Mac's downward spiral continues here, and -- much like the dead angel he spends much of the episode investigating -- his fall from grace is happening mostly by his own hand. There's a troubling recklessness in his behavior that continues no matter how many people try to warn him.
And people do try to warn him. Cementing the point that they're doing far more with Gerrard than making him a simple, broadly-drawn antagonist, Gerrard actually comes to Mac to tell him privately that the department is planning to proceed with an internal investigation. That's a courtesy he didn't have to extend, and for his troubles, he gets accused of playing politics and "kissing ass." And called a puppet.
This is, maybe, the most disturbing aspect of Mac's recklessness here -- his blind insistence that all of this is nothing but political game-playing; he repeats, several times, that Gerrard and Sinclair are sacrificing his career in order to preserve the image of the NYPD and look good to the media. As he has before, Gerrard acknowledges that image is a reason for them to proceed with an investigation, but what Mac seems insistent on not facing is the fact that there are other, very good reasons for the department to take a closer look at this case, regardless of whether or not the D.A.'s office found enough evidence to go forward with its own investigation.
We find out here, as most of us probably suspected or assumed, that Mac didn't push Dobson off the roof. (If nothing else, on a practical narrative level, that twist would have made it difficult for the show to continue with Mac as head of the crime lab; even if he found a way to cover up his guilt, I seriously doubt that CBS is willing to go quite that dark with one of their procedural dramas -- interesting though it would be if they were.) Dobson, in fact, was the one to throw himself off the roof, stating that if he was going down, he was going to take Mac with him. The revelation that he locked the second handcuff bracelet himself is a nice, nasty detail. That's fine. However, what Mac is failing to acknowledge is that, while the D.A. didn't find enough evidence to go forward with a case, they also didn't (it appears) find enough evidence to clearly exonerate him, either.
Further, and more importantly, Mac has given Gerrard no reason to take his word for anything. From the beginning, he's given Gerrard a hard time; he's been openly antagonistic, even before he had any real good reason to be, and has consistently defied orders. When the Dobson case went down, he violated protocol and went after him without either calling for back-up or even telling anyone where he was going. This, after Gerrard had already warned him to back off on Dobson. So why should Gerrard give him any shadow of the benefit of the doubt? In his eyes, Mac is a loose cannon.
So why this blind insistence on the idea that all of this is political game-playing? Mac's smarter than that.
This brings us back, again, to the arguments about emotion vs. evidence that we've been seeing all season, and periodically since the very beginning of the show. Mac has found himself in a position where, if he were able to see any of this clearly, he would be forced to admit that not only has he let himself be guided by emotion in this case, but that his emotional involvement has led him to make some bad, stupid choices. That, in turn, would force him to confront the fact that he does let his emotions get the best of him at times -- this, despite what he's insisted to Flack time and time again this season. And Hawkes. And Danny and Stella, many times over the years. And just about everyone he works with, really; this isn't an isolated incident, but an issue that's come up time and time again, with person after person.
This is what Mac can't face: that he's as subject to the vagaries of emotion as anyone else is. Emotions are what let him get hurt; they leave him vulnerable. As we've also seen this season, that's something he avoids at all costs in both his personal and professional life, but avoidance of the emotions doesn't protect him at all. Instead, it does the opposite: he has no closure in Claire's death, almost six years after the fact, and now he's forced to confront the possible wreckage of his professional life.
He's also going to be forced to confront the idea that there's a big gap between what he tells people, and what's actually going on in his head. It's behavior that's, on the surface, hypocritical, but a closer term, I think, is blind spot. Mac sincerely believes the things he says, and I think that he sincerely sees no discrepancy between his statements and his actual behavior. Or, at least, he saw no discrepancy. Now he's being forced to realize otherwise, which is contributing in large part to his increasingly out-of-control behavior.
And yet again, that blind spot is specifically pointed out to him -- and again, the show refuses to take the easy route of painting its protagonist's opposing forces as simple villains. Sinclair seems to have media concerns in mind even more than Gerrard does, but he also makes several astute points: he notes to Mac that the stand he's taking now is the same stand Mac took when he arrested Truby. "Guess it's a little bit different when you're on the other side of the badge," he says, and just like Gerrard when he told Mac that he was being guided by his guilt, he's right.
(This is a tactic that, to make a random comparison, Buffy also used to very good effect: putting truth into the mouths of characters who are supposed to be bad guys. For those of you familiar with the show, I'm thinking specifically of the Mayor's speech to Buffy and Angel about how it would never work, and several of Spike's speeches in S2 and S3. It gives the bad guys depth; it also gives weight to a thesis.)
Additionally, both Gerrard and Sinclair emphasize that they're acting to preserve the integrity of the department. This is, pointedly, a reason Mac has cited for his own disciplinary actions more than once. It's what he told Aiden in "Grand Murder at Central Station" when he fired her, and what he told Danny in both "Crime & Misdemeanor" and "On the Job." It's also a reason he gave Flack in "Consequences."
As I said last week, the show has been setting up this downfall of Mac's for a very long time.
Meanwhile, Stella confronts several of her own past demons, as a cold case from Philadelphia (and from, well, Cold Case; Danny Pino, you are very hot, even if this wasn't all that much of a crossover) brings to light a nasty experience she bore indirect witness to when she was a child in foster care. Her immediate anger at being accused isn't dissimilar to Mac's righteous indignation, and although in this instance she's correct that she had nothing to do with it, like Mac, her reactions seem to stem largely from guilt and regret.
We also get another nod to the ongoing family theme; Stella tells Mindy/Erin/Victoria that she was the only sister she ever knew, and this is, explicitly, an acknowledgment of how a family can be chosen as well as made. More subtly, we see another instance of this in the way Danny reacts to the situation, first in his assurances to Valens that Stella's word is good, and then in his quiet, caring question: "Stella, look at me. What's haunting you?"
The phrase "haunting you," or "haunted," is also used several times here, and seems important. Stella later remarks that cold cases can stir up the past, and tells Victoria that "You don't always choose your own hell; sometimes it's chosen for you." She also mentions that recent events have reminded her about the gray areas in life, and we can tie this back to Mac's situation: he's similarly being forced to confront the fact that life isn't the simple, comforting black-and-white that he's been deluding himself it is. In the case of his hell, though, I'd suggest that it's both: he's chosen it, but it's also been chosen for him.
Stella graduated from the Police Academy in 1997? That seems late -- and, actually, it also contradicts earlier information; in S1, Stella mentions to Mac that she was working Narco when Giuliani was first sworn in as Mayor, which was in 1994.
"All he had left were wings and a prayer." Nice to see that Mac can still deliver the terrible puns even when his life is going to hell.
Flack also warns Mac about what's likely about to happen, telling him that he'll probably called to testify, and that "Your word may not be good enough." Though Mac doesn't answer, this, at least, seems to hit him pretty hard.
The final scene of the episode is a shocker, and one that again puts emphasis on the idea of personal responsibility, and how difficult it can be to define. It also takes us back, once more, to Flack's question earlier this season about whether or not Mac is ready to face the consequences. (The answer, of course, is no, but he doesn't seem to have a choice any longer.)
Flack starts off in a white shirt with a wide, pale red stripe alternated with a thin blue stripe, along with a dark blue suit and a bright red, patterned tie. Later, he wears a light green checkered tie with a green and gray checkered shirt, and a gray striped suit. I'll admit that I didn't entirely hate this particular checkered pattern; I didn't like it, either, but it's far from the worst one he's ever worn, and at least it wasn't the straight-up cowboy checks that drove me so crazy last season.
Mac starts off in a slate blue shirt with a gray suit. Later, he has a blue shirt with a lighter blue stripe and a black suit, and finally, a dark blue shirt with a(nother, I hope) black suit. Yes, he went from blue to blue to blue. Yes, I laughed at that, a lot. As I've noted before, Mac's fashion experiments have typically not been exactly successful, but I do wish he'd mix it up just a tiny bit on occasion. At the very least, when there are this many costume changes in an episode, I think it would behoove wardrobe not to put him in a blue shirt every single time. Blue is a good color on him. He rocks the blue. But still.
Stella wears a green short-sleeved knit with a diamond-shaped neckline, and later a short-sleeved black fitted cardigan with a keyhole neckline. Finally, she has a black pinstriped fitted blazer over a light blue scoop-neck shirt.
Although Lindsay is still (understandably) being covered up more often than not, I did really like the little pinstriped black jacket over the white knit v-neck.
Hawkes wears that great black military-styled jacket from last week over a light blue shirt, and later a black suit with a plum-on-plum striped shirt. Danny wears, briefly, a maroon henley, and later a light green shirt with that gray distressed blazer of his. Finally, he wears a white shirt with the same blazer. No (visible) jeans this week? A miracle.