“Janet King” recap (1.8): Open At the Close

Finales are always tricky. You have to stretch your chief conflict or mystery out until the last possible moment, resolve or at least bookmark things for all your characters, and perhaps most difficultly, offer a sense of meaning to reassure your viewers that they have not gone on this journey with you for nothing. If Janet King’s finale does not succeed in every regard, it is because it has always been an ambitious show, and eight episodes was far too little time (DO YOU HEAR ME ABC? FAR TOO LITTLE.) to say everything it had to say. So, much as I have loved this show as a whole, this episode seems like a cat that climbed too high in a tree and now can’t remember how to get down.

Okay, so right from the “previously on,” you know that it’s going to be a doozy of an episode in terms of plot. The show is like “remember that Steve Blakely gave his wife all that morphine and Dianne Vaslichs’s daughter was murdered in that hotel room? Remember???” And you are like “NO I FORGOT ABOUT ALL THAT I THOUGHT WE WERE ON CHILD PORN NOW.” Well nuts to you, because it’s all coming back.

Also–as a more recent minor detail with major bearing on the plot–Drew Blakely’s recollection that his father once allowed him to cut his feet to pieces rather than help him seems a pretty damning confession in light of the fact that the feet of Blakely’s corpse were also cut to shreds. Seizing on this information, Janet asks Andy to investigate Drew as Blakely’s killer. Andy drags his heels because, in spite of being a lovely person, he is the worst cop on the entire Australian continent.

Outside the courtroom, Owen tries to make small talk but Janet swiftly shoots him down and lets him know he’s on her permanent shit list for starting the rumor about her and Erin. When she confronts him, I keep expecting him to say something in his own defense, but he just stands there and lets Janet yell at him. his is unbelievable in a couple of different ways: firstly, Owen is always the one with a snide remark up his sleeve; his ability to maneuver out of an argument is what makes him such a fearsome attorney. And secondly, does this mean that the writers just don’t know why he started the rumor? It’s an awfully disappointing conclusion to a storyline that once seemed rich with possibility.

Okay, back to Blakely. Drew’s original alibi was that he was on the phone with Jack Rizzoli during the time frame of his father’s murder. But when Andy and Jack go to question him, he confesses to Blakely’s murder so fast it’s as if he’s competing in speed self-incrimination.

janetking8.1Nice work, but you lost valuable seconds while you let the horror of your situation sink in.

All the pieces fit, and the idea that Steve really was murdered by his son as opposed to a vast conspiracy is actually a nice twist. It makes the crime that much more human and relatable, and therefore that much more frightening.  But it still doesn’t answer the question of who bombed Janet’s car.

Janet says as much to Jack in private in a stirring scene (their scenes together are what keeps the episode from completely eating its own tail).  Until the conspiracy is fully unraveled, Janet’s life and the lives of her family are still in danger. The thought makes her weep to Jack, which is a testament both to how exhausted she is and the profound bond that she and Jack have formed. In spite of everything, the depiction of a lesbian woman and a straight man forming a friendship based on mutual respect, and without the prospect of a romantic entanglement left dangling over it, has been a very welcome dynamic. Also it’s kind of adorable how alarmed Jack looks when Janet starts to cry.

janetking8.2STOP CRYING I WASN’T TRAINED FOR THIS.

All the child porn subplots have now become so entangled that it’s difficult to keep them straight. From what I can tell, Owen and Erin bring in Alex Moreno’s wife to build the case against Clark, the man Lina attacked in the street. Mrs. Moreno is understandably distraught at the site of her daughter’s photo and isn’t sure she’s up to testifying if it means more people will be exposed to those images. She also seems deliberately blind to a possible connection to this atrocity and the accusations leveled against her husband.

By far the most bizarre inclusion in this week’s episode is the abrupt revelation that DNA evidence has been found that ties Danny Novak to Arianna Vaslich’s murder. He is summarily arrested and he and Tatum have a lengthy exchange while he’s in custody that would be a lovely glimpse of their relationship IF THEIR RELATIONSHIP WAS AT ALL RELEVANT TO ANYTHING ELSE GOING ON.  I would understand the resumption of this plot if it were meant to be a tease for next season, but as far as we know, there is no next season.

In yet another storyline, the jury from the Keith Nelson trial comes back with a guilty verdict.  It’s a triumphant moment for Mia Blakely and for us. Like any good legal drama, Janet King spends a lot of time pointing out the gaps between law and justice, but it’s nice to see that occasionally the two can meet.

And lest we forget, we also have Lina’s trial to contend with. Anyone who has ever taken a TV writing class knows that all television episodes are broken up in to A, B, and C stories.  The A story, obviously, is the resolution of the conspiracy.  But there are so many subplots left to juggle after that they’re all relegated to the status of minor C stories, with no room to breathe.  Lina’s trial is a good example. First, she goes to Owen to ask his opinion on how she should plead. He advises her to use her PTSD from her work in sex crimes to plead diminished responsibility and avoid a conviction.  But when she actually stands before the judge, all she says is “I’m sorry.  Like, really sorry.” Where did that decision come from?  It’s like we’re missing an entire scene.  And it’s a real shame, because Lina deserves better.

janetking8.3I ASK THE COURT, WHAT IS MY MOTIVATION? NO SRSLY.

Back to the Moreno business, Alex himself shows up to beg Owen and Erin not to use the picture of his daughter.  He cops to taking the photos of Ruby and multiple other children without their knowledge.  He offers to plead guilty just as long as they never tell Ruby about it.  But…wouldn’t she sort of wonder why her father is suddenly in prison?  It makes zero sense to me. Owen says no to his offer unless Alex informs on whoever was buying the photos. Panicked, Alex points them to a post office box where the photos were distributed.  The box was registered to none other than Drew Blakely.

When they haul Drew in, he says he knew about the porn ring, but only went along because his father pressured him into keeping quiet, and used his PO box as insurance. He claims that after his father’s death he tried to shut the operation down but was opposed by Judge Renmark, who set a bomb in Janet’s car. When Drew confronted him about it, they tussled and Renmark accidentally took a tumble off the side of a parking garage. You can’t help but notice that a. this ties the whole conspiracy in a nice little bow, and b. Drew frames everything so as to take the minimum amount of blame.  Almost as if he was coached by someone who knew the legal system very well.

Rizzoli’s reaction to Drew’s confession is “WOOO CASE CLOSED DRINKS ON ME

janetking8.4WELL DRINKS ONLY, NOTHING TOP SHELF. 

He also launches into a monologue about how maybe people considered that Blakely blackmailed pedophiles “for the greater good” which Andy, being the worst cop in Australia, does not find suspicious in the least.

So, if you’re having trouble keeping up (I am) the operating theory at this point is that Blakely had Moreno take creep shots of kids, which he and his son distributed and used as blackmail material against high-ranking pedophiles, so that that Blakely could influence government policy. It’s all so neat and tidy that if there weren’t twenty minutes left to go on the show, I’d think the case was solved.

Andy and Janet certainly do, and Janet happily calls Ash to be like “SHAVE YOUR LEGS, BABY, WE’RE GONNA BE REUNITED TONIGHT.”

janetking8.5

To celebrate, Tony and Janet share a glass of scotch (DON’T KISS, YOU GUYS) and Tony says something that people should say to Janet every day of her life: “You’re a fine human being. You really are.”  It’s a great moment, partly because it’s one of only a handful that are more about character than plot.  But mostly because it highlights what’s remarkable about Janet as a character: she is a true hero in a time of antiheroes. In this cynical age, a hero is the hardest character to believe in.  The very fact that Janet is a woman who lives by principle is remarkable; the fact that she is also queer makes her unforgettable.

But let’s not dwell! Miles to go before we sleep!

Of course Janet can’t resist having one last look at the Renmark file before tossing them out. And of course she finds a piece of evidence that she suddenly sees in a new light.

janetking8.6

She recognizes a pen found by Renmark’s body as the same pen Rizzoli had in episode one. Let me tell you how I reacted when I saw this: I jumped on my couch, screamed “I WAS RIGHT I WAS RIGHT I AM A GENIUS” and sprayed a water bottle into the air, totally oblivious to the fact that the water would then fall back down onto my head. The thing is, though: I’m not a genius. It’s just always been super obvious that Rizzoli was the bad guy.

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