The Dobson case, and Mac's trial, come to unsettling ends.
Despite the neat wrap-up the show tries to give us at the end of the episode, I'm not convinced that this is an end to anything. There's Stella's comment that Sinclair will be back, of course, but above and beyond that, we haven't seen any real kind of closure on Mac's emotional arc. We've had closure in terms of narrative, in that he's been cleared of all charges, but we haven't gotten any real sense that Mac has made any kind of steps forward, much less that he's come to new realizations about himself.
I don't think this was handled as sharply as it could have been: there was too much emphasis on the political aspect of the entire situation, and not enough on the fact that Mac's own behavior and poor judgment calls contributed to the problem as much as Sinclair's and Gerrard's political ambitions did. Up until tonight in this arc, there had been a good balance between the two, with the great gap between Mac's claims of emotional detachment and the realities of his behavior given continual and pointed emphasis. The structure of this episode seemed to elide that too much, which leaves me feeling unsatisfied; they may have felt the need to wrap this storyline up with some efficiency before the end of the season, and for the most part it works very well, but I think it would have worked even better had they continued to press for that delicate balance.
However, there are still some interesting gray areas here. Stella encourages Mac to play politics, and it's that advice, in part, that spurs Mac to break a few more rules, such as when he simply storms the evidence room instead of waiting around for the paperwork to be processed. This is an example of a moment where breaking the rules is a good call.
But when Mac decides to play politics, he really goes hardcore: he decides to use the evidence he comes across to blackmail Sinclair and Gerrard. This is the action that puts us firmly back into the morally gray area, and it's something that may be significant. He's done what he had to do to save himself, and this may have been the one way he could ensure that they wouldn't continue to come after him, but now that he's in the game, when does it come back around, per the episode title? He's not just playing everyday politics here; he's engaging in serious gamesmanship, and now that he's made the decision to take that step, he can't go back. He can't change it.
While this episode doesn't address the emotional issues that have been a factor for Mac all season, the show has never been quick to give us payoff on these kind of slowly-building storylines. I am, as I noted, troubled by the lack of balance in this episode, but I also have hope that this will eventually have a payoff, or at least contribute to whatever kind of evolution we may be watching slowly happen in Mac's overall character arc. This entire season has been about the breaking down of his assumptions, and a dismantling of the ways he's tried to protect himself: in a nutshell, what that's meant is that all the ways in which he tries to keep things simply and understandable and morally easy are being taken away from him. He's no longer being allowed to see the world, and in particular his own behavior, in black and white. The decision to blackmail, then, is a further graying of his character, and is, more importantly, of a piece with everything that's gone before.
If they continue to address these issues as the show goes on, and to further dismantle Mac's protective shell, this can only be a good thing.
In contrast to how pointedly isolated Mac was in the previous two episodes, here he's just as pointedly surrounded by people who care about him. He has serious, highly personal conversations with both Stella and Peyton, and it's those conversations that push him toward the actions he eventually takes to extricate himself from trouble. In addition to those scenes, we also see Flack, Stella, and Danny testify at his hearing, and they all speak in charged, emotional terms about Mac and their relationships with him. There's an emphasis there, over and over, on how long they've known him and on how well they know him. Stella tells the judge that "There's no one in the department I trust more than Detective Taylor, personally or professionally," while Danny insists on defending him despite the prosecutor's attempts to goad him about his own past troubles -- and given how bitterly he and Mac have fought over those troubles, his vehemence here in defending Mac comes across as particularly significant.
Later, in one of the best scenes the show has done all season (perhaps one of their best scenes ever), Danny and Flack play pool and talk about the situation, and Danny is clearly hurting when he asks Flack, "Why do we do what we do?"
"We do it 'cause we're good at it," Flack says, and goes on to suggest that they may not be good at anything else -- and that, more seriously, they do it because sometimes they can make a difference. I don't have much to say about this scene because it's just so well-done, other than that it's emotionally dead-on, beautifully played, and sums up a great deal of what's important about the show in a few short lines.
On another note, Flack's remark about not being good at anything else, joking though it is on the surface, also strikes me as important in a way that I'm not quite parsing yet. Similarly, his line at the beginning, "I don't think there's anything you can do to help Mac" is, of course, a literal reference to what he sees as the brass' determination to stick it to Mac, but it also seems vaguely ominous.
What's also important here is the conversation's emphasis on history and family; along the same lines, Mac and Stella's conversation also focuses heavily on their histories. Over and over again, all season: history and family and the weight of the past. And all of those things are inextricably tied in with identity, the concern that the show has returned to time and again since the very beginning.
And on the subject of identity, how is Mac's changing now? How will it continue to change now that he's firmly in the realm of the morally gray?
Also note what Mac says near the end: "It's the little things that come back to you."
And there's always a price. (See above, re: Flack's comment to Danny. Foreshadowing: your guide to quality literature!)
Identity. History. Family. The past. Over and over and over again, and all of it's intertwined and inescapable.
"Pretty ballsy. Something I would do." As I've also previously noted, Mac and Danny are far more alike than either of them would ever care to admit.
Hawkes' smug pride over still holding the record for removal of a large machine from a person's body is adorable. And disturbing. And adorable again.
"So I decided to cut the poor bastard's liver up and make a lovely pate." And...Peyton FTW! She says it with such polite good cheer, too.
John McEnroe was good. I mean, there was a distinct difference between Original!McEnroe and Faux!McEnroe, right down to their body language and speech patterns, and he was really good at playing both a slightly heightened version of himself and a poor schlub with a vague resemblance. Color me impressed.
ETA 5/10: "Can you read the highlighted text?" "Yes." (Followed by a slow blink and blank stare.) Love! All of Danny's stubborn loyalty and, well, general stubbornness is on display here. See above, re: more alike than they'd like to admit.
I would pay large sums of cash to see Mac directing traffic at the Lincoln (or Holland) Tunnel.
Mac wears a tie for the first time in forever, a blue and gray diagonally-striped number, along with a dark gray suit and a cobalt blue shirt. Later, he wears a light blue shirt with a black suit, and finally a black suit with a (sigh) dark blue shirt. I think I've typed the phrase "blue shirt" more this past year than I ever have in my entire life.
Flack wears a light gray striped suit with a white striped shirt and a gray, blue, and green diagonally-striped tie. Later, he wears a dark gray suit with a white shirt with alternating blue and red stripes, and a red tie. Finally, he wears a gray suit with an eggshell blue shirt and a...confetti tie. I don't know how else to describe it. It has a confetti pattern, and is disturbingly festive.
Danny starts off the episode in a red t-shirt and jeans. Later, he wears a khaki t-shirt with jeans, and when he testifies at Mac's trial, he's wearing a pale green shirt with a distressed light gray jacket that has some nice stitching going on along the lapels. The next day, he's in a dark gray henley and jeans, then -- check the continuity error -- is wearing a light blue button-down when he meets Stella at the lab; one scene later, on the street with her, he's back in the dark gray henley.
Stella starts off wearing that utterly gorgeous wine-colored suede jacket she wore a bit earlier in the season, along with jeans. Later, she wears her often-seen long gray trench with the white piping, and a black knit scoop-neck sweater. Finally, she wears a red ribbed v-neck with a buckle across the bodice and a light gray jacket.
Hawkes wears a dark gray shirt with white stripes, and later a black button-down. Lindsay, again with the cute jackets this week: I really like her brown suede one, and the rose ribbed scoop-neck she's wearing under it is a good color for her, though I'm less sure about the white around the neckline.