In the end, it all comes back to emotional involvement.
The Truby case (see "Consequences") comes back to haunt Mac, and its fallout proves to be much deadlier than anyone could have expected. Here, we get the beginnings of the payoff to the emotional arc for Mac that the show has been setting up all season, and it's wonderfully executed in terms of both character and continuity.
We learn here that, as a result of Truby being exposed as a dirty cop, a number of his convictions have been overturned, just as Flack predicted. Among those is serial killer Clay Dobson, whose M.O. Mac recognizes immediately. Flack asked Mac, way back in the Truby episode, if he cared about the consequences of his actions, and their conversation here recalls that earlier argument. It also touches on what's been a central concern for Mac, and for the show as a whole, this season: the idea of emotional involvement in one's cases, and whether an officer can afford to allow him- or herself to be guided by emotion rather than by logic and procedure. Mac continues to insist that he doesn't let his emotions get in the way, but it's clear -- as it's been clear every time this debate has been brought up this season -- that he's refusing to see the whole truth about himself.
"The way I feel has never affected the way I do my job," he tells Flack, and Flack's rejoinder is both perfect and bitter:
"My weakness, I guess."
Moreover, that reply again lays stress on two of the season's dominant themes: personal responsibility and honesty. On the first point, despite his anger, it's also clear that Flack feels responsible, himself, for what's now happening with Dobson. Mac immediately disclaims this, telling him that he's the one who asked for the memo book, and that it's his responsibility. Flack, in reply, demonstrates his unwavering sense of loyalty: "What are we gonna do?"
On the second point, that of honesty, this one gets all tangled up in the idea of emotional involvement. Mac's continued claims of his own lack of emotional involvement don't make him a liar -- or, at least, they don't make him a conscious one. When he says this -- and he's said it over and over again this season -- it's clear that he believes every word of it. It's equally clear that he's very good at lying to himself, and that it's something he's unaware of. This is something we've seen with Mac going all the way to the first season, that he will go out of his way to disclaim his own emotions, and to present himself as someone who operates only on logic and evidence. It's a self-protective measure, but it's a dangerous one, and what we've been seeing all season is what happens when those protective barriers begin to crumble.
I have to point out, again, the argument Mac and Hawkes have in "Murder Sings the Blues." I thought then that it was a significant moment, and we're seeing now just how significant it really was. The most important part of that argument is that Hawkes accuses Mac of being ruled by his emotions just as much as anybody, and -- this is the key point, I think -- that the show has never contradicted that assertion. We never saw, in that episode or any other, a point at which Hawkes told Mac that he might have been wrong, or apologized for his accusation. Hawkes' assessment was allowed to stand, instead, and now it's being hammered home just how right he was.
Mac is emotionally involved in this case. It's clear that he feels guilt over Truby's conviction subsequently allowing Dobson to walk free. Gerrard points this out when they're arguing: "You're letting your own guilt over Dobson's release guide this case." (Again, this point isn't contradicted; it's too clear that it's true.) We see this explicitly illustrated when, immediately following that conversation, Mac goes down to the lab and irrationally loses his temper with Adam for showing Gerrard evidence he had just finished processing. He even yells at Stella when she tries to get him to listen to reason. These are both emotional, angry responses that have nothing to do with logic or chain of command. The things he's been accusing others of, and frequently fracturing his relationships with them over, are things he's just as guilty of himself.
And it's emotion and anger and guilt that subsequently lead Mac to go after Dobson the way he does -- without back-up, note (although Flack is quick to tweak to what's going on), and without telling anyone what he was about to do. Whatever the truth of what happened on that rooftop, the simple fact that he didn't have back-up, and didn't follow procedure, is going to make this look very bad for him, especially since one of the main issues Gerrard has been harping on him about is the need to stick to regulations and not give the department any more bad publicity.
We've been seeing for awhile now how Mac's emotional disconnect affects his personal life. Now we're about to find out how it affects his professional life.
Stella's HIV storyline gets wrapped up in this episode, as well, and she learns that she's negative. This didn't exactly come as a huge shock to me, but I still found myself holding my breath when Adam was getting ready to tell her what her status was. The emotion in Stella's reaction is deeply felt, and it became clear in that moment just how much she was bracing herself for a positive result, no matter how good a job she's done holding it together over the past few months; her surprise and momentary inability to understand that she's tested negative is a heartbreaker. "It's like I can dream again." It's a line that easily could have come off as melodramatic or saccharine, but she gives it just the right spin of surprise and determination, and so it works.
Adam's flinchiness when Mac asks him a question at the computer is telling, and a good callback to the brief comment he made several episodes ago about his father being a bully.
Danny's reaction to the brothers in the hospital is equally telling; he doesn't say a word, but the look on his face and his body language make it very clear that he's thinking about Louie as he watches them.
So far, Gerrard is being set up to be Mac's nemesis, but he's not being portrayed as a cartoon villain, which is nice. All the things he accuses Mac of and comes down on him for -- yeah, he really has a point, more often than not, and he's honest enough to acknowledge that his motivations for wanting to keep the department's collective nose clean aren't entirely altruistic.
"I'm watching you." And Mac, in turn, is being watched, and that's contributing greatly to his tension and edginess in this whole matter. It's also interesting that he puts so much emphasis on the idea that Dobson needs to have control; if the show is going for a subtle parallel here, it's a well-observed one.
Mac wears a light gray pinstriped suit with one of his ubiquitous blue shirts. Later, he wears a black suit with a burgundy shirt.
Hawkes wears a dark gray suit with a white shirt, and later a midnight blue shirt with a black military-inspired jacket. The latter piece is gorgeous.
Stella wears a red cardigan with a deep, scalloped v-neck. Later, she has a short, fitted brown leather blazer (it looked like it might have been a slight peplum cut in a couple of shots) over a ribbed khaki v-neck with three-quarter sleeves.
Flack wears a dark gray-on-gray striped suit with a white shirt with gray stripes, and a light green paisley tie.
Danny has a dark gray high v-neck sweater with jeans, and later a white henley with jeans.