Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Long Fall Of Jill Kirkendall Preoccupies NYPD Blue Season 7

The Good: Performances, Most of the character development, Some interesting cases
The Bad: No DVD extras, Kirkendall is almost entirely redefined to make her arc work
The Basics: NYPD Blue The Complete Season Seven continues to redefine the crime drama while deepening the character of Sipowicz and giving Sorenson more depth!

NYPD Blue went through a number of peaks and ebbs, which is somewhat understandable given its duration and the sheer number of characters in the show. In season six of NYPD Blue (reviewed here!), two of the characters who were neglected were James Martinez and Jill Kirkendall. Relegated to support characters in the overall narrative, those two appeared in the sixth season in a somewhat diminished capacity. As a result, it is no surprise that the seventh season of NYPD Blue was the final one for both characters. While Martinez is written out rather quickly, the surprise for fans of NYPD Blue might be how Jill Kirkendall's storyline dominates much of the seventh season.

Unfortunately, to bring Jill Kirkendall to the forefront of the seventh season of NYPD Blue, her character is severely weakened and the plotline with Dornan - built up the entire previous season - is dropped entirely. Kirkendall was, in previous seasons, a very strong, independent character; she begins season seven of NYPD Blue diminished, obsessing from the outset with her ex-husband who appears to have turned over a new leaf. Kirkendall's storyline has ramifications on most of the serialized elements of the plot for the seventh season.

Andy Sipowicz is dealing with being a single parent and taking the usual cases that present themselves in New York City, which forces him to rely upon his ex-wife, Katy. Danny Sorenson finds himself involved with an officer from a nearby precinct, while Jill Kirkendall begins pining for her ex-husband, Don. Don is under investigation, which Andy, Danny, Diane and Fancy learn about and tip Jill off about. Jill advises Don to stop delivering packages for the cartel he works for, but Don rolls the dice and gets himself arrested. While dealing with cases like a baby found in a dumpster and a murder with a gun used in a cold case, Don tries to extort Jill and he flees the custody of an incompetent detective who tries to reach out to Russell.

After Martinez is promoted out of the 15th Precinct, Fancy receives a new transfer, Detective Baldwin Jones, as an act of revenge from a black lieutenant angry that Fancy has not found cause to fire Sipowicz. While the squad adapts to its new detective, Fancy starts to worry about the lieutenant who sent Baldwin to the squad and Sorenson begins to experience horrible nightmares as his past becomes unrepressed. When Sorenson's C.I. falls into a life of drugs and Sorenson is unable to save him, he gets severely drunk and relies on Russell to put him back together. When Don turns up alive at the same time Theo gets ill and Sipowicz finds himself paralyzed with fear, the detectives of the 15th Precinct come together to take dramatic measures to save Kirkendall.

The episodic elements of the seventh season of NYPD Blue continue an escalation of gruesomeness. Cases investigated by the 15th Precinct's detectives in the season range from the scamming of an old man that Russell helps to finding a corpse of a pregnant woman stuffed in a barrel. There are a number of cases that highlight ethnicity as both a motivator in the crimes or as an element of the case that complicates the relationships in the 15th Precinct.

At its core, NYPD Blue is more about characters than it is the cases. In the seventh season of NYPD Blue, the characters are:

Andy Sipowicz - Now on his own, he finds dealing with Theo to be more difficult than he expected. As a result, he turns to his ex-wife, Katy, for help in raising his son. Having overcome his lifelong racism, he is wary of breaking his word to the mother of a black suspect who gives up her son when the investigation points in his direction. He reluctantly does a favor for another officer, Gibson, and in the process upsets Katy. He tries to help Danny, but gets upset when Sorenson gets upset over J.D. He advises Danny on how to dispose of a body while he gets obsessed with his son's health,

Danny Sorenson - Thrown on a case by a police officer who has some information about him, he begins dating the cop, Franco. His c.i., J.D. resurfaces, disillusioned and on drugs. Shortly thereafter, he begins experiencing nightmares about his childhood and he keeps turning to Russell for help. He and Andy bond when J.D. overdoses and he falls apart. He does what he can to help Russell when Jill obsesses on her partner's actions, including preparing to murder Don,

Arthur Fancy - He attempts to keep Jill on the job after her ex-husband is arrested, going so far as to have an off-the-record conversation with Don himself. He is saddled with Jones as a vendetta from another lieutenant. That lieutenant, Abner, starts to exhibit an erratic quality that makes him suspect that he has been on the job too long. He takes Baldwin under his wing and tries to protect Russell when he is unable to save Kirkendall from herself,

Greg Medavoy - Abandoned by James and now paired with Jones, he starts to recognize his age when he takes a young paramedic out on a date and understands how it must look to other people. To bond with D, he starts exercising with him. He starts to feel left out of the loop when people in the squad start conspiring to save Kirkendall,

James Martinez - He takes the Sergeant's test and is excited to discover just how well he did on it. Pressured by Gina to keep more regular hours, he accepts promotion and a new position, leaving Greg on his own,

Baldwin "D" Jones - Abruptly transferred to the 15th Precinct after Martinez accepts promotion, he is used to investigating bias-related crimes. He is paired with Medavoy and illustrates a willingness to use force when necessary to get information out of suspects. He also tries to take people as they come, as opposed to assuming the worst about them, which gives him a point of bonding with Fancy right away. He has heard a thing or two about Sipowicz and - despite Sipowicz not treating him poorly - makes an unfortunate comment about Sipowicz's past attitudes. Fancy uses him as a liaison between himself and Lieutenant Abner when D's former boss starts to act erratically.

Jill Kirkendall - She reaches out to Diane for advice when Don, the father of her children, comes back into her life. She makes mistake after mistake in dealing with him, giving him the means to flee and using Diane in the process. To try to protect her children, she keeps Don resurfacing from her coworkers, even as it puts her career in jeopardy,

John Irving - He tries to keep himself out of other people's business better, which is made difficult by Don calling the squad a lot. He gives Andy haircuts and advises him as best he can when Andy starts dating. He advises Sipowicz and Sorenson on motive for a gay suspect,

and Diane Russell - She tries to give Jill good advice in dealing with Don and keeps trying when Jill ignores her advice. In trying to help Jill, she falls in with Denby, an alcoholic detective who is on Don's case. When Don steals Bobby's ring from her apartment, she is able to identify his corpse, putting her in an awkward position with Jill once again. She is kind to Sorenson and acknowledges that he is the first new friend she has made since Bobby died. She takes Sorenson in for the night when he gets fall-down drunk. Her moral dilemma reaches its peak when she sees Denby with Don after Don is supposed to be dead.

The acting in the seventh season of NYPD Blue is predictably wonderful. While Dennis Franz is a known quantity whose portrayal of Andy Sipowicz had won him a slew of acting awards before the seventh season, he does not slack of in the seventh season, especially at its climax. While Rick Schroder continues to show off serious dramatic chops that he could not as a child actor in a comedy series as Sorenson becomes more and more twitchy. Henry Simmons bursts into the cast as Baldwin Jones and the real magic of his acting is how easily he integrates with the cast that is so used to working off each other. His entrance into the 15th Precinct is seamless and Jones makes for an interesting partner for Medavoy . . . if only the producers can figure out how to make it work!

As with the prior seasons since Shout! Factory started producing the DVD sets of NYPD Blue, there are no bonus features on the seventh season discs. This is disappointing as some of the stories involve some pretty inflammatory lines and it would have been wonderful to have commentary tracks or featurettes from the actors involved discussing their thoughts on those episodes, arcs and even specific lines!

All in all, though, NYPD Blue Season Seven is still a decent season of television with engaging characters and some wonderful stories, even if they occasionally drop the ball on the overall continuity.

For other works from the 1999 - 2000 television season, please visit my reviews of:
The X-Files - Season 7
The West Wing - Season 1
Frasier - Season 7
Once & Again - Season 1
Angel - Season 1
Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Season 4
Family Guy - Season 2
Friends - Season 6
The Simpsons - Season 11
Clerks: The Animated Series
Freaks & Geeks
Strangers With Candy - Season 2
Sex And The City - Season 2
Star Trek: Voyager - Season 6


For other television reviews, please be sure to check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized list of all my television and movie reviews!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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