There’s a worthwhile article to be written about Brenda (Kyra Segwick), the protagonist of the sadly now-defunct The Closer.
Brenda, who went to her drawer for a Ding Dong every time she was stressed. Or anxious. Or jubilant. Brenda, who not only dared not to have children, but who went through menopause - complete with the hot flushes and a femininity crisis - at work. Brenda, with her butter-wouldn’t-melt southern-drawl, who tight-rope-walked the line of propriety every single episode.
Along with Alicia (Julianna Margulies) from The Good Wife, Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn) from Big Love and Sarah (Mireille Enos) from The Killing, Brenda has been amongst my favourite female characters in recent years. Strong women, flawed women, screwy but ultimately thoroughly captivating women.
As fantastic a character as Brenda was - and undoubtedy a standout, irrespective of gender, in the genre - I’m less inclined to just write a piece praising her: a) I’m not really the tribute-piece kind of writer and b) TV has offered us dozens of such characters with equal parts smarts and neurosis:
- Nina Proudman (Asher Keddie) in Offspring
- Emily Owens (Mamie Gummer) in Emily Owens MD
- Mindy Lahiri in The Mindy Project
And that’s just in the medical dramedy genre!
The thing that made Brenda more than just a neurotic career woman makin’ her way in a “man’s world” was Fritz (Jon Tenney), her sometimes-suffering husband.
From episode 1 right through to 109, Fritz was Brenda’s man. In the pilot when they met for that first drink, Brenda established the pattern for their dyad: she was always going to be more keen to get her hands on his FBI files than on him. She loved him - she loved him for 7 seasons - but she wasn’t going to compromise herself for him.
And over that first drink, and enduring as a quiet theme for the duration of the series, was Fritz exuding the belief that Brenda - in all her career-driven, neurotic, murder-room-at-home, dogmatic sense of right and wrong madness - was worth it. Completely, without-a-shadow-of-a-doubt worth it.
Fritz wasn’t spineless, he wasn’t pussy-whipped, he wasn’t fucking his way around Los Angeles. He didn’t try to change her or fix her or crush her spirits or make her feel any less the detective dynamo that she was. He let her be crazy and he loved her.
For 109 episodes this struck a chord with me.
I tell a story in my contribution to a coming-soon anthology, about meeting my brother’s current partner for the first time. Prior to her, he was seeing a different woman who was pretty much batshit crazy. I write that as the highest of compliments, of course. I met the crazy woman and clicked with her instantly; we were kindreds in that highly-political, highly-sexed, highly-over-thinking way. She and my brother, of course, were never going to succeed.
And then I met the new partner. She was lovely - she remains lovely - and they are good together. The morning after I first met her however, my brother came to my place for a debrief - what did I think, isn’t she nice, yadda yadda - and I burst into tears.
Of course she was bloody nice! And the nice girl won him over and the crazy one evidently wasn’t a keeper.
And isn’t this what happens time and time again in life? On screen? The path of least resistance is picked over and over and over again.
The Closer was able to deviate from this script because of Fritz. Because he loved Brenda enough to make it seem possible that even the most batshit craziest of women can live happily ever after. Yeah, I’ll buy the boxset for that.