The Closer Series Finale Recap: The Last Stroh

The following recap, by the very definition of the word “recap,” contains spoilers from the series finale of The Closer.

The Closer closed its seven-season run on Monday night with what was, for the TNT drama, a fine enough episode.

But as a series finale for The Closer, it admittedly left me a bit disappointed. Several industry peers I have spoken to feel the same, but I’m curious what others think.

As a consumer of quality television, I have arguably been among The Closer‘s biggest champions, dating back to when I would recap every week’s episode with great zeal, at TVGuide.com. It is an impressive, sure-to-be-lasting legacy that Brenda Leigh Johnson, series creator James Duff and star Kyra Sedgwick all leave behind.

But much of what I appreciated about the show was not on display in the hour that tidily wrapped Brenda’s saga not unlike the foil of a Ding Dong.

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Yes, she got “the one that got away” — super-slithery serial rapist/sometime killer Phillip Stroh, played so well (meaning detestably) over the years by Billy Burke. But in the end she “got” him not with her keen mind and a crafty line of questioning but a few clumsy gun shots. Stroh’s gasping visage does not leave me satisfied. The crushed countenance of a cocksure cretin who is felled mentally? After he so gleefully returned each and every volley sent his way in the interview room? That would satisfy.

That Brenda even had opportunity to shoot Stroh was because he, in an uncharacteristic moment for the disturbingly even-keeled psychopath, “snapped” and invaded Brenda’s home — after he’d been spooked by a piece of incriminating “evidence” that he had to suspect was fabricated. (Brenda “snapping” in the elevator, meanwhile, it could be argued was largely in the name of securing DNA.)

To be fair, the finale of “The Closer Proper” had to serve many masters, since it also needed to tee up the spin-off Major Crimes (which premiered immediately thereafter, with its own multiple masters to serve). That transition, for those who stay(ed) tuned for Major Crimes, was impressively seamless, it should be noted.

But this series finale somehow felt rushed. Right down to the convenient 11th-hour job offer that smoothly ushered Brenda and her tarnished No. 1, Gabriel, off the canvas (if only to a different neighborhood of Los Angeles).

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And then there’s the kid Rusty, a character/dynamic introduction that brought with it a wealth of exciting possibilities… were Brenda to stick around and take him in as her own ward while she tracks down his AWOL mother. Instead, he wasn’t there to serve outgoing Brenda but, one hour later, warm up icy Capt. Raydor’s story. (The Closer previously teased us/Brenda/Fritz with an ersatz child when Sedgwick’s real-life daughter Sosie Bacon played the top cop’s niece Charlie; another road sadly unexplored.)

Even the gift the Major Crimes boys gave their departing boss for some reason wasn’t as sweet as a designer purse full of junk food should have been.

But, with all the above said….

Brenda lives on. She was not killed off in some hero’s death. She did not leave in disgrace. She theoretically could resurface (though nothing in my most recent interviews with Sedgwick suggest that possibility). And she moves onto her new career with needed closure, knowing that Phillip Stroh will prey no more. And her presence will be felt every time Fritz gets roped into a case for Major Crimes, where Jon Tenney is set to guest-star.

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I come away from The Closer‘s run with great regard for everyone on either side of the camera who ever touched it, from the writers who sometimes made recapping a labyrinthine case more than a little problematic to the actors who brought Gabriel, Provenza, Flynn and the rest to colorful life, to the casting director who regularly picked just the right guest star to enter the fray.

As a series, its quality and sizable audience helped put TNT and its “We Know Drama” mantra on the map, paving the way for other series — NBC castoff Southland and the ambitious Falling Skies included — to find homes.

For that and seven seasons of entertainment, we should all say “Thank you, thank you so much.”

What did you think of The Closer‘s series finale?