Homicide: Life on the Street

Season 5 Episode 7

The Heart of a Saturday Night

Aired Friday 10:00 PM Nov 15, 1996 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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  • A painful look at those left behind

    As I have mentioned previously, one of the reasons Homicide was such a brilliant show was because of how it dealt with that most painful of emotions: grief. Considering how well they had handled the feeling in such brilliant episodes as ‘Every Mother’s Son’ or ‘A Doll’s Eyes’, you wouldn’t think there were any more that they could mine from this subject. ’Heart of a Saturday Night’ proves them wrong.

    Once again we see the effect of murder on the bereaved. This time, however, we see it from a different angle: the way that those left behind try to deal with their emotions. In this case, writer Henry Bromell shows a group therapy session for the survivors of three recent murders, which all took place on the same Saturday night. In a homage to the shows old look, all of the present-day therapy sessions are filmed in harsh decolorized images, while the flashbacks to the Homicide Squad are all in full color. The bleached-out look fits the therapy session— a vital part of their lives has been drained from it, never to return.

    The survivors are four very different people--- a young accountant whose wife was killed in a carjacking, a young woman whose husband died in a bar brawl, and the very late middle-aged parents of a wild teenager who was raped and strangled. All are dealing with their grief differently but some emotions are common to all of them. They are all angry but their anger is directed as different people. The husband’s anger is directed towards the killer who was never caught. The parents of the teenager are angry at each other--- both of them still have very divergent views of their daughter. The wife is angry at her dead husband--- he was a pretty lousy person who she was working up the courage to leave, but now will never be able to. They are also feeling an intense pain that will never truly end, and whether or not the killer was caught, or if they had people to support them, they may never be able to find peace.

    The detectives at the squad are all feeling their own kind of pain. Pembleton and Kellerman are still chained to their desks and are going through the agony pf being treated as furniture. You’d think that this link would bond them but Frank, as we all know, doesn’t bond. Mike takes some of his frustration out on Frank and says some pretty mean things, but in the end the two form a kind of fragile bond dealing with their problems.

    Lewis and Munch have their own set of problems. The carjacking case is a dud and they both know it, and they spend much of their investigation looking for the victim’s three year old who was in the car when it was taking. In a rare moment of kindness the baby is alive. But there are even worse problems ahead for them--- the bar brawl that led to the second death took place in the Waterfront.

    Another man going through his own kind of agony is Lieutenant
    Giardello. For reasons that are not initially clear, he assigns himself to investigation the bar brawl rather than Howard. Through his own persistence, he manages to close the murder. When Howard asks him why, he went to such trouble, he tells her that he is still feeling guilty for killing a man when he went out on the street in last season’s ‘The Wedding’. For him this is his way of proving to himself that he is still good police. However, it is clear that even this success will never take the sting away.

    Frank is also trying to prove he’s still got it. Even though he is stuck to his desk, he helps Bayliss identify the third victim. Then, through a thorough interview with the kids who found the body, he manages to track down the man who killed her. Frank still isn’t all the way back but he’s getting there, step by step.

    But without question, the most shocking revelation occurs with Dr. Cox
    when she appears at the same therapy session as the other survivors. It turns out that her father’s death was not from the result of an illness. In fact, he was the victim of a car accident when an aggressive and unidentified driver forced him off the road. Considering how long he lingered after the accident, it’s a little hard to believe that his death was a ‘murder’ but no matter what you call it, there is no doubt that Cox is still in a lot of pain. Of all the survivors, she has found the best way of dealing with her loss through her kind of detachment as an M.E. But, as we will find out soon, this detachment costs her a great deal and makes her react in ways that are not always healthy.

    Even for an episode of Homicide, this episode requires that a great deal of attention must be paid. By switching between flashbacks and current events, the viewers have to work hard to understand what is going on. It is a credit to the show that Bromell believed that this was something that the average viewer, often demeaned by other television shows, could manage to do. The directors of Homicide often have difficult tasks, and it is due to the fine work of Whit Stillman, director of critically acclaimed, low budget films such as Metropolitan and Barcelona that have the same kind of emotions and thoughtfulness of Homicide. The guest actors are also up to the material, particularly Rosanna Arquette and Chris Eigeman, two of the more underrated actors in Hollywood.

    ‘The Heart of a Saturday Night’ ultimately doesn’t have the same emotional impact such as ‘Bop Gun’ or ‘Every Mother’s Son’, mainly because the action follows so many different plots that the ultimate effect very slightly reduces the emotional impact. But the pain for all of the survivors is real, and it comes through the screen loud and clear. Grief does not go away, whether or not there is closure, whether or not you have someone to support you. And some scars from emotional damage never go away.
    My score:9.1