We’ve had our fair share of ‘red ball’ cases over the past few episodes, so its rather refreshing that Homicide is back doing what it does best: simple murders, the difficult process of solving them and the frustration that certain cases bring. Yoshimura and Fontana, two of the ‘old school’ writers, bring this and in addition deal with another problematic social issue: homosexuality.
Bayliss and Pembleton catch what appears to be a stone whodunit: a young man is killed outside a gay bar in what appears to be a hate crime. From the beginning of this episode it is clear that Tim is very uncomfortable about this whole murder. He throws it off at the crime scene with a justifiable excuse: the two of them arrived before the paramedics and thus witnessed his last moments. (In old school Homicide, the last words do not help the detectives catch the killer.) However, he then spends the better part of the episode wondering about homosexuality in regard to the victim but mainly in regard to himself: he talks about how this case doesn’t get to him the way that, say, Adena Watson did. Combine this with overly aggressive attitude towards the skinhead’s who helped commit the murder and it’s clear this case is unsettling him. Just as in the murder of Angela Frandina in ‘A Many SPlendored Thing’ where the victims overt sexuality troubled him, we are once again led to believe that Bayliss is repressed in some way. We will not, however, get an explanation as to why until the middle of season 5.
Frank, as always, does not let his own beliefs cloud his efforts to solve the case. Like the Frandina case, the sexuality of the victim doesn’t trouble him in his efforts to close the case. However when he learns the truth about the victim, he is angry and upset at himself for doing what he hates seeing done by other cops, making assumptions based on limited evidence.
The issue of homosexuality plays a vital role but Fontana and Yoshimura don’t preach, letting the actions speak for themselves. The most startling reaction is that of the victims father, who becomes so inflamed by his son’s apparent sexual preference that he says that if it is true, its better that his son as dead. However, as we find out with the detectives, the victim was not gay, he was merely in that neighborhood on business. When Tim tells the father this, he bursts into tears, his grief at his loss finally coming through. His first reaction, however, remains the one that stays with us as we realize that some prejudices can overcome even the most powerful grief.
As effective as this story is, there’s more going on. The Erica Chilton case, the albatross that spoiled Kay Howard’s 100% clearance rate last season is back. Lewis and Kellerman get a lead when the daughter of the victim comes in and says that she saw who killed her mother. When this information comes in, however, Meldrick doesn’t think to bring the primary of this case in, a situation complicated by Kay’s new higher rank. The two of them have an out and out shouting match in the aquarium. This does not however change Meldrick’s attitude and when he and Kellerman track down the suspect, he purposely does NOT tell Kay that they are interviewing him.
Meldrick’s attitude is unusually selfish and rather difficult to understand. Part of this is probably because the Chilton murder was Crosetti’s and he considers it his. But the truth this antagonism runs deeper than that, as we are reminded by his actions in ‘Autofocus’. This problem will resurface later in the season and nearly wreck his career in the process.\
Erica Chilton’s murderer, by the way, is revealed to be her boyfriend Tom Marans. He was so pissed off at her relationship with her ex-boyfriend (mentioned in the earlier episode dealing with the investigation) that he killed her. IN many ways this is more troubling than the fact that a young man was killed by two skinheads for being in a gay neighborhood. Her sexuality angered him so deeply that he murdered his girlfriend of three years in front of her own daughter. Kellerman, who didn’t work this case before and has no leanings either way, is disturbed by Marans entire attitude. (AS it turns out, even though he has confessed to murder, we still aren’t done with Tom Marans.)
This episode takes place around Thanksgiving, but even though we see hints of the holiday everywhere this not a holiday story. The only person who has something to be thankful for is J.H. Brodie. Since he lost his job, Brodie has become a royal pain freelancing at murder scenes. In a rare act of kindness, Gee and Russert hire him to the unit as a videographer of crime scenes. However, considering the havoc he wreaks a lot of the other detectives aren’t grateful for his presence.
‘Hate Crimes’ is a troubling and complex episode which asks a lot of questions without preaching or glamorizing things— another one of those ‘old school’ episodes that we get filtered in with the new crop. It’s not perfect by any means but its far better than the last episode and better than many of the other episodes to come.
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