The fifth season of Rizzoli & Isles had a couple of obstacles to overcome in the loss of Lee Thompson Young during the show’s hiatus, and trying to remember him while moving on. It’s a measure of the show’s consistency that both obstacles were handled well.
In every other way, the show maintained its mix of procedural efficiency and character heart. In a way, season five was one of the show’s most inventive.
Season five got off to a running start, literally. A New Day opened with a jogger being murdered – and the pace picked up when it was discovered that her baby had been taken. The episode came to a dead stop at the end when, while the squad was celebrating the case’s successful resolution, they were informed that Detective Frost had been killed in a car accident.
…Goodbye found Detective Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) and Chief Medical Examiner Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander) dealing with their grief in different ways when a blood-soaked woman came into the squad room holding a gun and claiming amnesia but she thought she might have killed someone.
The case gave the squad – Jane, Detective Sergeant Vince Korsak (Bruce McGill) and Detective Frankie Rizzoli (Jordan Bridges) – something to do while Maura took the woman to her office to collect evidence and try to help the woman keep calm. In the aftermath of learning about Frost’s death, even the Rizzolis’ mother, Angela (Lorraine Bracco), was uncharacteristically quieter.
For several episodes, the effect of Frost’s death haunted the squad room – conversations were had about whether anyone should sit at Frost’s desk and, if so, whom. But even as subsequent episodes allowed the squad to grieve, the show maintained its mix of warmth, drama and humor. By the midseason finale, the characters were mostly back to normal – though there was always that empty chair to remind them.
Over the course of the season, there some inventive murders and alibis – the murder of the mistress of a rising star in the DA’s office (the midseason two-parter) and a case involving a bigamist were particular standouts.
The show continued to have fun with the odd couple of copdom – fashion conscious and very posh Maura and the jeans and t-shirt, very unladylike Jane – and their opposites-as-besties –who-solve-crimes was kept fresh by leads Alexander and Harmon. The writers made a habit of putting the two in situations that were antithetical to who they were – as with the unladylike Jane’s pregnancy.
Maura had the good fortune to meet a great guy while investigating a case – university professor (wait for it…) Jack Armstrong (Enver Gjokaj) – and the two developed a real relationship (Maura killed it when she met his daughter!).
Eventually, of course, the squad had to add a newcomer and so Chicago transplant Nina Holiday (Idara Victor) joined the team. In an intriguing development, Nina was a tech person and did not take Frost’s desk – instead, working from a totally different command center kind of set.
The show had some interesting guest stars over the course of the season – most notably, Jamie Bamber as the rising star ADA whose mistress was murdered (and for which he was the only real suspect).
The writers also had fun with references – to pop culture stuff and other shows – the best of which involved an NYPD Blue reference and a dog that only obeyed commands given in Spanish.
Vince pondered retirement and taking the lieutenant’s exam thanks to the influence of his life coach (!) Kiki (whom we never met – maybe next season) and Angela began a job hunt. Maura became a victim of identity theft but her reaction to the discovery was unusual – at least to anyone else.
We also got to see quite a bit of Suzy Chang (Tina Huang), Maura’s number one assistant – who embraced the idea of theorizing (or as Jane would say, ‘guessing’) and presented her theories in a truly unusual and impressive way.
Besides Jack Armstrong, we also met a girl named Tasha (Jaz Sinclair), who had kept her grades up even after becoming homeless. She appeared in a couple of episodes and will probably pop up again in season six.
Thanks to some solid writing – even inspiring in a couple of eps (…Goodbye, the midseason two-parter and the season finale) – and few out and out duds (werewolf!), season five was relatively breezy and pretty entertaining. I had no trouble at all binging my way through the DVD set.
I have to add that I think the show’s theme music is pretty awesome – but I have a weakness for Celtic rock.
Where the DVD set sucks is the special features – two not particularly great deleted scenes (it’s easy to see why they were cut) and a very average gag reel (it might be time to stop including gag reels…). The set would be better off without them.
Grade: Rizzoli & Isles: The Complete Fifth Season: B+
Grade: Features: D-
Final Grade: B-