Rizzoli and Isles: Going Out In Good Form!

"RIZZOLI & ISLES"  "Two Shots: Moved Forward" / Ep 701  TNT  Ph: Doug Hyun
“RIZZOLI & ISLES” “Two Shots: Moved Forward” / Ep 701 TNT Ph: Doug Hyun

Rizzoli and Isles (TNT, Mondays, 9/8C) returns for its final season with a two-hour premiere as the Boston Police Department seeks Alice Sands for the shooting that put Nina Holiday (Idara Victor) in the hospital.

Of course, since life carries on, there’s another case – the seeming accidental death of a university student when her car leaves the road on a curve.

In the show’s first hour, Two Shots: Move Forward, we relive the shooting and follow Detective Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) and Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander) as they, first, deal with the aftermath (getting Nina to the hospital; getting Maura checked out – she hit her head) and proceed with an investigation in which the police academy trained Sands (Annabeth Gish, The X-Files) seems to have left no trace of physical evidence.

The effects of the shooting have repercussions that go beyond the shock on the people attending Vince (Bruce McGill) and Kiki’s (Christina Chang) wedding.

In the second hour, Dangerous Curve Ahead, the team is given cause to believe that the death of a pretty university student might not have been an accident when her parents (Poorna Jagnnathan, Sean T. Krishnan) suggest her ex-boyfriend had worked on her car.

Writers Jan Nash (Two Shots) and Ron McGee (Dangerous Curve Ahead) have much different task to accomplish and do them well: Two Shots: Move Forward deals with the aftermath of Nina’s shooting and the way it affects everyone at the wedding – relationships founder and flourish, and both Jane and Maura have specific problems that have to be dealt with; Dangerous curve Ahead reminds us that not matter what’s going on, there’s always more than one case being investigated and that life doesn’t allow for too narrow a focus (plus, unexpected romance).

"RIZZOLI & ISLES"  "Two Shots: Moved Forward" / Ep 701  TNT  Ph: Doug Hyun
“RIZZOLI & ISLES” “Two Shots: Moved Forward” / Ep 701 TNT Ph: Doug Hyun

Directors Greg Prange (Two Shots) and Norman Buckley (Dangerous Curve) have episodes that are light on action and heavy on character work. With more time devoted to the characters, they have to make the episodes move in different ways – primarily by cutting from one character to another just long enough to give us a sense of where they are in their arcs but not dwelling on any one long enough to feel like too much.

Rizzoli and Isles began its run when TNT’s tone was decidedly lighter (though never quite breezy blue skies light) and has become a bit darker every year as the network’s schedule featured more and more shows that began in darker places.

It’s to the credit of the writers and cast that the shift has evolved without losing the show’s humor or heart. Whatever darkness has evolved on the show is the result of its setting in a world that has darker moments on a regular basis. The trick is showing that these people never succumb to that darkness but keep their senses of humor and intelligence and hope.

The final season premiere is probably the darkest pair of episodes so far, and yet, even here, the characters are fighting the good fight and giving each other encouragement.

It’s not Shakespeare (or even Spenser) but it’s smart, tough and resilient – two hours of entertainment that shows Rizzoli and Isles are going on at or near the top of their game; not withering on the vine.

Final Grade: B