Created in 2010, By Janet Tamaro // Still in production (5 seasons aired, 6th currently being shot)
Log line: Detective Jane Rizzoli and Medical Examiner Dr. Maura Isles team up to solve crimes in Boston. (IMDb)
Cast: Angie Harmon, Sasha Alexander, Jordan Bridges, Bruce McGill, Lorraine Bracco…
Alright. Let’s do things a little differently here (this is my blog, I am allowed). So as you now know, on this blog I mainly do book reviews and throw some movie reviews in the mix sometimes. But this is a particular case: from 11 March to 21 March, I watched ALL 5 seasons of Rizzoli & Isles. I’m not joking. 5 seasons, 10 days. I hardly believe it myself. But since I was so into the show, I figured it was entitled to a blog post on here.
I basically live-tweeted (expect it was on Whatsapp) the first episode to my best friend as I was watching it, and let’s just say, I was not impressed. It felt like the show didn’t know what it wanted to be: a serious crime drama à la Law & Order, or a more light crime drama in the vein of Castle for example. They definitely had not found their tone during the first season, and it shows.
Once the show had found where it wanted to go and what kind of tone they wanted to go with, everything went a lot smoother. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t care that much about the weekly murders (just as I don’t care about them in Castle, but I love Castle); what does it for me are the characters. Having a pair of characters that are opposites has become quite routine (Sherlock, Castle, Bones, etc.), but what I had never seen before was that this pair of dramatically different characters that have to work together are both women and are actually friends from the get go (in other show, they usually start up as annoying the hell out of each other and later becoming friends). And this is what is interesting here.
Not only do we not know exactly how they met, but it is established right away that these two very different women (Jane Rizzoli: Boston Homicide Detective, very down to earth, likes simple things / Maura Isles: Chief Medical Examiner of Massachusetts, speaks only in science facts and studies, not willing to say that “red-browing stains” may be blood because guessing gives her hives, loves fancy clothes and food) are friends. We don’t know how or why, but they are. And their relationship is incredible.
Because that is another very important aspect of the show: female relationship. To show how two women, both very accomplished in their own fields, very different from each other, are friends; there never compete with each other or are willing to step on their friendship to get something. They are incredibly supportive of each other. #GIRLPOWER
The mishaps of the show (potential spoilers)
When you watch 5 seasons back to back, you tend to notice the little things that don’t make a lot of sense, or just things that writers decided to overlook. Here are a few examples (and again: spoilers):
• When Dr. Maura Isles is introduced and seen in her apartment for the first time, we learn that she has a very distinctive pet: a tortoise, a big one, that goes by the name of Bass. But by season 2, Jane’s mother lives in Maura’s guest house, so we at at Maura’s a lot from that point on. However, Bass has disappeared. He reappears once in a while, but goes away quickly again. At the end of season 5, Jane mentions visiting Bass at the zoo, which is odd because that’s the first time we hear about that.
• And that’s another problem with the show sometimes: you get pieces of information that seem important, yet nobody has mentioned it before. It’s like entire episodes are missing. For example in season 4, Jane’s little brother Tommy hires a lawyer for a lawsuit concerning him, his son, and Detective Frost being trapped in a shopping centre that exploded or something. Yet we see nothing of this. Detective Frost arrives at work and says that his wrist hurt, and Tommy hires a lawyer to get settlement money (I am not law savvy and didn’t exactly take notes while I was watching the episodes). It feels like we could have had a whole episode about the tragic incident, Tommy being trapped in the rubble with his baby boy, and Detective Frost being trapped with them but trying to work out from the inside what had really happened. But nope. Nothing.
• One of the big deals of seasons 3-4, is that Jane’s other little brother, Franky, who is a police officer, is taking a test to become a detective, and even a homicide detective alongside his big sister. When the time of the promotion comes, Franky does not get the homicide job, another detective does. We see her for 1 or 2 episodes, and then she’s gone. Not to be heard from again. Ever. Meanwhile Franky has passed the detective exam and is now a “floating detective”, going where he is needed. He works for the drugs unit for a while, but then in season 5, that disappears too. He’s not officially a homicide detective, but he does work with Jane on all the cases.
• I guess this is something they might be saving for later seasons/episodes, but here’s the thing: Maura is adopted. Her biological father is the crime mobster of Boston, but learns about it late in her mid-30s (during the show). In one episode (season 3 episode 1), her adoptive mother is run over by a car, and when she is in the hospital regaining conciousness, she mentions that Patrick came to see her (Paddy Doyle, Maura’s biological father). But how does she know him? Why? She never mentioned that she know who Maura’s biological parents were. It seemed to me that this opened the door for more revelations about where Maura comes from and her family, but after that episode, the adoptive mother disappears and we don’t see or hear from her again (though we know that she survived the accident). By the end of season 5 (which has just finished airing), we still don’t know what the deal with this is.
Dealing with loss
In August 2013, Lee Thompson Young, who played Detective Barry Frost, ended his own life. He failed to show up one day for work, and when people were sent to his apartment, he was found dead. Now, I can’t even imagine what the cast and crew must have been going through, but continuing shooting and talking about Detective Frost must not have been an easy task. I was wary of seeing how the production would deal with the death of an actor and the repercussions on his character. They decided to go with an accidental death: while coming home from a vacation, Detective Frost is involved in a fatal car accident and doesn’t survive. The following episodes are absolutely heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. Not only do you see the characters dealing with their grief, but it is evident that we also see what the actors must have gone through, and that the emotion they are showing is genuine and not acted.
The scene of the memorial for Barry Frost, with Jane doing the eulogy, is beautiful. You can see and feel that they talk about the character, but they include personal pictures of the cast, and therefore not only is it Barry Frost’s eulogy, it is also Lee Thompson Young’s.
After the couple of episodes that primarily dealt with this, they could have called it a day, and get on with the show. But grief and loss doesn’t really work that way, does it? So Frost’s death is a running theme throughout season 5, especially with Jane trying to deal with her grief and the permanent absence of her partner and friend.
I haven’t even talked about the best thing in this show: Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander. Both ladies do a fantastic job in their respective roles. They are real-life friends and you can definitely feel it on screen. I adore Jane’s sense of humour and the way she reacts to things, and the interactions between these two ladies. It’s adorable and hilarious.
If you like crime dramas with a dose of humour, I definitely recommend you check Rizzoli & Isles out. Or, if you don’t want to commit, watch the bloopers of the show on YouTube. You won’t be disappointed either.