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As TNT’s “The Closer” headed toward its 9th episode of season two Monday night, “Heroic Measures,” Deputy Chief Brenda Lee Johnson (played wonderfully by Kyra Sedgwick) delivered some more of her trademark, morally ambiguous detective work. This time around, the show took on the issue of malpractice among doctors, as her team attempted to prosecute two surgeons for highly questionable decisions made on the operating table, resulting in the tragic and unexpected death of a child.

While the episode raised difficult questions–such as, “Can the outcome of a doctor’s medical judgment result in what we call murder?”–viewers also saw the more desperate side of Deputy Johnson. Famous for her ability to deliver confessions (hence her title: the Closer) and determined to prosecute these doctors, Johnson bursts in anger: “Tell me what you need these doctors to say, and I’ll get them to say it!”

For fans of the show, Johnson’s ability to manipulate suspects out of their right to an attorney and trap them into making incriminating statements is both what puts you in awe of her character and makes you question it, too. She has an incredible talent for finding whoever commits murder, no matter how complicated the case, yet the methods she employs to do so are often at the cost of what most would regard as ethical behavior. (For example, is it OK for a detective to sweet talk a suspect out of representation? Especially if they don’t even realize they are under suspicion? Or to withold knowledge of the death of a spouse or child from someone in order to collect evidence?)

Often, the outcomes of her maneuvering end up hurting her sense of the acceptable as well, as known murderers go free (see episode 11 from season one) or parents desperately try to protect their children end up in jail. At times the results of her investigations seem almost inhumane.

The end of the show’s episodes are often painfully gut-wrenching, both for the viewer and for Chief Johnson. Though difficult, each one makes for fantastic, thought-provoking television.

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