Season 1, Episode 4
Date of airing: October 19, 2003 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 11.62 million viewers, 7.8/12 in Households, 2.9/7 with Adults 18-49, 3.7/8 with Adults 25-54
Justin Chambers is still on the show. That means this episode and the previous one must have switched places, making things a little awkward for me 16 years later. At least now I know that I wasn’t remembering wrong when I thought that Chambers was in four episodes, which means this must in fact be his final one. I would still love to know why he exited the show this early, but I guess I’m just too lazy to figure it out on my own by reading all the online publications that might have had Chambers’s exit from COLD CASE as a topic.
This episode was surprisingly impressive. Crime procedurals are always better when they don’t go from one red herring to another, because that means the show would lose focus on its characters. Episodes of crime procedurals should exist because of the guest characters and the stories they fill, while the remainder of the episode can be completed with banter between the detective characters and maybe a few ongoing arcs here and there. And this hour decided to forego all the ongoing stuff (which the writers have’t even introduced anyway, so it’s not like we’re losing something) and instead focus on the family with a death case in their past, and it turned out to be almost a tearjerker. I was pretty stunned during the final flashback scene that depicted the murder and I almost couldn’t believe that I was emotionally affected by it. It doesn’t happen all the time I am being emotionally affected by an episodic crime procedural, but here I was, almost crying my heart out over Ryan having to witness in fear and terror the murder of his father, while 13 years later trying to reunite with his estranged sister. That was a dramatic plot, and it’s one I would love to see on one of the Lifetime killer movies.
Yeah, maybe there was a red herring in this hour when Lilly and Chris started to investigate Judy’s side in the murder and how her husband might have been the perp, since when it’s about cheating spouses it’s all about revenge, but the episode was never focusing on that plot halfway through, and it did help to explain why Mitch and Charlotte would have such a toxic marriage during the 1990 story. Of course, the episode never went into the notion why Mitch would stay in this family and not just leave them — either by himself because he is a chicken, or with his kids, just so they can be protected from their abusive mother. That’s an angle of the premise that never came over in the story — probably because Mitch needed to be dead and this story needed to be an episode of COLD CASE. But nevertheless, the emotional impact was certainly there. Ryan and Tina’s lives were destroyed after the death of their father, and I can’t even imagine how deep Ryan must have been pulled by his own mother in the months and years after the murder. All the secrets he had to keep, all the fear he had about his mother, and in the meantime there is Tina who somewhat successfully got away from this family, leaving Ryan all alone in his very unique cell.
Of course, the episode helped itself to the fact that Ryan and Tina never mentioned anything about Charlotte’s gruesome way of living a perfect family life. I can’t imagine that the murder was the first-ever spout of violence from Charlotte, which means at least Tina would have had something to talk about when the detectives showed up at her door, acquiring about the murder 13 years ago. Why she didn’t is beyond me. Convenient storytelling is convenient.
Best part of the episode: Lilly has visited the school of telling false stories, so she can get answers out of her subjects. She was talking to Ryan about her ill mother, which was probably a bullshit story from her, as all the things she needed was to keep Ryan talking. You can see that it’s a false story when you see Lilly take over Tina’s role in front of her, needing Charlotte to talk. That’s some awesome detecting and I can certainly hope the writers never lost the sight of that talent of Lilly’s, as she will be needing it for the next six seasons and 19 episodes.
Worst part of the episode: Ryan told Lilly and Chris that he will do whatever he can to help with the investigation. Halfway into the story and Ryan demanded Lilly to drop the case. I hate it when suspects change their minds midway through the story, just so they can look like suspects.
Weirdest part of the episode: I know it was an intended form of style, but during the scene in which Charlotte killed her husband, her face was being illuminated by an external light source that realistically did not belong into the scenery. It gave a great image to Charlotte’s bloody face right after the murder, but it did bring me out of the episode for a second, as I was mulling over where the light was coming from.
Victim/Perpetrator rate: Things were switched this time around, as a woman was the murderer and a man was the victim. Things stayed domestic though. It’s now Men 1:3 Women on the victim side, and Men 3:1 Women on the perp side. I excluded Ryan here for obvious reasons — he didn’t kill his father, although he can be considered an accessory to the murder by law.
Player of the episode: That reunion scene between Ryan and Tina at the end was impressive. Their family has been shattered and they don’t know whether they can ever forgive each other for it. But here they are, trying their hardest.