Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Major Crimes: Season Two DVD Review

Reviewed by Allie Schembra
"Major Crimes" is back on the case for a thrilling second season as two-time Oscar nominee Mary McDonnell (Dances With Wolves, "Battlestar Galactica") continues as Captain Sharon Raydor, the head of the LAPD’s Major Crimes division, joined by an unforgettable ensemble cast. The second season opens with Major Crimes diving into some of the most challenging and fascinating crimes yet, including the murder of a big-time director’s wife, an apparent murder-suicide and a high-speed car chase that leads to a triple homicide. Just as the squad seems to be adjusting to last year’s leadership change, D.D.A. Rios arrives to challenge the division and their material witness in the ongoing case against serial killer Philip Stroh. Torn between what is right morally and what the law commands, Raydor and her team are faced with more personal and professional struggles than ever before as they continue to make deals and crack cases.

Show (4 out of 5 stars)
There’s nothing like binge-watching a show you love right before the new season starts. This is exactly what I did over the last weekend. I love "Major Crimes."  After "The Closer" ended and "Major Crimes" was introduced, I was skeptical, but I was pleasantly surprised at how good it is. The cast has great chemistry and the stories are really good. Now, season two goes even farther with the cases and the interaction between characters. Flynn and Captain Raydor become friends, Rusty’s relationship with Sharon and Provenza grows and throughout the season, he realizes just how important those relationships are.

I’m not a big fan of Rusty. I think he’s whiny and annoying, but I like that he brings the team together in order to ensure his safety. It shows how much of a family the major crimes unit is and how much they care for each other. I also really like how the story line connects the show with "The Closer." It keeps the two shows together and lets the views know that just because "Major Crimes" is a spin off, it’s still the same unit, and life goes on after a member leaves.

"Major Crimes Season Two" is 19 episodes available on four discs. Here is a rundown of each episode.

Disc One
  • Final Cut – The pregnant wife of a Hollywood director is murdered and of course the chief suspect is her husband. The Major Crimes unit investigates and uncovers an affair, two ex-wives and two children who don’t see their father. The murderer might surprise you. In the mean time, Rusty needs to give Deputy District Attorney Emma Rios his statement in the Philip Stroh case, but doesn’t want Captain Sharon Raydor, his guardian, or Lieutenant Provenza to be in the room.
  • False Pretenses – The Major Crimes unit investigates the murder-suicide of a doctor and his sister, which isn’t as simple as everyone thinks it may be. Rusty receives a threatening letter and DDA Rios begins her quest to have Rusty removed from Sharon’s care.
  • Under the Influence – Lieutenant Tao is consulting on a television show and the writer is shadowing him and the unit. While on a ride-along, Sanchez and Tao take the writer on a high-speed chase and arrest a man covered in blood and not saying a word. After investigating, the unit finds the suspect may not be the only one involved.
  • I, Witness – Flynn and Provenza are tasked with picking up a witness at the airport and dropping him off at his hotel. When they arrive to pick him up the next morning, the SWAT team is ready to take him down and arrest him for murder. This messes up Emma’s case and she asks for and receives a 24-hour continuance.
  • D.O.A. – Sharon’s estranged husband, Jack, surprises her by showing up in the middle of the night and staying for a few days. A murder on Mulholland Drive witnessed by a doctor leads the unit to believe the crime was committed over a drug deal gone bad.

Disc Two
  • Boys will be Boys – The team investigates when a girl goes missing from the mall. Turns out, the girl is transgendered and a video bullying her has been posted on the Internet. Questions arise when the team finds that her father has been doing some secretive things in order to help his daughter’s situation.
  • Rules of Engagement – A drive-by shooting results in the deaths of four people, including a couple of gang members. After arresting one of the men who was shot at, Sharon asks Jack to represent him in order to get some questions answered. When the facts of the case are discovered, it’s found that it wasn’t a gang shooting, but something else, entirely. Rusty has dinner at the home of his friend Kris.
  • The Deep End – Two men break into an Olympic swim coach’s home and one ends up dead. The victim was a former swimmer who was cut from the team. Rusty’s friend, Kris’s mother meets with Sharon over her concerns about how Rusty’s situation will affect her daughter’s safety.
  • There’s No Place Like Home – Provenza is having a hard time requalifying in his firearms requirement and is worried he might have to retire. When the team investigates the suicide of an apartment complex landlord, he realizes he might just need glasses. At the apartment complex, the residents – all retired actors and crew from a 1970s lawyer television show – tell the same story, but it sounds fishy to Sharon and her team.
  • Backfire – After something goes wrong at trial, the team must reopen the case of a murdered woman. The key witness in the case is an FBI informant and when Rusty finds out, he’s concerned about his status as a witness in the Stroh case. He uses that excuse to break up with Kris, but not before sharing a secret with her.

Disc Three
  • Poster Boy – A serial killer who lives in his victims’ houses after killing them is on the loose. The killer murders for food, shelter and money, and changes his identity. The team has a hard time identifying him before receiving help from the producers of a reality show. Rusty receives another threatening letter and keeps it to himself. Kris rats out Rusty and tells DDA Rios about the letters he’s received.
  • Pick Your Poison – Two high school students are found dead of a drug overdose. The Major Crimes team thinks it’s all drug-related, but it turns out its much more than that. Due to Rusty’s deceit, Provenza and Chief Taylor give him two solutions on how to move forward, but there is another option no one but Rusty and Provenza want to consider.
  • Jailbait – The team is called to help do a welfare check on a parolee and he is found missing. After searching for him, he’s found dead. The chief suspect if the father of one of his victims, who just happens to be a police officer. In order to consider the third option, Rusty agrees to see a therapist who will assess his frame of mind and ability to participate.
  • All In – Two boys find a body in the bottom of a water hazard on a golf course. The victim turns out to be the missing investor in a company that makes phone applications. He disappeared with $500,000 and left his wife, son, brother-in-law and other partners with nothing. The team must find out what happened to him and where the money went before the others find the money. Emma confronts Sharon about Rusty’s therapy sessions which leads Rusty to believer that they could be brought up in court.
  • Curve Ball – A baseball scout is murdered in his motor home and the chief suspect is the father of the boy he was scouting. His son, while helping go over scouting video recognizes one of the boys, which leads the team in a totally different direction.

Disc Four
  • Risk Assessment – A congressman’s son is murdered and wrapped in a rug. Upon arriving at his apartment, the team runs into Special Agent Fritz Howard, who is involved in an undercover case in the neighborhood. After clashing with the victim’s father, the congressman blows the investigation by going on the news, which then means the FBI and LAPD have to work even faster to solve the case. Rusty talks to each member of the team to find out what made them join the LAPD and also to convince Sharon to sign the release forms allowing him to participate in an investigation.
  • Year-End Blowout – The son and heir of a car dealership owner is killed in a car bomb as he tries to drive a car off the lot. Suspects include the just-laid off staff members, the victim’s ex-wife, and the owner of the dealership. Rusty begins training for his assignment to draw out the author of the threatening letters.
  • Return to Sender – The body of a parolee is found which connects to the person writing the letters to Rusty. As the team investigates this connection, Rusty continues trying to draw out the writer, but something goes terribly wrong and Rusty is taken by the killer.
  • Return to Sender (Part Two) – Rusty’s day in court finally arrives as he testifies against Philip Stroh. As he’s questioned on the stand, Captain Raydor and the team are closing in on the letter-writing killer. As they create a trap for him, he takes a kid hostage and the team has a split second to make a decision.
Video (4 out of 5 stars)
The 1080p widescreen presentation of Major Crimes Season Two was very good. The picture was clear and all the colors were sharp. Skin tones were natural and no one looked over-tanned or too pale. Background shots and crime scenes looked authentic and when there was blood, it wasn’t too red and looked real.
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
Major Crimes Season Two is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound with subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish. The sound was very good and I could hear everything clearly. There were not many instances where I had to turn the volume up or down in order to hear better. Only once in a while, Mary McDonnell spoke softly and I had to strain to hear just a little bit. It wasn’t significant enough to affect my viewing of the show.
Extras (4 out of 5 stars)
I enjoyed all the special features on the Major Crimes DVD. I especially liked the option to watch the deleted scenes immediately after or before the episode. The featurettes were also interesting and got me excited for the new season.

Disc One
  • Deleted scene: False Pretenses – A deleted scene between Rusty and Sharon discussing the letter Rusty received and how Sharon was going to handle it. A good choice to leave out, but it did make Rusty a little more sympathetic.

Disc Two
  • Deleted scene: The Deep End – a scene between Sharon and Chief Taylor talking about the press release sent out. A good choice to leave out.
  • Deleted scene: There’s No Place like Home – A deleted scene with Provenza interviewing the residents of the apartment complex. This actually should have been kept in. I learned something valuable about the complex residents and it made the initial thought of suicide a little more viable.
  • Deleted scene: There’s No Place like Home – The team discussing the case after the arrest of the killer. Also a scene that didn’t add much to the episode. Another good choice to leave out.
  • Deleted scene: Backfire – A scene between Rusty and Sharon discussing his desire to break up with Kris. Totally unnecessary as this scene was kind of already in the episode.

Disc Three
  • Deleted scene: Poster Boy – A scene between Sharon and Rusty, where she allows him to go somewhere on his own, without police protection. A good choice to leave out. It didn’t add anything to the episode.
  • Deleted scene: Poster Boy – Sharon and Captain Taylor discussing the case. Also a good choice to leave out.
  • Deleted scene: Poster Boy – DDA Rios finds the letters sent to Rusty. I would have liked to have seen this. It didn’t add much, but Emma’s reaction to finding the letters was good.

Disc Four
  • Deleted scene: Risk Assessment – Scene between Rusty and Sharon discussing why she became a police officer. This was not needed as it was in the episode in a different format.
  • Deleted scene: Risk Assessment – Interviews of the arrested gang members. Also a good choice to leave out as it didn’t explain anything more in the episode.
  • Deleted scene: Risk Assessment – The victim’s congressman father holding a press conference and the team discussing it. This was not needed and didn’t add anything to the episode.
  • Deleted scene: Return to Sender (Part Two) – Rusty and Provenza are in the hallway waiting for Rusty to be called into the courtroom. This was smart to leave out. It added nothing to the episode.
  • Deleted scene: Return to Sender (Part Two) – Captain Raydor and Provenza discuss Stroh’s motives and then talk to the team about who the killer might be. This did not add to the episode and was a good choice to leave out.
  • Deleted scene: Return to Sender (Part Two) – The killer arrives at home and talks with the kids he takes with him on his daring escape.
  • Deleted scene: Return to Sender (Part Two) – The LAPD arrives at the killers home and finds it empty.
  • Deleted scene: Return to Sender (Part Two) – The Major Crimes Unit finds the letter writer’s wall of photos in the basement. This was interesting and I think it should have been left in.
  • Deleted scene: Return to Sender (Part Two) – The Amber Alert on the missing kid goes out.
  • Deleted scene: Return to Sender (Part Two) – Back at the police department, the team shows Stroh’s lawyer the murder board and discuss plea deal options.
  • Featurette: Major Crimes: Personal ConvictionThis is a behind-the-scenes look at the show and bringing the show, the episodes and the characters to life. This includes interviews with the cast and crew. I enjoyed watching this. It was interesting to hear the different perspectives.
  • Behind the Scenes: A Look Forward – A look at the upcoming Major Crimes season. A behind-the-scenes look at season three, by connecting it to season two. This includes the backgrounds of many of the characters. It got me even more excited to watch season three.
  • Deleted Scenes – All the deleted scenes which are attached to the episodes in a play all option.
Summary (4 out of 5 stars)
"Major Crimes" is one of my favorite shows. As a big fan of its predecessor, I was a bit unsure of my loyalty to this new take on one of my favorites, but the cast and crew are great and I love watching them from week to week. Mary McDonnell as Captain Sharon Raydor has really grown on me over the seasons. I enjoy her interaction with her staff and how caring she is, while at the same time, being a tough-as-nails LAPD Captain. I look forward to every summer when "Major Crimes" comes back on air.

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