"People may be created equal, but they do not die that way."
"For Heaven's sake Fritzy! If we ever stopped lyin' to each other, how would we ever get to the truth?"The Closer
(2005—2012) was a crime drama on TNT starring Kyra Sedgwick
in an Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning performance as Brenda Leigh Johnson, deputy chief of the Atlanta Police Department (and former CIA agent), who transfers to Los Angeles. She leads a special LAPD unit that solves high-profile murder cases, with her supervisor being an ex-lover of hers.
Largely self-contained with several character-driven story arcs (most notably, dealing with Brenda's romance and marriage to an FBI agent, among others), the series began with and maintained considerable popularity and helped TNT, after several high profile failures, successfully launch its own programming block of shows on the network.
The series aired every summer beginning in 2005. The last season aired in 2012, giving the show an eight-year run. It was followed by Major Crimes
, starring Mary McDonnell
as Sharon Raydor. Most of The Closer
's main cast returned for Major Crimes
, which takes over its parent show's 9pm timeslot.
This series has a character sheet
This series provides examples of:
- Aborted Arc: Brenda's pursuit of a rapist who used his power as an attorney to stay out of jail was seemingly dropped after a few episodes. He's mentioned in the list Goldman gives at the end of the Season 7 summer finale of cases where Brenda has allegedly broken suspects civil rights, before eventually being brought back toward the end of the series.
- He finally gets caught (and shot) in the finale, albeit non-fatally. A running subplot through Major Crimes is the preparations for his trial.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Johnson's. Let's just say "Culture Clash" and leave it at that.
- American Accents: Particularly Johnson's very "Dixie" sound.
- And a Diet Coke: An obese victim in the episode "Junk in The Trunk" had a last meal that consists of four triple burgers with Extra Cheese, six orders of fries, and a diet coke.
- And Zoidberg: (Possibly) Inverted
Brenda: I was promised a crew of elite detectives, and what Captain Taylor here has given me is a bunch of junior varsity wannabes and Provenza.
- Anger Born of Worry: In "Help Wanted", right after he kills a corrupt ICE agent who was in a standoff with (and about to shoot) Brenda, Fritz freaks out and yells at her to never do that again.
- Artistic License - Law: Brenda's interrogations often may violate the 6th amendment rights to counsel. Once a suspect asks for a lawyer, the interrogation must stop unless the suspect initiates further conversation. Otherwise the entire interrogation may be tossed.
- As of the seventh season (especially the finale) all of Brenda's enormous law mistakes come back to bite her.
- Asian and Nerdy: Lt. Tao. Dear God, Lt. Tao. If he and Grant Imahara stepped into a room, that room would explode. Or turn into a giant robot. Whatever. And that's before we learned in Major Crimes that Tao did med school for a while.
- Asshole Victim: Seen in "Problem Child", among others.
- The victims in "Heart Attack" were all gang members who raped a 12-year old girl. Their killer is a surgeon who kills them and steals their organs to perform transplants.
- Attempted Rape: In season 1's "Fantasy Date", Brenda goes alone at night to check something at a crime scene. She is attacked and nearly raped before she manages to draw her gun and force the would-be rapist to back off. Turns out he was responding to a sex ad and thought Brenda was playacting when she resisted.
- Backhanded Apology: Brenda turns this into a "The Reason You Suck" Speech towards the FBI, District Attorney's office, and Robbery-Homicide Division in the Season 1 finale.
- Bathroom Breakout: Happens to Provenza and Flynn in "Layover", when they allow two stewardesses they are arresting to use the bathroom before taking them down to the station. To add insult to injury, the stewardesses then steal Provenza's car.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: The gambit of "Detective" Richard Tracy in "Tapped Out".
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: So gloriously averted. Fritz and Brenda's relationship begins with liking each other and enjoying each others' company. It's a shocking concept for television, no? (The Les Yay between Raydor and Brenda falls squarely into this trope, on the other hand, but the likelihood of that particular couple becoming canon is approximately zero.)
- Berserk Button: Sitting on Provenza's desk is a bad idea.
- Fritz is in AA. Disrespecting that, or trying to hand him "special" brownies, is liable to be hazardous to your health. (Keep in mind that he's an FBI agent. Doing this would make most people Too Dumb to Live, but..)
- See Sharon Raydor. See Sharon Raydor get played. See Sharon Raydor team up with Brenda Johnson and take the bitch down. See the birth of a dynamic duo that will one day undoubtedly rule the LAPD.
- Probably not wise to screw over Brenda Johnson. Her squad is... protective... of her.
- Crimes against children are a special kind of evil to Major Crimes. Even Provenza and Flynn are affected (since they have kids of their own).
- Bolivian Army Ending: The end of "War Zone," with the suspect facing the Bolivian Army of his neighborhood.
- Boom, Headshot: Fritz gives this to a corrupt ICE agent in "Help Wanted", while he's in a Mexican Standoff with Brenda and her Division. The moment his gun points at Brenda, Fritz takes him down.
- Book Ends:
- In the pilot, all the members of the newly-formed Priority Homicide squad turn in requests to be transferred to other departments because of their overly demanding new boss. Chief Johnson demonstrates her displeasure by dropping each form one by one into a trash can while giving each of her subordinates an assignment. In the last episode of the first season, when an anonymous complaint puts Johnson's job at risk, an almost identical scene occurs, but with the team's letters of resignation, effective immediately upon Johnson's termination, being discarded instead.
- Also happens in season three. The opening credits of the season premiere are interspersed with crime scene footage from Buzz's new camera. The same technique is used later, in part one of the next-to-last episode.
- Used for the series itself. We are introduced to Brenda Leigh Johnson standing over a dead body, holding a mask to her face and saying sarcastically, "It looks like love." As television says goodbye to Brenda Leigh seven years later, she ends the series finale holding a new handbag full of her favorite snack as a gift from her team. Tears in her eyes, she says with utter sincerity, "It looks like love." End show. Cue blubbering.
- Bluffing the Murderer: Practically Once an Episode.
- Bratty Teenage Niece: Brenda's niece, Charlie. Emphasis on "bratty".
- Breakout Character: Captain Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell) started out as a walk-on role in 2009. In 2012, Sharon Raydor took over as the head of the Major Case Squad when Sedgwick (and Brenda) left the show and The Closer became Major Crimes. Apparently Mary McDonnell is just that good.
- British Brevity: While obviously not British, each season consists of only 15 episodes. This can be attributed to it being a summer show produced by TNT.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Johnson is extremely successful at work, but her personal life...
Pope: I'm sorry. She sometimes forgets there are other people. In the world.
- Catch Phrase: Johnson's distinctive "Thank yeeeww".
- Also, "Uurrghh, that woman!" whenever she shares an episode with Raydor.
- "Oh, for heaven's sakes!" is another catch phrase
- Christmas Episode: Season 3's "Next of Kin", Season 6's "Living Proof", and Season 7's "You Have The Right to Remain Jolly".
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Fritz's sister, Claire. Played by Amy Sedaris.
- Dr. Terrence also qualifies.
- Collapsed Mid Speech: Chief Delk collapses during a speech at the end of "Unknown Trouble". In the next episode, we find out he died of an aneurism.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: As far as regards to Brenda. Characters who are helping her will wear colors that match or complement her clothes. A prime example is in season one, where she and Captain Taylor collaborate on an operation after several episodes of rivalry. There is a shot of them Power Walking in beautiful matching blue.
- Also especially prominent in Season 7's "Silent Partner". Brenda wears a blue blazer with a dark purple scarf while Sharon Raydor, who has increasingly had Brenda's back in Season 7, wears a lavender blazer with a blue shirt.
- Conflicting Loyalty: The entire squad in the early seasons are torn between Taylor and Johnson in early episode. Poor Gabriel tends to be the lightning rod for this particular clash, however. Johnson even sympathetically acknowledges this in a season one episode where he was especially torn. Naturally, all their loyalties eventually switch to Brenda.
- Consulting a Convicted Killer: Brenda ends up having to do this with Bill Croelik in the Season 4 premiere.
- Cramming the Coffin: In "Saving Face", the funeral of an former police colleague of Flynn and Provenza takes an unexpected turn when the casket is dropped, revealing not only their friend's body, but that of a nude, blonde woman.
- Crazy Cat Lady: Brenda lives in fear of turning into one of these and, after her cat (who she thought was male) has kittens, she wonders how she became one of those single women with too many cats.
- Cute Kitten: After Brenda's cat dies, her husband gets a new kitten, Joel. Joel's presence provides much needed "cute relief" from the horrific events of the episode's murder case.
- There's also the episode where Brenda and Fritz decide to stay in Mexico for a vacation after closing a case there. Brenda gets Sgt. Gabriel to look after a litter of kittens at her house. Getting a bunch of kittens to behave the way he wants goes about as well as you'd expect.
- "That is not a litterbox!"
- Cuteness Proximity: One Season 6 episode had Major Crimes working from Brenda's dining room, since Pope had taken over their office for a major operation. Brenda had to shoo Joel away before they could get any work done, since he was such a cute distraction.
- Da Chief: A rare example of this archetype as a primary character, in the case of Johnson. Pope is this to her.
- Dead Man's Chest:
- In one episode, a morbidly obese man is stuffed in the trunk of his own car for several days. The decomposition and the sheer size of his body makes it impossible to get him out of there in one piece.
- In another episode, a cooler containing a body is left in a storage facility for five years. The owner of the facility has no idea what's in it but nevertheless thinks there's something not quite right about someone abandoning a cooler sealed with duct tape, and tries unsuccessfully to get the LAPD to take a look at it. Finally, he has enough and mails the box to the Major Crimes Division.
- Defective Detective: Brenda. Dear God.
- Diet Episode: In "Blue Bloods", Brenda starts a diet that prohibits sugar and processed foods. Needless to say, it doesn't last very long.
- Did You Just Have Sex?: Brenda becomes.. very cheerful after rampant sex.
- Directed by Cast Member: Kyra Sedgwick's hubby Kevin Bacon has directed a few episodes.
- Door Closes Ending: The last we see of Brenda in the Grand Finale is her eating one of her long-missed chocolate cakes as the elevator doors close.
- Eagle-Eye Detection
- Elephant in the Living Room: Brenda and Fritz never directly discuss whether or not they want kids, picking their way circumspectly around the subject while house-hunting.
- Embarrassing Cover Up: A version where Provenza takes one for the team and only embarasses himself. In "Off the Hook", Provenza is trying to conceal that he is talking to Brenda on the phone:
Pope: Is that Chief Johnson?
Provenza: No, it's my proctologist.
Pope: You're asking where your proctologist is?
- Embarrassing First Name: Lt. Provenza's first name is "Lieutenant" to you.
- It's Louis ("Louie"), but as that can also be short for Lieutenant, we still might not be sure.
- When being served with a subpoena, his name is officially confirmed to be Louie M. Provenza.
- Buzz's real first name turns out to be 'Francis'.
- Enemy Mine: Brenda and Capt. Sharon Raydor. They loathe working together, but they just happen to be nearly unstoppable when they team up. Which completely baffles them both.
- EnhanceButton: Doubly subverted. When asked to "blow the picture up," Buzz just gives Chief Johnson a look. She corrects herself by asking him to make it bigger . . . only for the picture to come out perfectly anyway. Actually, Buzz's look when Brenda almost suggests he "blow it up" is because earlier in that same episode, Brenda's crime scene was blown up. This episode contained several explosive puns.
- Eureka Moment: Once an Episode
- Even Evil Has Standards: Murder the friendly old neighborhood shopkeeper and his grandson, and the local gang will kill you. Brenda exploits this to do an indirect Vigilante Execution on the murderer, who had been given immunity in the case in exchange for his testimony.
- That's not the whole the story. The shopkeeper and his shop were under the gang's protection. Turell, the gang member who killed the shop keeper placed the blame on Reggie, a fellow gang member who went into the shop as Turell left. Turell subsequently gave Reggie's name to the police. Reggie tried to kill Turell in an act of revenge. The rest of the gang didn't get involved until Turell sold Reggie out in return for immunity. Reggie subsequently called the others and filled them on Turrell's numerous betrayals.
- Fair Cop: The show stars, among others, Kyra Sedgwick and Mary McDonnell. This trope, of course, is in play.
- Fake Southern: Kyra Sedgwick is from New York. And not just from New York, but top-level Manhattan Socialite (her first cousin once removed Edie Sedgwick inspired "Like a Rolling Stone"). She's
about as ten times less Southern than Rudy Giuliani. On the other hand, her Southern accent isn't half bad.
- Interestingly, a medium-version of this happens with her dad: Barry Corbin, the actor who plays Brenda's father, is from Texas, rather than Georgia, which has a rather different accent.
- Fragile Flower: Despite being a tough Action Girl, our heroine is always one blink away from tearing up.
- Funny Background Event: In the episode, "Mom Duty," Brenda's mother comes over to visit the station while they're discussing a case. After being grossed out by the case in question, she leaves the room, taking pictures of the rest of the station. The flash from her camera is visible and frequent.
- In another episode, when they receive a suspicious package, Provenza rouses himself from his crossword puzzle long enough to call the bomb squad. As the bomb squad sniffs around the box, you can see Provenza in the background still casually working away at his crossword puzzle!
- "Relative Matters" has Brenda confessing to Chief Pope that her father has cancer. She wasn't sure if she could work the case and talked about how her father's sick and has massive mood swings and that she has to be there for him at home. While she was talking, Chief Pope saw her parents entering the Murder Room and handing out presents and smiling.
- Fun with Acronyms: Priority Homicide was originally called the Priority Murder Squad. The acronym went on their stationery. Brenda was not amused.
- Geeky Turn-On: Fritz's face has shown this more than once whenever Brenda does something particularly clever.
- Glomp: When Johnson becomes worked up, stressed out, upset, or emotional—in other words, once an episode—she has a tendency to fly at the nearest character for a cooldown hug or in extreme cases cry into chest. Her common targets are Fritz or Pope, but she's occasionally targeted others. On one or two hilarious occasions, a deeply uncomfortable Gabriel finds himself awkwardly patting his boss on the back.
- Hannibal Lecture: Averted in most cases. Johnson is Genre Savvy enough to not answer the bad guy's questions unless it is advantageous to her. Which is how it actually works in real life. Of course, from their perspective, she's the Hannibal.
- Happily Married: Brenda and Fritz seem to be developing into this; a rare dramatic example. Not that they haven't had their ups and downs, but their relationship has been solid since season one.
- Heel-Face Turn: Captain Taylor starts out as a stereotypical sleazy, underhanded cop looking to climb the ladder, especially unhappy about Brenda essentially taking over his division. Through Character Development and mutual respect, he eventually becomes supportive of Brenda's position, even if he'll still point out her failings, and by Major Crimes has taken strong steps towards becoming a Reasonable Authority Figure.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners / Vitriolic Best Buds: Flynn and Provenza.
- Hollywood Nerd: Tao. A guy that gushes over "Babs" the bomb robot could hardly be called anything else.
- How Dare You Die on Me!: Johnson to Sanchez in a mid-season cliffhanger. He was wounded taking bullets for Provenza, and there wasn't much notion that he wasn't going to survive.
- Iconic Item: Brenda's purse.
- Improvised Weapon: Flynn is attacked in a parking lot, and stabs the guy with a windshield wiper.
- I Never Said It Was Poison: Brenda's questioning of a suspect rattles him to the point of mentioning a detail of the murder he shouldn't have known in "A Family Affair".
- Internal Affairs: The Force Investigation Division, with the ridiculously Obstructive Bureaucrat Captain Sharon Raydor.
- Innocent Bigot: Johnson's parents show the faintest, most innocent shades of this, with their gift of maracas to the (hispanic) Sanchez, and their implied denial of a son's homosexuality ("I don't understand why he spends so much time with that roommate of his!")
- Intoxication Ensues: Johnson delves into her niece's "special brownies" during Season 5. Fritz is not amused when he discovers this.
- I Resemble That Remark: In "Elysian Fields", Provenza complains when Detective Olin is brought in to advise on a case.
Provenza: "He wrote me up for using bad language, which is bullshit!"
- It's All About Me: Brenda says this word for word in "Forgive Us of Our Tresspasses".
- It's Personal:
- Priority Homicide are True Companions. This makes the murder of Det. Sanchez's brother personal for the entire squad. That said, Sanchez, naturally, takes it harder than anyone else.
- The season 5 finale gives Captain Raydor massive amounts of this in the central case.
- In the Season 7 summer finale, Brenda asks the lawyer who's been hounding her if she personally offended him in some way. He says no; he simply thinks she is a menace, and he plans to end her, leaving her trembling.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Goldman, the lawyer prosecuting Brenda for every shady call she's made over the course of the series. She, well, actually did do everything he's accusing her of. Similarly, the reporter who accused them of focusing on media-attracting/"important" people's deaths—which was, y'know, kind of true. Were both men dicks? Yeah. They also happen to be right.
- In "The Big Picture," Brenda accuses Taylor's men of doing a shoddy job investigating a murder, because they considered the victim "just some Russian hooker." Taylor points out that he didn't hear her clamoring to have the case named a "priority homicide" until it turned out the victim had well-connected politicians for clients, and asks if that was because she thought the victim was just some Russian hooker. Brenda doesn't dispute it.
- Captain Raydor may be (by her own admission no less!) a total bitch, but the work she does is necessary.
Brenda: When officers are shot and killed in the line of duty, they're investigated by me. When they shoot back, they're investigated by you. That means that they'll think twice before defending themselves. That hesitation means that more good cops will die. I have to ask - have you ever considered what your principles cost?
Raydor: 70 million - that was the settlement in the Rampart case. One hundred - that's how many convictions were overturned due to renegade policing and lack of oversight in one division alone, not to mention the loss of trust the LAPD needs to remain effective.
Brenda: There has to be a better way.
Raydor: Well, until then, you've got me.
- Jurisdiction Friction: Brenda and Fritz occasionally butt heads over jurisdiction.
- Season 1 opens with this between Brenda and Capt. Taylor.
- And in one episode in Season 5, Brenda and Captain Raydor butt heads over an investigation: the two officers killed in the line of duty are Brenda's investigation, but Captain Raydor's investigating the dead civilian killed at the crime scene, who may or may not have been a suspect or a victim.
- Killed Off for Real: Brenda's mom, the first of the series.
- Knight in Sour Armor: Sharon Raydor. Provenza too.
- Knight Templar: Brenda, twice in the first four episodes suspects are shown to be beyond the reach of the law. One is a foreign police officer who ordered a jail hit on an innocent man. Brenda has the foreign cop sent to prison using the innocent man's name. The cop is murdered in jail. The second is a serial rapist and murderer who is protected as an FBI informant against his father. Since she can't arrest him, Brenda just mentions his informant status in front of the family lawyer. The suspect is dead in the next scene.
- She does this frequently over the years, though less frequently than in some other shows. Unusually, it gets deconstructed in a major way. Every single case that she did something wildly illegal or resembling street justice over the course of the entire series comes back to bite her in the form of a massive class action lawsuit. Her job is threatened, the city may be out millions, she's running out of money, and her work is hampered by constant oversight.
- Know Your Vines: In "Lover's Leap", Brenda ignores Buzz's urgent attempts to tell her something while she is examining a crime scene. What he was trying to tell her was that she was standing in poison oak. This later becomes an important clue in revealing the killer.
- Last Name Basis / You Called Me X, It Must Be Serious / First Name Basis: The evolution of the relationship between Brenda and her squad. Note that refers to what she calls them—she's always going to be Chief Johnson to them.
- Lawman Gone Bad: An Immigration, Customs & Enforcement agent in "Help Wanted", who made a habit of raping illegal immigrants and then deporting them so they couldn't press charges.
- Left the Background Music On: A rap song plays while the team investigates a crime scene in "Unknown Trouble". After Provenza complains, Tao finds the remote and turns off the TV that's playing the music.
- Lethal Chef: Claire's all-vegan selection, judging by Fritz and Brenda's reactions.
- Lying to the Perp: The Series
- Summed up in this little chat
Lawyer: (To Pope about Brenda) Is she lying?
Pope: You're her lawyer, of course she's lying.
- Manipulative Bitch: Brenda, Brenda, Brenda...we know you want to close the case, but sometimes you go just far enough to be almost too far.
- Surprisingly, Fritz shows he can be this, manipulating Brenda into closing an investigation in a way the FBI wanted, while simultaneously taking her mind off the recently-deceased Kitty.
- May-December Romance: The much-married Provenza heads in that direction during Season Five. It doesn't end too well. But on the plus side, as Flynn puts it, at least the relationship ended before Provenza got married again. He finally broke the cycle.
- Meaningful Name: An ultra-ironic one: Dr. Crippen.
- Military Brat: Johnson. Causes an It's Personal moment when a group of soldiers are murdered.
- Mistaken for Pregnant: One time when Brenda's parents are visiting, her (more than usual) random emotions lead Willie Ray to think Brenda's pregnant. Brenda quickly corrects her, informing her mother that she's actually going through early-onset menopause.
- The Mole: The leak in the department was Gabriel's girlfriend Ann. Goldman hired her to cozy up to Gabriel for inside information about the LAPD and Brenda's cases especially. Gabriel is legally cleared of wrongdoing, since everything he shared with Ann was said in confidence. He's still heavily scorned by members of the team for his accidental role in the leak.
- Mood Whiplash: One episode starts with Flynn and Provenza talking on the phone, apparently setting up a comedic Breather Episode. Then Flynn witnesses a hit-and-run and talks to a young motorcyclist as she dies.
- There's a rare moment of utter familial peace and comfort between Fritz, Brenda, and her father at the breakfast table, with Clay finally feeling back to his old self after his cancer treatment. Brenda then goes to have a heart-to-heart with her mother and include her, only to discover that her mother died that night and start screaming for Fritz. Holy crap, holy crap, holy crap . . .
- Never Got to Say Goodbye: Brenda puts off a heart-to-heart with her mother. Who then manages to die in the roughly ten hour span that Brenda put it off. Oops.
- Never Suicide: Subverted once, in a fairly painful manner.
- Nietzsche Wannabe: The "EE" kids. Natural Selection does not work that way!
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: One case is the murder of a parody of VH-1's Mystery, from The Pickup Artist. However, instead of being a guy in odd clothes who's good at chatting up women, "Intrigue" is actively a dick, taping his sex with the women he picks up, showing his "students" how to make a clean getaway, and showing the videotape to the woman later. He is an exaggeration of every negative image of a Pickup Artist, ever. The idea, presumably, is to make him so over the top even actual Pickup Artists hate him.
Brenda: Oh my Lord, this man is horrible.
- The preteen singer and her fame-hungry father in "Star Turn" are likely based on Miley "Hannah Montana" Cyrus and Billy Ray Cyrus.
- Seemed more like a female Justin Bieber (with the singing career starting on YouTube) crossed with the "Balloon Boy" hoax.
- Nobody Poops: Averted in the side story of an episode where Brenda constantly fought with Fritz over their clogged toilet. She wanted him to fix it, he wanted to call the landlord. The only problem was they had a cat (forbidden in their lease) and Brenda thought it was much easier for him to fix than to hide the cat for a day. The funniest part of the whole situation came when Brenda asked why he wasn't as fed up as she was about waiting until they left the house to go. When Fritz replied "I took a shower this morning," Brenda's horror was priceless.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Brenda Johnson is a sweet, scatterbrained Southern eccentric — until her suspect slips up and gives her what she wants. At which point said suspect remembers that Brenda Leigh Johnson is a CIA-trained interrogator.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Pope starts being this when Brenda competes with him for the Chief position. He eventually relents when she gets to the next step of the process... and he doesn't.
- Once a Season: Starting with Season 2, there will always be one comedic episode that starts with Flynn and Provenza getting in trouble and the team investigating whatever situation the two find themselves in.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Very rarely, but this has happened to Kyra Sedgwick on occasion.
- Organ Theft: The victims in "Heart Attack" are killed for their organs.
- Outranking Your Job: The major case squad consists of three lieutenants(Flynn, Provenza & Tao), two detectives(Sanchez and Daniels, who later transfers out) and one sergeant(Gabriel), with a deputy chief(Johnson) in charge. Ordinarily a police unit will be headed by a lieutenant or captain, with the rest of the squad being no higher ranked than sergeant. Lampshaded in the series premiere of Major Crimes, when Provenza has been given command of the squad... for all of a week until Captain Raydor transfers in.
- A conversation between Cmdr. Taylor and Sgt. Gabriel acknowledges this, as Taylor explains that in any other squad, 'sergeant' would be a supervisory position.
- Overly-Long Scream: A 6-year-old girl did this in the police station to demonstrate what her parents told her to do if the recently murdered child molester living next door ever approached her. In Season 5's "Tapped Out", a grown woman does one of these when confronted with a dead body. And continues to do so throughout the investigation, to the point of it being a one-episode Running Gag.
- Parenthetical Swearing: Brenda can make "Thank you so much" and "bless your heart" sound like insults.
- She's a woman from the Southern United States. "Bless your/his/her/their heart" is an insult. At best, it's an expression of pity for the terminally stupid.
- Father Jack and Flynn both make "Bless you" sound like an insult.
- Pass the Popcorn: The squad considers Johnson's interrogations a spectator sport.
- Police Brutality: Sgt. Gabriel gets an admission outta a child molester by giving him a black eye. To cover it up, Taylor arranges for the suspect to be sent to central booking, and lets slip he's a child molester. The resulting beatdown is significantly worse than a black eye.
- Police Procedural
- Precision F-Strike: In the season 6 summer finale, Brenda and her team corner an aspiring suicide bomber in the LAPD parking garage. He's carrying an oxygen tank filled with Sarin nerve gas, and when he gets shot it rolls down a ramp and towards a concrete pillar…until Tao steps in and stops it with his foot. Cue realization of how close he is to death and "Holy CRAAAAAAAP!"
- Prison Rape : Is mentioned as a sort of karmic justice for a rapist, who was the son of an LA County Sheriff Commander.
- Put on a Bus: Detective Garth disappears from the squad without explanation during Season 1.
- Actually disappeared after the pilot episode. The actor playing him probably found other work between filming this pilot and TNT's purchase of the show.
- Detective Daniels, who gets promoted out of the squad after season four.
- Raging Stiffie: In "Layover" Provenza had taken some viagra before having 'fun' with a flight attendant before finding a dead body in the bathtub. He had to stay seated to hide his erection from Brenda and Tao.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Kitty's death. First, one of the two cats playing Kitty died; then, the second one also became terminally ill, prompting the storyline.
- Priority Homicide's transfer to the Counter Terrorism Bureau in Season 3, although played as a bureaucratic paper shuffle by Sgt. Gabriel, mirrors the real life transfer of Major Crimes to be under the Counter Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau.
- Also, Major Crimes' move to the new LAPD HQ, which happened in the same year the LAPD moved out of Parker Center.
- Reaction Shot: In the season 7 summer finale, "Fresh Pursuit", Brenda wins her case about the man she left to die. Then the lawyer shows up with several more of her case files, and tells her he's going to Federal Court, and plans to end her. After he leaves, there's a shot of Brenda trembling with rage, or fear, or both.
- Right Behind Me: Provenza starts a Season One episode at a crime scene imitating Brenda giving instructions to the team. Then Brenda pops up and adds that those are all great ideas and everybody should get one them.
- Running Gag: In "Fate Line", people scaring Brenda with near-collisions (Pope) and sudden loud shouts (Claire and Tao). Through the whole show, Fritz and Brenda's recurring argument over which pronoun to use for Kitty.
- And in Season 6, Commander Taylor's office. Or lack thereof.
- It seems like every time Sgt. Gabriel is present at an autopsy, the coroner will offhandedly give him a body part to hold while he goes through his findings with Brenda. He gives a disgusted reaction each time.
- "I can live with that/this" in "To Serve with Love."
- Throughout the whole series, Brenda keeps referring to Kitty as "he", despite Kitty being conclusively proven to be female by giving birth, and Fritz keeps exasperatedly correcting her. (The only time he doesn't correct her is when Brenda is greatly upset over the fact that Kitty is slowly dying.)
- Run for the Border: The murderer of an illegal immigrant's daughter flees to Mexico to escape prosecution. Subverted in that Brenda's investigation revealed that the victim had been born on the Mexican side of the border, so the Mexican police have grounds to arrest and prosecute the culprit for murdering one of their citizens. And Mexican jails are much worse than American, especially for a pretty-boy white American. Naturally, she doesn't tell him this until after he's confessed...in front of the two Mexican cops in the room, who lay hands on him once she explains.
- Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Fritz Howard is the low-key point of stability for the very flighty and energetic Brenda.
- The Schlub Pub Seduction Deduction: Provenza and Flynn really should have figured this out a lot sooner in "Layover".
- Screaming Woman: Marie Morgan, the love interest of the victim, in "Tapped Out" kept on screaming so loudly that Flynn and Provenza had to wear ear plugs part of the time.
- Season Fluidity: Surprisingly low for a crime drama, especially with regard to Johnson's personal life (usually the B plot of each episode). Each season also has its own theme that even carries over into the cases. From season one to six, the themes have been a woman alone, partnerships, family, power, change, and attraction.
- Sexy Stewardess: Provenza and Flynn get taken for a ride by a pair of sexy flight attendants in "Layover".
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Flynn has excellent taste in suits, if the $500 jacket he's wearing in "To Serve with Love" is any indication.
- Provenza, in season five (for romantic purposes). Flynn is horrified.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: "War Zone": Twin brothers. One is a dedicated soldier with a spotless record, the other a banger who killed a kind old man and a little boy when the man wouldn't back down. Guess who's the victim of the week. Not that Brenda's unwilling to set it up so that Laser-Guided Karma will take care of him.
- There's also the calm, grounded, FBI Agent Fritz and his younger sister Claire who is a vegan spiritualist who had been a soap maker, a glass blower, a yoga instructor, and then a psychic.
- Sleuth Dates Cop: Brenda's boyfriend-then-husband Fritz is an FBI agent. Brenda belongs to the LAPD, but she has often found it useful to have an inside source in the FBI who can get information or do things that the LAPD cannot. He will sometimes offer to help, but there have been times when the FBI and the LAPD both had mutually exclusive interests in the same suspect (for example, a suspected murderer may be a mid-level member of a crime syndicate, and the FBI may consider his usefulness as a snitch above the interests of the LAPD). In these cases, Brenda will do something underhanded, in essence tricking the FBI, and, more personally, Fritz. Fritz will often take this very hard, and will call Brenda out, often gaining the sympathies of the audience (Brenda will often take an "ends justify the means" defense with Fritz when he reacts this way).
- Somebody Else's Problem: Pope is incredulous that Provenza and Flynn are invoking this in "Tapped Out", as they're having breakfast while police cars are rolling up to a crime scene across the street. Flynn points out that they're in Central Bureau's Area of Responsibility, and that if they're needed, Central will call Major Crimes and they'll go over.
- Southern-Fried Genius: Johnson is, well, a closer, phenomenally skilled at obtaining confessions.
- Spousal Privilege: Appears on several occasions; see the trope page for details.
- Stereotype Reaction Gag: In "Culture Shock," Provenza asks Tao to talk to some onlookers who apparently know only Chinese. Tao proceeds to address them in English, then dryly points out to Provenza that he's "fouth-generation American" and doesn't know any Chinese.
- He does know Japanese, but only because his wife is Japanese.
- Performed again later, when Sanchez expects Tao to know about ninjas.
- Of course, being a nerd, he does know all about ninjas!
- Left the Background Music On: The source of the music playing over the opening of "Standards and Practices" is revealed to be a CD player at the crime scene.
- Happens again in the Season 7 premiere with a music video being the source.
- Sweet Tooth: Johnson's continuing struggle with chocolate.
- TNT has caught on to this, and featured Product Placement for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups on the show.
- Sympathetic Murderer: Carmen, a girl who shot a 12-year old wannabe gang banger, who was guarding her for the gang members who'd gang-raped her for several days. Nobody in Major Crimes is very keen on charging her for murder.
- Taking the Bullet: Sanchez does this for Provenza.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Brenda and Captain Raydor. Though they work together much more peaceably by the middle of Season 7.
- The Coroner: Dr. Crippen, followed by Dr. Morales.
- Those Two Guys: Flynn and Provenza.
- Title Drop: One episode was about a dead hooker inside a dead cop's casket. The funeral director gets interrogated and claims he is "The Closer", meaning the last guy to shut the casket before it's sent to the wake.
- Title-Only Opening
- They Do: Brenda and Fritz, done remarkably well.
- Took a Level in Badass: Raydor in the Season 7 episode "Death Warrant," where she shocked Brenda's whole team by shooting a bad guy right between the eyes with a bean bag round.
- True Companions: Priority Homicide. At first they're united in that they despise Brenda; by the end of season 1, they're united in that they'd put their jobs and lives on the line for her.
- Undying Loyalty: In the most unexpected of places. Raydor's loyalty, over the course of three seasons, has come to rest wholly with a woman she once despised. Johnson is stunned when she realises it.
- Unsettling Gender Reveal:
- Poor poor Sanchez.
- Provenza has this happen as well, when his former partner
George Georgette shows up.
- Verbal Tic: When she's flustered or upset, Brenda will often repeat the operative word of her sentence three, three, three times. Willie Rae does it too.
- Vigilante Execution: "Heroic Measures."
- Villainy-Free Villain: It seems that we are supposed to cheer for Brenda when she gets one over on Captain Raydor, but the Captain is a professional, zealous, by-the-book investigator who is doing exactly what her job description says she is supposed to do, which is to investigate misconduct within the LAPD.
- Not to mention that she was trying to get Brenda Pope's job.
- And in Season Seven, she is doing her best to stop investigating Brenda and her team, to the point of opening up the investigation by emphatically telling Brenda that she was being forced to investigate and, at numerous points in the investigation, trying to give strong hints to Brenda that she was being forced to continue the investigation against her will. Brenda is so insulted by the idea that she's being investigated at all that she just brushes Raydor off without thinking about the meaning of her words. By the finale this appears to have changed somewhat, as Raydor is the first person Brenda looks to after she is cleared. Raydor's face is wreathed in smiles, and Brenda nods her thanks to Raydor before the scene ends.
- Weirdness Magnet: There have been at least three instances outside where Provenza and Flynn met outside of work, stumbled across a dead body, and failed to react properly. Three. The half naked lady in Provenza's garage, the naked lady in their buddy's coffin, the random actor who fell on Buzz's car . . .
- Up to four, with Provenza and Flynn picking up two flight attendants and going home with them where Provenza finds a dead man in the bathtub.
- In Season Seven, they stumble into a robbery at a pawn shop. Before the even notice what's going on, the crooks get away with the gold and a guy gets shot.
- What a Drag: In "Elysian Fields", a suspected rapist and murderer is dragged behind a car by someone torturing to get him to reveal the location of the body of his victim.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Johnson gets this treatment when she blackmails Charlie into signing a sworn statement about Jake's ex-girlfriend getting pregnant with his child and her father's subsequent threat by threatening to send Charlie's parents a tape of Charlie describing in detail all the sexual high-jinks she got into with her ex-boyfriend.
- Det. Julio Sanchez gets this in Season 6 when the team finds out that his search for a child's missing, deported mother was actually him searching for babysitters and schools, and that he hadn't called anywhere in Mexico to even start looking for the mother.
- Johnson has a tendency to put closing the case before all else, sometimes including other people's investigations, even Fritz's. Notably, she scares the murderer out of taking a deal with the FBI so that he'll go to jail rather than get off on a lighter charge, despite this screwing up Fritz's case against a major drug cartel. This was after messing with Fritz's investigation through out the episode. He calls her out on it.
- Brenda Leigh also gets this... well, all the time when someone finds out that she was circumventing procedures and throwing pre-existing investigations off track, but especially throughout Season Seven when she is facing the repercussions of blatantly setting up an untouchable murderer to be executed by his own gang in Season Six.
- She herself kept giving one to Fritz about the FBI (and the LAPD, as he keeps insisting that she remember) doing something similar when they set a dangerous drug dealer on a rap star in order to get him to do something incriminating. And then she did the exact same thing, only it turns out that the FBI/LAPD's actions didn't cause the crime, but her's did result in three people being badly beaten in an incident that involved shots being fired. Though in all fairness, one of those was the criminal and she did get to arrest a bunch of criminals including one that the FBI considered "untouchable."
- With Friends Like These...: Flynn and Provenza, although it's usually Provenza instigating whatever goes wrong this time.
- Worthy Opponent: Brenda may detest Captain Sharon Raydor, but even she thoroughly, if grudgingly, respects Raydor's investigative skills. See also Enemy Mine.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: On her wedding day, Brenda was scared because while she loves Fritz with her whole heart, she feels that her heart is tiny. Fritz reassured her that she has a big enough heart for him, the job, and then some.
- Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: Played absolutely straight. Brenda adopts a stray she calls 'Kitty' whom she assumes is male. Up until 'he' gives birth.