Criminal Confession Closure YKTTW Discussion

Criminal Confession Closure
Ending a Police Procedural with a confession so there's no more mystery.
(permanent link) added: 2013-05-10 14:15:36 sponsor: surgoshan (last reply: 2013-05-12 20:58:22)

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Whether they're all about characters or all about the procedure, the fact is that the core of every cop show (and some little old lady shows) is a mystery. To keep the story going for 42 minutes, the writers have to throw in half a dozen false leads and Red Herrings which means that by the end of the show, you're going to have at least a little uncertainty. Have they really caught the bad guy this time?

Some shows might be willing to let the mystery stand, if they're really dedicated to showing the nitty gritty of the procedure. But others are a little gentler and want to give the audience some closure. This will frequently overlap with an Engineered Public Confession and Bluffing the Murderer, because the detectives just don't have the proof they need. Sometimes, however, it's not the detectives who need the confession, but the writers let the perp get all emotional and blurt it out for no good reason so the audience can rest easy knowing that their heroes have definitely got the right guy.

Super Trope to The Perry Mason Method. Often overlaps with Motive Rant. Quite often occurs during a Summation Gathering.

  • In A Few Good Men, JAG lawyer Lt. Kaffee's strategy in defense of his clients is to egg Colonel Jessup into confessing on the stand that he ordered the "code red" which resulted in Private Santiago's death--since he lacked a solid way of proving this. Through a line of questioning that sought to exploit Jessup's hubris that he should be above such questioning ("you can't handle the truth!!!"), he manages to do so:
    Kaffee: Did you order the code red?
    Jessup: I did the job I...
    Kaffee: *Did you order the code red?*
  • Subverted by American Psycho there's a confession, and no one believes it. And it might not have happened, anyway.

  • Inverted in quite a few of Sherlock Holmes cases: Holmes puts together the whole case, he, Watson and the police are on their way to arrest them, only to find that the criminals have fled. The closing lines then indicate that the criminals most likely drowned when the ship they were fleeing on sank.

Live Action TV
  • The original Law & Order usually avoided this; it was heavy on the procedure, both on the street and in the courtroom. Occasionally, however, they didn't quite have the evidence or the case was just twisted enough that a confession was necessary to let the episode end right.
    • The spin-offs are more likely to spring a spontaneous confession, particularly Criminal Intent.
  • Castle is pretty bad about this. Every other episode ends with a confession, usually elicited by Castle's storytelling prowess. Subverted once when someone confesses, then points out that he said "You would understand how a man might do that..."
  • Psych doesn't always do this, because it's really all about the antics, and they're willing to bet that Shawn's chicanery will win over the watchers. But, still, the suspect usually confesses, starting with the pilot.
  • This also commonly happened in episodes of Perry Mason. The eponymous character was a defense attorney who often took murder cases, and got his client acquitted in court by implicating another person with evidence he'd uncovered. That other person usually was a witness in the case, and would often break down and confess on Mason's pointed cross-examinations.
  • Happens a lot on Monk when Adrian Monk figures out (often in intriguing and unusual ways due to his Hyper Awareness) a murder case he's consulting on. The accused is confronted, and is often so blindsided and baffled as to how he figured it out that they end up either outright confessing, or saying things that make it obvious they did do it.
  • Midsomer Murders almost always ends with the murderer spilling the beans in the interrogation room. There was one case where the murderess took the heat for the other two who'd fled abroad, repeatedly denying they were involved (Barnaby had no proof). However, after a Time Skip Barnaby gets a picture proving the two have pretty much forgotten about her, and the episode ends with Barnaby getting a phone call implying that she's ready to confess out of spite.
  • The CSI franchise loves's about half and half, usually. Sometimes the detectives/CS Is recreate the story with the evidence despite the bad guy not confessing and the other half, they lay out the evidence and get a confession.

Real Life:
  • According to statistics from the United States Department of Justice the overwhelming majority of criminal convictions come through a guilty plea. This has the advantage of saving time and money in an already severely overcrowded judiciary. The tricky part is, that does not necessarily include a confession, nor, unfortunately, is someone who pleads guilty necessarily actually guilty.

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