“Rizzoli & Isles” Subtext Recap (6.05): Requiem for a Senior Criminalist

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Previously on Rizzoli & Isles: Jane raids Maura’s…fridge. Then they go on a romantic art museum date together. And we all start to ship Susie and Nina. Damn.

Look, I am a reasonable person. I understand that storytellers have the right to tell whatever stories they see fit. I understand the divide between fact and fiction, character and actor, cats and dogs. I’m not, for the most part, a ranting hothead. But the sudden and unexpected death of Senior Criminalist Susie Chang is making me feel like one.

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If the very talented and likable actress who plays her, Tina Huang, decided to leave the show on her own it would be one thing. Maybe she has a sweet new gig lined up for her that will give her more richly deserved exposure. Maybe she wants to pursue other creative avenues. Maybe she was tired of wearing lab coats. I get it, and that’s her choice. But, if the decision to leave Rizzoli & Isles was not Tina’s choice then–woo doggie–do I have a big fat bone to pick with the show.

For one thing, I take issue with this choice on a storytelling level. This tale of greed and political corruption could have been told like six million other ways that did not have to result in the death of one Susie Chang. Maybe she gets knocked out and is in a coma. Maybe she is attacked and has amnesia. Maybe she is kidnapped and made to look like she ran away with a bunch of cash.

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And if you had to write off her character, heck, maybe she doesn’t get attacked at all, but instead lands a great new promotion in another department and gets to leave the show with her head held high. Death is, not to be glib, terribly final. You can’t come back from dead unless the show decides to take a distinct left turn into the realm of supernatural. Who knows, maybe they will. Maybe its timeslot follow-up Proof is rubbing off. Are we to expect a bunch of the ghosts, zombies and vampires are committing crimes now? Hello, Rizzoli & Isles & The Walking Dead.

For another thing, regardless of the reasoning behind Susie’s exit, it dealt a significant blow to the show’s overall diversity. And, when I say significant, I mean this show just lost half of its people of color in one night. All we have left is Idara Victor as Nina Holiday. Someone get that girl a protective detail, STAT.

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Plus, now the addition of Adam Sinclair as Dr. Kent Drake at the start of the season smacks of a replacement hire. So, in essence, the show has replaced a woman of color with a white male. Fantastic, like television doesn’t have enough of those already.

But, here is the real kicker: Loyal fans of Rizzoli & Isles come to this show because of the undeniable chemistry between the entire cast–including longtime supporting characters like Susie. This is a show we watch because of the interactions and the camaraderie, not necessarily, with all due respect to the writers, the crimes themselves.

And, as loyal fans, we’ve already suffered the very real and very painful loss of Det. Barry Frost. This is not the fault of the show, obviously. But Lee Thompson Young’s tragic suicide has cast an indelible specter over this show. So, again, I question why the series would return to this kind of story–albeit, thankfully, fictional this time–so soon afterward.

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It all just makes me shake my head. I hope I’m wrong. I hope this was 100 percent Tina’s choice and, hell, maybe she even asked to be killed off in grand fashion. Alternately, maybe Kent will take off a mask Scooby-Doo villain-style and reveal himself to be Susie all along. That person in the body bag was a cyborg sent from the future to help Jane and Maura come out of the closet (in which case, way to fail your mission, robot). What? I’m dreaming, leave me alone.

So, yes, it’s true, writers can tell whatever stories they want. But we sure don’t have to like them.

With that said, I’ll hop off this soapbox and bring you back to our regularly scheduled recap.

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