonde! but I do appreciate having so many television options with strong female characters, and most of them are able to spin the basic character premise into an unique and entertaining show.
So, let’s talk about Rizzoli & Isles, as it is freshest in my mind right now. The TNT show is based on the novel series by Tess Gerritsen. It began in July 2010. It follows Boston PD Detective Jane Rizzoli and a medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles, who are best friends. Like most crime dramas, in each episode Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles solve the crime-of-the-week while dealing with their personal lives. Jane Rizzoli, played by Angie Harmon, is the tough, tomboy-ish, street-smart detective from a somewhat-crazy Italian family. Maura Isles, played by Sasha Alexander, is the super-smart, high-fashion doctor from an old-money Boston Brahmin family with awkward people-skills. (Isles sometimes exhibits some of the same kind of cluelessness about pop culture, etc. that Brennan has in Bones though not to the same level, which is a good thing because I think they tend to overdo it in Bones.)
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
The season premiere on Monday opened 3 months after last season’s finale during which Rizzoli was taken hostage and shot herself through the stomach in order to stop her captor and save her brother, who is also a cop. Rizzoli is being honored as a hero for her actions in the finale, though she does not believe she is a hero. At the same ceremony, a female Army soldier is also celebrated as a hero for saving three fellow soldiers during a gunfight in Afghanistan. This was a good choice for the writers, as it highlighted Rizzoli’s self-deprecation and her determination to think of others rather than herself. She admires the female soldier’s bravery, who had been shot but still managed to fight back, but cannot see that her own actions which she sees as being reckless and stupid more than anything else were also brave. At the same time, though it has been 3 months since her injury, Rizzoli is still in pain and is afraid she will not be able to regain her equilibrium. Then the female soldier is murdered. Rizzoli’s admiration for the soldier and outrage over her death fuel her to move past her injury and fears more quickly than she would have been able to do for her own sake.
The writers did a wonderful job focusing on the more-debilitating psychological consequences of being shot, though her sudden recovery at the end of the episode stretched the bounds of believability (I understand, however, that this was due to the limits of an hr-long episode). The relationship between Rizzoli and Isles was playful and caring and funny as always as I’ve said before, intelligent and funny dialogue between the characters is one of the strongest elements of a good show, and Rizzoli & Isles definitely qualifies. I think the sudden talk of divorce between Rizzoli’s parents Frank and Angela came a bit out of leftfield, though apparently it happens in the books. I just don’t think they did enough to hint at it in the first season.
I also add that, like some other fans of the show, I definitely think there’s subtext going on between the two main characters. Let me admit right now, I have a tendency to watch tv shows with my “slash-glasses” on (even when I know it’s completely outside the realms of possibility). I just can’t help myself! But, based on some of the discussion on the TNT Rizzoli & Isles message boards and other places, I’m not the only one who sees it here. Now, I know that the show is never going to go in that direction. The two main characters are never going to suddenly realize they love each other and turn gay. It’s not going to happen. But I also think it’s not just me seeing things where there’s nothing. I honestly think the writers, at least sometimes, slip in just a little subtext on purpose (even though they never intend to follow through) because they know that this kind of slashy subtext attracts a certain sub-set of viewers and keeps quite a few more curious and interested.
For those of you who don’t appreciate “that kind of thing” (as my mother calls it): don’t worry. Like I said, its really only there if you’re looking for it and want to find it. It’s not an intentional element of the show, and never will be, and it’s very easy to go in with “straight-glasses” and decide I’m crazy for thinking there could be any other option.
In any case, if the season premiere is any indication, this should be a good second season that retains all the excitement, comedy, and interesting character interaction that made the first season so good, while adding in new drama and some intriguing plots. I’m really looking forward to it. And if you haven’t seen the show yet, you should give it a shot. I think you’ll enjoy it.
Check in friday for a discussion of The Closer. (Just to warn you, I’m going to the midnight showing of Harry Potter 7, which means I may sleep in late, which means friday’s post may be a bit later than usual.)
[Quick Edit: I accidentally wrote that Rizzoli & Isles was a USA Network show when it is in fact a TNT show. The error has now been corrected.]