What a dynamite hour of TV: grave, sad, sadly realistic. I thought last night’s Closer was pretty excellent. The crimes were skin-crawling. Brenda was at her most soulful and scarily relentless. The villain was hateful — yet also pathetic, because you could see exactly how he became the piggy-eyed teenaged monster that he was. And Commander Taylor got to show some valor and passion, not qualities I usually associate with the man.

This episode grabbed me from the very start, as Brenda did her usual intense heron-like examination of the golden-haired victim, lying angelically upon her girlhood bed. The music clued me in that Brenda was identifying intensely. I liked how she chewed out Commander Taylor for “slow-walking” the rape case that preceded the girl’s death, and I liked how he took it.

Did I dream it or was the scene in the examining room even weirder and darker than usual? Did they really say the girl had a “fissure,” then roll her over so everyone could have a look? I think I know what they were implying, but that was very creepy and in the cool light of morning I honestly can’t believe it actually happened.

(Abrupt and brief change of subject: Some of you have speculated that Detective Daniels might be pregnant and I was certain you were right, given the size of the billowing gown she wore during the examination. But later glimpses of her in a tightly cinched belt and pencil skirt suggest otherwise.)

Enter Daniel Baldwin, another great big Baldwin ham who can use his eyebrows almost as well as his handsome older brother Alec. (Remember Daniel in Homicide? Oh, I miss that show!) He seems genetically engineered for the role of the alpha male meathead cop, busting out of his khaki jacket and shouting at everyone in sight, including his twitching son. “You’re every bit the bitch I heard you were,” he tells Brenda.

You have no idea, dude.

More Closer after the jump…

I had a slight problem with the son. Was he supposed to beattractive? He wasn’t. Not in a conventional way, and not in a bad boyway, and I didn’t totally believe that girls were “throwing themselves”at this sullen moral midget. Has it been that long since I was in highschool? Well, yes, but I don’t think teenaged girls have changed allthat much. I would accept that his boasts of popularity were intendedto be delusional, if they hadn’t been borne out by his standing in thatstomach-turning “cherry picking” game.

By the way, I loved the plump prep-school director talking snootilyabout her “academy” and the “conduct” of the students.” It’s alwaysdelightful to watch rich kids behave shamefully, and “cherry picking”ranks high on my list of depraved adolescent projects.

Brenda’s conversation with pudgy, bespectacled Ally Mitchell was,for me, the poignant highlight of the show, as Ally remembered herhumiliation: “They’re never going to believe I had to rape someone thatlooks like you….” You could see Brenda struggling, her cop’s impulseto nail a vicious rapist at odds with her empathy for a wounded younggirl who just wants it all to go away. It makes you wonder what Brendawas like in high school. I’m thinking pretty, but extremely nerdy. Sheprobably wore the same thick black glasses, except back then theydidn’t look chic.

In any case, I really wanted to see both father and son brought downhard. And Brenda pulled it off with style and ingenuity, finishing withthat wicked cherry-picking/prison allusion.

So what WAS Brenda like in high school? And did you notice she didn’t snack at all? Do we miss that?