Homicide: Life on the Street

Season 6 Episode 1

Blood Ties (1)

Aired Friday 10:00 PM Oct 17, 1997 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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out of 10
25 votes
  • Ring out the old (some of them), ring in the new

    Blood Ties, part one’ begins with Pembleton and Bayliss returning to the Homicide unit fresh from a three month rotation in robbery. They are certain that Gee (like the television audience) will be glad to see them and the unit is in a shambles after their departure. Turns out, however, that the ‘experiment’ of rotating detectives between departments has been a spectacular success—the radically revamped unit has the highest clearance rate in years. This is really hard to believe (especially since the clearance rate was so high last year) but it is symbolic of the big change that has overtaken the squad. The new breed consists of former Auto squad detective Falsone, former IID detective Gharty and Laura Ballard, fresh from the Seattle Homicide unit. Giardello and Munch (the only detective to remain in the unit the whole time) don’t seem to have missed their fellow detectives that much.

    But then they don’t have much time as this episode is particularly top-heavy. All sorts of changes have occurred in the meantime. Kellerman is coming back from Auto, Lewis is coming back from Auto, and Howard is still in the Fugitive squad, never to return. Brodie has gone to Hollywood (in a very tongue-in-cheek reference, the documentary that he shot last year aired on PBS and he won an Emmy). Kellerman and Juliana Cox have broken up, Mary Pembleton has yet to give birth, and issues like Frank’s stroke and Tim’s child abuse, are no longer issues (though they are gone but not forgotten).

    All of this is dealt with rapidly while two major story lines come into focus. The first involves Pembleton and Bayliss’ first case back—a murder at the Belvedere Hotel. A black woman is found in the men’s room, strangled while a black tie event honoring snack cakes manufacturer ‘Fabulous’ Felix Wilson’s charity work to the black community. Giardello is an old friend of Felix’s wife, which is critical when we learn the victim is Melia Brierre, a Haitian expatriate who was the Wilson’s domestic.

    Because of the size of the case, Ballard and Gharty are called in as back-up and therefore have the pleasure of clashing with Pembleton. Though he tries to remain dispassionate, its clear Frank admires Felix Wilson and he seems very reluctant to consider that Wilson or someone in his family might have slept with Brierre, much less killed her. When Bayliss tries even to hint at this possibility at the hotel, he brusquely brushes Tim off. He is far colder with Ballard when she makes the suggestion (then again, he may just be pissed that she’s taken over his desk). This will be made clear as he spends an entire episode chasing down a very vague lead on Brierre’s boyfriend. This is unusual behavior for Frank that will become even more notable in the next two episodes.

    A far more important storyline is unfolding in the background. A man on motorcycle using a 50mm gun, starts taking shots at Baltimore plains-clothes detectives. Very specific detectives—Lewis, Kellerman and Stivers (who has now been rotated to Robbery) Falsone, who has just begun to partner with Lewis, puts it together— they’re being targeted by someone in Luther Mahoney’s organization. The investigation eventually leads to Junior Bunk (who we met in last season’s ‘Control’). Apparently he’s upgraded from dealer to sniper, though when the detectives find him he is still as quick to bolt, cry and snitch (in that order). This time he’s facing far worse charges (while shooting at Stivers, he hit a witness she was interviewing, killing her) but it doesn’t take much for him to give up who ordered--- his mother and Luther’s sister, Georgia Rae.

    This is a subplot that will plague the squad (particularly Lewis and Kellerman) for all of season 6. The lie that Mike told and Meldrick and Terri backed up has now come back to haunt them, big time. The trouble also come from within--- Falsone takes it upon himself to reopen the file on Luther’s shooting and finds the three versions of the story too close to each other. He knows that something is up with Luther’s shooting and is going after Kellerman very aggressively. The two detectives will become very agitated by each other throughout season 6. There are also signs that the lie is troubling some of them. Meldrick asked to partner with someone other than Mike--- most likely because he doesn’t want to bear the guilt he’s feeling.

    This is all very strong stuff. The problem is its severely diluted by a lot of flashy action. We have bullets flying into cars and from rooftops, a race between police helicopters and a private jet, and the arrival of an evil sister who greets Kellerman by kneeing him in the groin and ominously tells the detectives this isn’t over. Also in trying to introduce us to detectives Ballard and Falsone and focusing on the tension between Kellerman and Lewis, as well as Pembleton and Ballard, regulars Kyle Secor and Richard Belzer are given very little to do. Many of the problems of season six involved balancing the ‘old’ detectives with the new cast members, something that the writers would improve at but never quite master.

    It’s a pity because there’s a lot of good talent on display. The great James Earl Jones makes a marvelous first impression as Felix Wilson. We get a good sense of Wilson as a philanthropist and human being--- yet not quite right as a husband or father. Joining Jones is Jeffrey Wright, best known for his performance on stage and TV in Angels in America, as Hal Wilson and the late Lynne Thigpen as Regina Wilson. Equally impressive is comedienne Hazelle Goodman as Georgia Rae., who will prove she has as much style Erik Todd Dellums did. And Mekhi Phifer continues to entertain as Junior Bunk , though he’s about to stop being fun to watch.

    There’s little that’s wrong with ‘Blood Ties, Part One’ --- it has a lot of the fine acting, dark humor and superb camerawork that Homicide usually does. Perhaps the biggest problem is that is obviously part of a greater whole. When Georgia Rae tells us in the last scene, “This isn’t over’, in more ways than one this is true. There’s good stuff but you want next week to come sooner.

    My score:8.2