Homicide: Life on the Street

Season 3 Episode 17

In Search of Crimes Past

0
Aired Friday 10:00 PM Apr 14, 1995 on NBC
8.9
out of 10
User Rating
31 votes
2

EPISODE REVIEWS
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Episode Summary

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In Search of Crimes Past
AIRED:
A 16-year-old murder case must be reopened when the daughter of the convicted killer holds Col. Barnfather hostage. Pembleton and Bayliss investigate an elderly man whose wife died of drowning in the bathtub. Gee and the newly appointed Capt. Russert clash over the handling of the hostage situation. Bolander, Munch, Howard and Felton must go to the archives to find the records of the case. Lewis meets a strange homeless man who's witnessed the suicide of a man who committed the original murder and the detectives race to overturn the previous conviction. A new "old" bartender tries to convince Munch to go with the latest rage, microbreweries. Bolander and Lewis try to connect the suicide victim to the man on death row.moreless

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • Bolander reopens a 15 year old case after Barnfather is held hostage by the daughter of a man on death row who is innocent. Munch hires a bartender that ends up costing alot of money.moreless

    8.8
    This is a decent episode, putting Bolander right back to work on an old case just days after returning to the job.



    I say this is a decent episode because the characters are once again great, but on this occasion the storyline is a bit far fetched and too coincidental. Bolander finds old case records (needle in a haystack) much too quickly for my liking, this doesn't even end up being too important as Lewis breaks the reinvestigation with a confession left in a suicide note. Yes, it is clear that the man who committed suicide did so out of guilt, but still this episode fits just a bit too nicely for me.



    What i really liked was Bolander's guilt, and that after all he has been thorough, he is still hard on himself and tries to better himself as a detective. The final scene when Bolander and Howard are on the roof really makes me think that Bolander's time as a detective may be drawing to an end, his small pension and lack of money is the only thing keeping him from turning in his papers.moreless
  • A guest writer delivers the goods

    9.1
    During its run, Homicide let a lot of reasonably well known directors like John McNaughton, Gary Fleder and Kathryn Bigelow take turns behind the camera. However, they almost never let any guest writers take turns for the show. This is hardly surprising because most TV producer with very few exceptions (Michael Crichton for ‘ER’ is the most obvious one) its very difficult for a famous screenwriter or a novelist to write for a show with its own style. So its strange that the show as a ratings stunt would hire a famous writer.



    It’s even stranger when the famous writer is Jane Smiley. Though admittedly a brilliant writer, none of her most famous books (including Moo, Separate Keys and the Pulitzer Prize winning A Thousand Acres) have anything to with violence or crime, certainly not ‘Homicide’ It would have made far more sense to invite someone like Patricia Cromwell or P.D. James.



    But it soon becomes very clear that Smiley knew the characters and plots of ‘Homicide’ very well. Indeed her script is so reminiscent of the old school show that its pretty hard to believe that Tom Fontana or James Yoshimura didn’t have anything to do with.



    It’s true that we have what seems like a trumped up situation when the daughter of a man on death-row takes Colonel Barnfather hostage and demands that the investigating detective--- Bolander--- reopen the case and find her fathers evidence. But it is done very much in the shows style. For one thing, we never see Barnfather held hostage or inside the room itself. For another, normal police work doesn’t screech to a halt as it did in the ‘white glove murders’ or the police shooting. Bayliss and Pembleton are still out investigating a suspicious death and Lewis is investigating a suicide. And third, though the detectives are concerned, they aren’t moved or paralyzed by grief. This is especially clear when they start joking about Barnfather’s nerve or whether it would have been better for Granger to have been taken hostage.



    Furthermore, the crisis of the episode is resolved before the show is half over. Even before we learn that the clock is ticking on an innocent man, the detectives have gotten the evidence of innocence and a judicial stay in only a few hours.



    More important then the man on death row is the man who put him there. Ned Beatty goes through a very well done performance--- one which in many ways is as good as the previous episode. First Stan is absolutely sure that he put the right man in jail, and it comes as a great shock to him when Meldrick shows up with a confession by another man for the same murder. In a typical show of thoroughness, after the wrong man is set free he spends the next half of the episode trying to figure out how the real killer knew the victim. He then finds out a motive that the murderer would have and we he confronts a witness about this, he is put in the place when the witness replies that he didn’t ask the right question. This is a sad truth that sets the detective back. One wonders if this investigation might have been a broick in the wall that led to Stan Bolander retiring --- but that’s another story.



    Bayliss and Pembleton in the meantime catch a murder case that is even more bizarre than the usual one. For one thing ,it seems to involve the accidental drowning of a seventy-four year old woman. It would seem to be one to write off but Bayliss think that there’s more to this case. Indeed, it turns out that this a crime of passion--- very old passion. When he was in high school Sam O’Donnell was involved with a woman named Isabella Kunkel. But with the coming of World War II, he left her behind. Eventually, he married a woman and was faithful to hear for 50 years. But he still loved Isabel and when she comes back into his life, he finds that his marriage didn’t mean as much as he thought. Because the case involves a really old love triangle, there is a kind of bittersweet tone to everything. When Tim learns that Mrs. O’Donnell was murdered, he and Frank are very reluctant to take the killer in. We mourn not for the life that has been lost, but the relationship that could never be. About the only wrong note that Smiley hits is that Tim and Frank are far more companionable than usual. They even talk about their first loves--- something that I can’t see the tough Pembleton doing willingly. Of course, the mood is shattered when Frank points out to Tim the last time he made a fool of himself over a woman, but still is seems a little false.(This is particularly ironic considering what will happen in the next episode.)



    The show also has a lot of the quirky humor that ‘Homicide possessed. We have a suicide victim giving away his shoes to a homeless man before turning the gun on himself, we have the jokes over the hostage situation and most evidently we see Munch’s futile attempts to improve the bar by hiring quite possibly the most incompetent bartender in Baltimore. His attempts to improve the Waterfront end with their bar wrecked and a huge loss of money. It is especially funny because this particular bartender has perfectionist standards that he is absolutely is unable to meet. Jerry Stiller continues the ‘Homicide’ tradition of having comedians making potent appearances (though this is more comic than serious)



    Jane Smiley has never written another teleplay, certainly not another ‘Homicide’. It’s a great pity. This unlikely author understood how the show (with the exception of the major relationship) really worked. That is the gift of a great writer--- that he or she can raise brilliance out of a medium that he or she has no real experience in.

    My score:9

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Andre Braugher

Andre Braugher

Det. Frank Pembleton (seasons 1-6, TVM)

Kyle Secor

Kyle Secor

Tim Bayliss

Richard Belzer

Richard Belzer

Det. John Munch

Ned Beatty

Ned Beatty

Stan Bolander (Seasons 1-3)

Daniel Baldwin

Daniel Baldwin

Beau Felton (Seasons 1-3, recurring subsequently, TVM)

Isabella Hofmann

Isabella Hofmann

Megan Russert (Seasons 3-4, recurring otherwise)

Barnard Hughes

Barnard Hughes

Sam O'Donnell

Guest Star

Helen Stenborg

Helen Stenborg

Isabella Kunkle

Guest Star

John Panzarella

John Panzarella

Unknown

Guest Star

Harlee McBride

Harlee McBride

Dr. Alyssa Dyer

Recurring Role

Clayton LeBouef

Clayton LeBouef

Col. Barnfather

Recurring Role

Judy Thornton

Judy Thornton

Judy

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

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  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (1)

    • Munch: Meldrick, can you cover for me for five minutes, I want to go across the street and check on our new bartender.
      Lewis: Our new bartender.
      Munch: Yeah.
      Lewis: We don't need a new bartender, Munch, we need new customers, we need new revenue.
      Munch: That's true, but a good bartender can make or break a place. You ever see cocktail?
      Lewis: What, you hired Tom Cruise!

  • NOTES (2)

  • ALLUSIONS (0)

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