Many who watched both parts of ‘Blood Ties’ that we have seen before were stunned by the behavior of both Pembleton and Lieutenant Giardello towards the Wilson’s, a wealth black family that has been a vital part of the community of Baltimore and whose domestic Melia Brierre was murdered last week. Frank, who has been a ruthless and unyielding investigator, a man who believes that all victims deserve the same justice and that all suspects must be viewed through the same glass, seems unwilling or unable to look closely at this family as suspects in her murder. And Giardello, a man who believes that detectives should not be interfered with, in the course of this investigation goes to great length to protect the Wilsons, to the point of hamstringing Detectives Gharty and Ballard from getting blood and fingerprints from the Wilson’s.
In a purely rational sense, Gee’s behavior is understandable, if not commendable. Regina Wilson is a friend; he admires Felix a great deal, this is the kind of thing some brass (including those on Homicide) would do. Furthermore, we have seen Gee run interference in some personal cases involving Pembleton (‘See No Evil’ in Season 2; the detective shooting in Season 3). But considering Gee’s tendency to back up his detectives in a high-profile cases (from Adena Watson on up), it is somewhat difficult to believe that he would go to these lengths to protect the Wilsons.
Frank’s behavior is more surprising--- even to him. At one point he and Bayliss are going to talk to a Haitian émigré at Felix cake plant, he talks for a long time about how he investigates all kinds of barroom brawls and drug killings involving blacks, so he knows the difference between bad black people and good black people. Tim agrees--- but it seems more like Frank is trying to convince himself that’s what he’s doing here. Pembleton has always been an aggressive, tireless investigator, even when the people he’s investigating are wealthy (see last season’s ‘Diener’) so it seems uncharacteristic of him to be tiptoeing around the Wilson family.
The other detectives (particularly Gharty) see it very differently. We didn’t get a good look at Gharty during last week’s episode but we sure as hell get one now. He has lived in Baltimore long enough to know that this is a black city. His view, however, is damn near close to bigoted. As he tells Ballard, he is sure that even if Frank wasn’t the primary the brass (from Giardello on up) would be working to cover up whatever transgressions the Wilson’s have committed.
Though Ballard doesn’t see it that starkly, she does know that Frank is not bringing his A-game against the Wilson’s. He and Tim spend several days trying to track down a vicious ex-boyfriend of Melia’s, rather than take even a quick look at the two male suspects right here in Baltimore. Ballard is particularly upset that Frank won’t even consider bringing them in, if only to eliminate them as suspects. The very idea of tainting the Wilson’s seems to gall him. And when Bayliss--- the man in the room with the clearest head--- tries to suggest that they just do this quickly and cleanly Pembleton sees this as a betrayal.
Finally, Frank brings in Wilson for a ‘discussion’ that in no way can be mistaken for one of his usual confrontations. This time, he’s the one who gets floored when Wilson reveals that he had sex with Melia the night she was killed. Even then, he seems reluctant to press the matter—until the Wilson’s
lawyer up and refuse to answer any further questions. Frank can’t ignore it but things are not going to move for another day.
With everything going on you think murder had stopped in Baltimore until Munch and Kellerman get called out on the ultimate ‘red ball’—a fan has been murdered at Camden Yards in the middle of an Oriole day game. Turns out the deceased is an obnoxious Yankee fan from Long Island--- so the stadiums full of suspects. (It is important to remember that this episode was shot in 1997, the one season in the Yankees string of four world championships in five years that New York did not win in its division.).
The detective eventually stumble on the killer--- another Yankee fan from Long Island, who murdered his friend and then came back to watch the game. When the detectives interrogate him, he promises he’ll confess if they get him a dog and a beer. (Nice to know that criminals are as stupid in New York as they are in Baltimore). We learn that the fan came to New York hoping to see a rained out Yankee-O’s game but his friend made a mistake. He then compounded the error by saying that the Orioles were a better team than the Yanks. (Clearly not a great judge of his home team). The sequence is darkly amusing and shows the rivalry of the two teams. We even get a quick cameo by two members of the O’s pitching staff. Not bad even though the Orioles had been eliminated from contention when this episode aired, making it a bit out of date.
Just as last week, Peter Gerety and Richard Belzer were given short shrift, this time Clark Johnson and Jon Seda get pushed to the back bench. In his few scenes, however, Falsone reveals he isn’t through looking into the Mahoney shooting. Now he gets on Stivers bad side (particularly ironic considering what will happen later this year) The crimes stain isn’t going to go away, no matter how much Lewis and Stivers want it to.
Ultimately, ‘Blood Ties, Part Two’ brings us closer to the real Homicide than the top heavy, action-packed season premiere the previous episode. We are getting what we usually find--- good acting, rife with tension (particularly between Gerety, Thorne and Braugher) troubling issues and behaviors, and quirky humor from unlikely places (what else would you call our meeting Bayliss’ eighth grade French teacher). It’s not the grade-A prime we’re used to, but this new unit with its new cast is really coming together. Good things seem to lie ahead.
My score: 8.6