Homicide: Life on the Street

Season 1 Episode 9

Night of the Dead Living

Aired Friday 10:00 PM Mar 31, 1993 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
43 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

Night of the Dead Living
On a slow and hot September night in the squad room with no air conditioning, the detectives spend the night together. Bayliss has a new suspect brought in on the Adena Watson case, a twelve-year-old boy. Munch deals with his breakup of his latest relationship. There is a mystery about a solitary lit candle in the squad room: who lights it and why? Bolander debates about calling the Dr. Blythe for a date. Santa Claus drops by depressed about today's society. Gee finds an abandoned baby in basement of the building.moreless

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  • It is a hot, sweaty night in September, so hot nobody is comitting any crimes. Gee finds a baby in a cage in the building. The detectives investigate each other when a mysterious candle is being lit.moreless

    The detectives aren't called out to any scenes in "night of the living dead" but that does not make for a boring episode.

    True to the "Homicide: life on the street" style, the detectives don't always solve murders just like that, and some days are just lazy ones.

    With a little more time on their hands the detectives talk amongst each other, strengthening their relationships even more.

    The mysterious candle in this episode takes the place of a crime scene, as the detectives begin to question each other on who is the one lighting it and why.

    Gee also show his lighter side at the end of the episode, having fun with his crew. This is the first episode were the viewer really begins to see the detectives as one big family, "la famiglia" as Gee would say.

    At times this episode seems far fetched and maybe even a little silly (baby in a cage and the paranoid Santa). This does not happen much in the series and that is why it works so well.moreless
  • Nothing happens here but everything matters

    When the powers that be decided to schedule the episodes of Homicide they would often shift episodes ahead of each other in the sequence. This would lead into the problems with continuity but also disrupted the rhythm of how the show should have proceeded. The most obvious problem would arise with the episode: ‘The Night of the Dead Living’ Originally scheduled to be the third episode of the season, it instead became the last. There are two possible reasons for the shift. The first was that they may have thought that the ending of this episode is more upbeat and better fitting of the finale than the depressing last scene of ‘Smoke gets In Your Eyes’. The second and more likely reason is that the

    minimalist approach and static atmosphere might have been considered off-putting, especially for a new show struggling for an audience.

    Indeed, when I first saw this show (out of sequence) much like ‘Three Men And Adena, I didn’t think a great deal of it. Really, a police drama with no crime or criminal activity? Where the biggest threat is a man dressed as Santa with a water pistol? Where the most deductive energy is exerted in finding out who lights the candle at the start of every shift? This is borderline heresy. But that is the reason Homicide was such a brilliant and daring show.

    The episode has the atmosphere of a play. The only scene that takes place outside the squad room is the pentultimate scene. And for once, the normal pressure that hangs over the show is turned from full steam to a slow boil. Most of the tension form this episode arises from the scalding heat that fills the entire squadroom. (I find it a little hard to believe that it would be so hot in September, but then given the rise of global warming it seems plausible.) Even the Adena Watson case seems to be somewhat less important--- to everyone except Bayliss. The young detective has managed to make some strides in getting past his early shock, but things haven’t improved much. His big lead on the library book found at Kirke Avenue leads to a humiliation in front of the squad, and Pembleton, who was cutting behind Bayliss’ back before is now really derivative. He says that Bayliss will never be a good murder police because he doesn’t have a killers mind. More than that, he thinks that Bayliss is wasting his time over the Araber (who has now emerged as the main suspect). He will earn some respect with his new idea about where the body was found, but the problems between Bayliss and Pembleton will not go away.

    But aside from this, the other detectives find themselves involved with more trivial things. Munch is upset over his on again, off again relationship with Felicia which has (temporarily as it turns out) been ended and is also irked by Bolander’s insistence that his old partner, Mitch was far superior a detective. (This will turn out to be true, though we will not meet Mitch until the third season). Bolander is still trying to work up the nerve to call Dr. Blythe for a date Howard is upset because her sister has been diagnosed with a lump on her breast. Felton’s marriage seems to be in trouble (though it has not yet spun into disaster) Crosetti is concerned about his daughters intention to sleep with her boyfriend. Lewis and Felton are determined to figure out who is the individual responsible for lighting a candle at the beginning of every shift. And everyone is stunned when a baby in a cage is seemingly abandoned. We are paid a visit by Officer Thormann (pre-shooting) a cleaning lady and a rampaging Santa, but otherwise the basic drama involves the nine principals.

    We get a great deal of insight to the characters. Bolander, coming off a divorce after a twenty-three year marriage, is scared at trying to find a love at an age when most men have given up. Crosetti is the dedicated father trying to adjust to the fact that his daughter is no longer the little child he once knew. Howard is, for all her role in a field dominated by men, still cares very deeply about her identity as a woman. Munch, despite his berating women, has a very romantic side that will get him into trouble again and again. (On a side note, how many times has Munch been married? He has mentioned two divorces but later he will claim three wives; in fact he names three women when talking about his marriage) In addition, as it turns out, he has a sentimental side despite his cynicism. We get a vital part of these characters even though at this point we don’t really know them that well yet.

    Nothing really happens in ‘The Night Of The Dead Living’ The characters are not yet involved in any of the activities that fill the show. Yet when the episode is over, we have been amused and feel like we have seen a great deal into how the murder people think when they are not investigating murders. Its understandable that it was shown out of sequence (this is very different) but it shows some of the experiments that the creators would be willing to examine.

    My score: 9

    Winner: Writers Guild Award Outstanding Achievement in Television Writing for Episodic Drama

Kenny Blank

Kenny Blank

James Hill

Guest Star

N'Bushe Wright

N'Bushe Wright

Loretta Kenyatta

Guest Star

Denise Morgan

Denise Morgan

Social Services Official

Guest Star

Lee Tergesen

Lee Tergesen

Off. Chris Thormann

Recurring Role

Sharon Ziman

Sharon Ziman


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

    • Pembleton says he is not married when James Hill asks him. However, his wife Mary will be written into the series very shortly.

  • QUOTES (4)

    • Santa: People don't know how to give anymore.
      Munch: I understand. December 24th, you're the most popular guy in the world. On December 26th you're just another fat man in a bad suit. Happy Channauka.

    • >strong>Crosetti: He types with all his fingers. Amazing.

    • Felton: We've been on the night shift, what, a week? Every night someone lights this candle by the board.
      Gee: You're a detective. Solve it.
      Felton: A homicide detective. If the candle killed someone, I'd close the case.

    • Bolander: When I was young, a codependent relationship was a good marriage. Sometimes I wanna call my wife just to hear the sound of her voice; but I know that five minutes into that phone call, my blood pressure is going through the roof, the phone is sailing across the room, and I'm wishing that she's on a plane falling out of the sky. It's over. I know it's over. But I had to replace six telephones before I really got the hint.

  • NOTES (4)

    • The Writer's Guild of America gave this episode the 1993 prize for Outstanding Achievement in Television Writing for Episode Drama.

    • When this episode is shown in syndication (currently on the CourtTV cable network), this episode is now shown in the proper place, but it still shows the caption "One Night Last September", which was added to the episode when it was shown out of order when it originally aired.

    • A transcript of this episode can be found at http://www.windowseat.org/homicide/scripts/.

    • This episode was originally shown "way out" of production order. Officer Chris Thormann has returned to duty, but Crosetti doesn't seem to notice. It was originally intended to be the third episode. Thanks to Katrina McDonnell and K. Coneill for identifying and helping to clarify this. I also finally found the production codes, which helped clear it up even more. Cleve Wall as his name appeared on screen was listed as Cleveland J. Wall in TV Guide.