Homicide: Life on the Street

Season 4 Episode 3

Autofocus

1
Aired Friday 10:00 PM Nov 03, 1995 on NBC
8.6
out of 10
User Rating
26 votes
2

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Episode Summary

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Autofocus
AIRED:
A gas leak causes the detectives to evacuate the building, so they relocate to an old bank building. Lewis is paired up with Kellerman on the murder of a woman. Sergeant Howard tries to carve out a place for herself with the other detectives, but her efforts prove unpopular. Pembleton has trouble adjusting to the new surroundings and his wife's pregnancy. A cameraman who was at the scene of the murder has who he thinks is the perpetrator on tape; however, when he brings the tape to Gee, he is thrown out before he can say why he's there. The cameraman eventually strikes a deal with Lewis and Kellerman.moreless

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • The detectives must get used to change, in more ways than one. Lewis, now paired up with Kellerman, investigates the murder of an elderly woman, they receive help from a cameraman. Howard gets a promotion and struggles to adjust to her new position.moreless

    8.7
    "Autofocus" is all about change and making adjustments when change is present, often change is not welcome and in this episode we see various members of Gee's squad struggle when faced with different situations.



    After a gas leak is found in the precinct, the detectives move their operations to an old bank.



    Howard is promoted to Sargent and immediately tries to involve herself in her peers cases, much to their dismay. Howard even mentions to Russert that who she is wont change just because her job title has.



    Pembleton also has to deal with a few changes, he is upset because he feels he cannot perform a successful interrogation in an old vault. It is clear that something else is on Pembleton's mind, and Bayliss makes this the focal point, telling Pembleton that his whole life will change when his wife gives birth, after hearing this and having the man he was interviewing walk, Pembleton erupts, slamming a freezer door repeatedly.



    Lewis is also faced with change in this episode, he now has a partner (or so he thinks) in the rookie Kellerman, another thing that changes is that Lewis actually closes a case, ending a minor slump. Lewis also makes a minor change as a person, after having many of his peers tell him that he is the worst partner they have ever had, Lewis tries to get on the right path with Kellerman, buying him a coffee and a danish. The character of Lewis has really been the whipping boy in Gee's squad and often I as a viewer fell sorry for him, he does his job (often riding solo) and often doesnt get the result he or Gee wants. With a new partner and a slight attitude adjustment, maybe Lewis will now go on a streak of closing many cases ?



    Once again we do not see any of Bolander or Felton who are still on suspension, I am disappointed by this, even though Kellerman has been eased into the squad nicely.moreless
  • Comes slowly coming into focus

    7.9
    The season of change continues in this episode when Lewis, who has been flying solo since the beginning of Season 3, finally gets a permanent partner--- new Homicide Detective Mike Kellerman. Meldrick is understandably jumpy--- as Munch cheerfully reminds him in the teaser, he has partnered with every detective in the squad (save Howard) and none of the partnerships have been successful. As it turns out this partnership will work better even though it gets off to a rocky start in this episode. Of course, everyone is even more unsettled when the entire squad is forced to move to a nearby bank due to a gas leak.



    In this sea of confusion, Meldrick and Mike get their first case together--- the murder of an old lady at a bus stop. Despite the fact that there were people waiting with her, in typical fashion, no one seems to have seen anything. Indeed, the main witnesses are so focused on a terrible blind date they don’t notice anything. The detectives are left swinging until they get help from an unlikely source-- cameraman J.H. Brodie. As it turns out Brodie gets the killer on tape entirely by accident and then spends a good deal of the episode trying to convince the detectives that he has something worth watching. Naturally, he has a price—he wants an exclusive on the arrest of the killers. Eventually he does get this but it is not enough to save his job. The higher-ups at his TV station are far more focused on getting an exclusive then they are on solving a crime. When Brodie gives this up he is promptly fired--- again, this is closer to real life, when getting your job done is more important then doing the right thing.



    Brodie will eventually become a regular on the show--- one of only two that will not play murder police. Unfortunately, Fontana and company never find a way to work him seamlessly into the show. His role is unclear, none of the detectives become friendly with him and he never gets the same attention made to his life as the regular detectives. I was never entirely sure what to make of Brodie, he never really gelled for me (or for most viewers of the show) Its pretty clear that he was meant to be a version of David Simon, the man who spent a year on the killing streets. But Simon stayed outside of the story in his book, Brodie keeps stepping into it on TV. It is impossible to pretend (like the detectives do) that he isn’t there but we’re never sure what to make of him.



    Another major change that never completely gelled occurs in ‘Autofocus’--- Howard is promoted to Sergeant. Unfortunately, in the book, it was made very clear that a sergeant’s role was mostly office work, although they are allowed to go out on cases. This is the reason that the sergeants were written out of the series when the show premiered. And since there is already one office bound leader (Giardello) there would seem to be less for Howard to do. Howard gets squeezed between these two extremes and as a result would have almost no presence on the show for the next two years--- not being called out on cases, or allowed to supervise. It’s a great pity, because as this episode illustrates there was a lot that could have been done exploring Howard’s character as she dealt with the challenges of her new job--- how she deals with it and how others deal working with a former friend. Instead, Howard was all but eliminated, a sad fate for Melissa Leo who was such a vital part of the show for its first three years on the air.



    Despite all of these problems, there are some interesting elements in this episode. We see how Meldrick and Mike reluctantly dance around each other as they both try to settle into a new situation. They don’t start out very well but by the end of the episode they are slowly beginning to function as a team. They will be a somewhat lighter version of the ‘A-team’ for the show--- Bayliss and Pembleton. Generally speaking the stories surrounding them will be somewhat lighter in tone—which doesn’t necessarily make them less interesting as we shall see.



    Also somewhat interesting are the killers themselves--- James and Trevor Douglas, two seventeen-year old boys who went from armed robbery to videotaping random killings. In typical ‘Homicide’ fashion, they refuse to confess—even though the police have the videotape of the shooting the victim. Even more bizarre is that they arrest the shooter at his own wedding, suggesting that the previous night’s murder was his bachelor party. When the breadth of their criminal activities are explained to Gee, he is remiss of how young people have gone from playing cowboys and spacemen t0 these kinds of felonies. That is all the philosophy that we get for this particular episode.



    ‘Autofocus’ isn’t a great episode. There are a lot of elements of the new ‘Homicide’ rather than the old. But the acting and writing are good if not spectacular. If the episode seems a little more traditional cop show that old style ‘Homicide, well that is just how the show has begun to evolve. Poorer examples, unfortunately, lay ahead.

    My score:8

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Illeana Douglas

Illeana Douglas

Gina Doolen

Guest Star

Fisher Stevens

Fisher Stevens

Jonathan Heine

Guest Star

Frank Buckley

Frank Buckley

Nick

Guest Star

Max Perlich

Max Perlich

J.H. Brodie

Recurring Role

Sagan Lewis

Sagan Lewis

Judge Susan Aandahl

Recurring Role

Julie Lauren

Julie Lauren

Officer Anne Schanne

Recurring Role

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