Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Prime Suspect: “A Gorgeous Mosaic”

Illustration for article titled Prime Suspect: “A Gorgeous Mosaic”

“A gorgeous mosaic” must be the charming Irish phrase that means “a load of horse manure.” After a Hasidic jeweler is murdered, execution-style, the multicultural witnesses immediately start calling names and suggesting ugly stereotypes about each other. Actually, the ugly part is mostly directed at the African-American man. When Timoney and Augie visit the wife of the dead guy, who was one Simon Hesh, she cries a lot before talking about “those people,” the “black rappers” he knew, who she describes as “animals.” I confess that I never saw the Oscar-winning film Crash, which did not seem like it would appeal to me, but from the reviews I read this is exactly how I imagined it.

Which is to say that it takes all of two minutes for Prime Suspect to remind us that racism is not just a bad thing, but insidious and pervasive. That is such an easy thing to forget that I, for one, appreciate how they didn’t try to subtly work this fact in but instead smacked me in the face with it twice before the credits. I mean, who wants to see a cop show that deals with sexism and racism in a subtle way? Not Americans. Or so the creators of Prime Suspect seem to think. I cannot come up with another plausible explanation for how else an episode this hokey was green-lighted.

It has all of the worst elements of the show: the radio station that talks in helpful detail of ongoing homicide investigations in New York City; faux-urban dialogue with all of the fresh, gritty realism of a Cokie Roberts opinion piece; lots of scenes of Timoney’s boring home life with her boring boyfriend; an appearance by her boyfriend’s cartoonishly psycho ex; and lots of rich glimpses into the blarney-filled excitement of the New York Irish community. When Prime Suspect was at its peak, it was a good show with some subpar elements. Over the last three episodes, as we drag on towards the end, it has become a subpar show with a few good elements. It seems cruel and somewhat inhumane to keep airing these mediocre-to-terrible episodes when the final curtain is already upon us.

Speaking of inhumane, the first scene after the post-credits commercials has Timoney and Augie going to visit a hip-hop artist whose name, if I didn’t mishear—and man, I really hope I did—is Bling. This sequence includes Bling’s muscle acting all offended when he accidentally brushes Augie’s arm and calling Augie, ahem, “vanilla shake.” Yo, that’s so fresh it’s frizzesh. When Bling tells Timoney that the dead man fed him some bad rocks, Timoney asks if he means that Hesh sold him some fake diamonds. Bling (having written his name several times now, I seriously hope I was wrong) says, “Ma’am, you speak your English and I’ll speak mine.” It is at this point that I start to worry that I’m watching one of the CSI shows by mistake. Bling tells her that if he wanted to kill Hesh, he would have gotten the Bloods to do it (because that’s how the rappers roll: keepin’ it real with the gangs and bragging about it to the police), not some “punk-ass” (in his words) white dude. When Timoney asks how he knew the shooter was white, Bling tells her that it is because he listens, which is also how he knows that the shooter was a mick. I’m assuming that he means that he listens to the all-homicide coverage on New York’s only talk-radio station, and that by “mick,” he means that he’s already aware that the man identified by the witnesses is a guy named Mickey who is an executioner for the New Celtic Nation, an Irish mafia offshoot.

The NCN is run by a guy named Black Jack who is just out on parole. Do police really call guys by their gang names? Wouldn’t they refer to him by his surname? Anyway, Black Jack is played by Mark Sheppard, who appears on many shows but who will always be the hated Romo Lampkin from Battlestar Galactica to me. He mentions to Timoney that he knew her father. This is the cue for a scene with Peter Gerety and his Irish accent, which is reaching Darby O’Gill levels now.

In the B-plot, Detective Rivera, the robbery detective from several previous episodes, brings two guys into the lock-up with Velerio and Calderon. They were caught fighting in public over a purse belonging to an old lady who had been robbed and beaten. When Rivera suggests not telling these guys that the old lady just died, the two detectives treat her like a genius. Duffy, whose advances she rebuffed a few episodes ago, is cold towards her. After she goes to inform the next of kin, he delivers the David Caruso-worthy line, “What Carolina there is advertising [pause] is always out of stock.” Velerio looks straight into the camera after this, as if he is a little ashamed of where this script is going.

Where the script is going is many places and no places. The A-plot shooting turns out to be a contrivance to take care of a rival in the Irish mafia and punish the jeweler for something rather vague. I think he took money to make Black Jack’s stay in prison easier but didn’t deliver, and yet it’s a bit unclear. Timoney figures out that Mickey could not have been the shooter, despite her boss’s glee at having caught the guy, because Mickey is a southpaw. Instead, it was another guy made himself look like Mickey and then did the shooting in broad daylight so that witnesses would ID the wrong man. One of the witnesses, conveniently, was the guy’s girlfriend. At the end, though, Mickey gives her a speech about how criminals do not really care about race and ethnic identity because the city is a big, gorgeous mosaic of crime. He sounds like a Batman villain.


Back in the B-plot, Rivera is flirty with the two perps in an attempt to trip them up, but she finally gets the one with less of a criminal history to confess that they were working together. In the C-plot, Timoney’s boyfriends comes into some money, which gets him in trouble with Timoney when he oversteps by paying all of the rent himself and then with his psycho ex, when she demands more money to put their son in a snooty rich-kid preschool. Timoney comes clean with her boyfriend about how she looked up the psycho ex’s criminal history in the pilot, and he decides that he will try to get full custody. Timoney appears to be horrified by the thought.

There was really only one thing I liked about this episode, and that was Calderon and Augie’s glee over their battering ram. Actually, Tim Griffin, who plays Augie, was good all the way through, somehow making this ridiculous dialogue often sound funny. On the other side, the script itself, as bad as it was, was not the only problem. The timing was off in many scenes, and that’s the director’s fault. For instance, when the old lady’s son looks through her things, it takes him all of three seconds to realize that the only thing missing is her wedding ring. I doubt that I could figure out the contents of my mostly empty pockets in the time it took him to mentally inventory his mother’s purse. In the battering ram scene, Calderon and Augie rush down the hall, out of the apartment building, to their car, remove this large and heavy object from their car, and return in only 12 seconds. I counted. This scene could have used a cut to suggest the actual passage of time. As is, it was very much like someone was standing just out of sight down the hallway, waiting to hand it to them. Then, when we see Calderon holding it on his own, it looks like a flimsy and rather light prop rather than a pipe filled with concrete. There’s a metaphor for this episode in that moment.

Stray observations:

  • “There’s no murders in Norwegia. Just the occasional raised voice.”
  • Elizabeth Rodriguez, who plays Detective Rivera, is now in the opening credits. Will she make the Homicide Squad in the next three episodes? I'm going to go out on a limb and say: possibly.
  • This week, I fought off a cold and stayed up past 2 a.m. to write this review. Next week, I’ll have to skip out on a family Christmas party to write about this show. Am I complaining? Well, yes, a bit, but as long as they keep flogging this dead horse, I’m planning to stick around to bear witness. According to my sacred TV Club oath, I solemnly swear to keep coming back until either I get bored or I can no longer bear the sight.