"Homicide: Life on the Street" Fallen Heroes: Part 2 (TV Episode 1998) Poster

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Season 6: David Simon's book is long gone in the pursuit of ratings but it is still a solid cop drama with good high points
bob the moo11 September 2008
The enforced rotation of Homicide officers is coming to an end and the previous unit find themselves rejoining their previous jobs – all assuming that they will be welcomed home like heroes. The truth is though that the new detectives have mostly impressed Giardello and the closure rate is high, with lots of beloved black on the board. Pembleton and Bayliss return from Robbery and find their first case to be a murder at a party thrown by a high-profile businessman and investor in community projects; that Giardello is a family friend only makes things worse. Meanwhile, Lewis, Stivers and Kellerman are targeted by a gunman, presumably connected with the Luther Mahoney shooting and Detective Falsone starts asking difficult questions as he looks into the case via a bystander killed in the cross-fire. As always the bodies keep falling and life goes on.

The sixth season of the critically acclaimed but averagely received show arrives with a simple message from NBC – get more viewers. The show had slipped behind Nash Bridges in the ratings (no, really it had) and was also generating lower than required advertising revenue and the network were getting itchy. In the UK (when it got here) Channel 4 had also pretty much given up on it and had floated it into post-midnight screenings that meant you had to scan the lisitings or risk missing episodes; literally one week three would be on on three consecutive nights, the next week none – stuff like that and unsurprisingly they never bothered showing the final season in the UK. Anyway, it starts well with a strong three-parter that is interesting in its issues over race relations and of course, the ratings were poor and ultimately it was only other changes at NBC that kept it alive during this season. Unlike season 5, the departure of characters between seasons is not handled "badly" in the most part; although it is hard to conceal the strong episodes do help. The opening episodes also point to the bigger ambitions of the show as we have helicopters in the first episode, the more dramatic story around the Mahoney shooting and less of a focus on the grit and realism of the episodes of seasons 1-3.

And this is essentially the movement of the show at this point – it has always been happening gradually but I think season 6 is the sharpest turn into this direction yet. It is a shame even if it is understandable and it is part of the reason why most of us prefer the earlier seasons to the later ones. However this is not the same as criticism of season 6 because there is still much to recommend. Firstly, it may have become a more traditional cop drama than when it started, but it is still a good one and moaning about it being more accessible could be taken the wrong way, so I won't. Moreover the same people are still involved so we do get themes of homosexuality, AIDS, racism and other issues woven into plots; OK so sometimes it is a bit preachy but you need to see it in context of when it was made – it is not as "easy" to get these issues into a network as it would be now. The writers also mean we do get some individually great episodes (The Subway being the best by far – a great, contained human piece) even if generally the flow is much more of a standard affair.

Generally the directors do well but one complaint I have quite regularly is the music. Not so much the selection because I do think there are some good tracks here, but more how they are used – too often they just feel dropped into the end of an episode and not really part of what you are watching. The cast are mostly good but the strength of the show continues to come from two main place. Kotto is a fan favourite and his presence along is a benefit but the main heart of the show comes yet again from Braugher, who's consistent performances see him generally getting the best material (such as the subway episode and the themes with Bayliss). The other regulars continue to be good in Belzer (with less to do than usual), Johnson, Secor (who works very well with Braugher) but the more recent additions I'm not sure about. Diamond just appeared that the focus on him was too much for him and he wasn't able to become the heart of the show even as his thread did, he is out-acted in the box by Braugher in their final scene as well. Seda just seemed to lack range in his character – he had good material to work with but his character was too one-note in his delivery. Gerety was OK, likewise Thorne. Forbes got dumped quick and I'm not sure why. Lewis was the biggest step-up in screen-time and I felt she dealt with it well even if she had little to do outside of the Mahoney thing.

Season 6 is not David Simon's Homicide, indeed it is pretty much the biggest move away from the show's roots yet, however there is still much to enjoy. Some individual episodes are brilliant while generally it is still a good traditional cop show with the emotions fans have invested buying it cover for its failings and changes. Season 7 (which Channel 4 denied me) is currently coming to me from the US and, while not the Homicide I started with, I am still looking forward to it.
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There WAS a gun!
petra_ste15 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Frankly, I quite dislike season 6. It had some neat episodes, true, but nearly every scene with the new detectives is grating. However, this episode is remarkable and not to be missed. Pembleton's swan song, indeed.

After Junior Bunks (Mekhi Phifer) shot Ballard (Callie Thorne) and Gharty (Peter Gerety) in the previous episode, Giardello (Yaphet Kotto) and his men go after Georgia Rae Mahoney and her organization.

In one of the final shootouts, Pembleton (Andre Braugher) freezes and his partner Bayliss (Kyle Secor) takes a bullet for him. As Tim undergoes surgery, Frank receives a difficult and unpleasant task: facing his fellow detectives Meldrick (Clark Johnson), Stivers (Toni Lewis) and Kellerman (Reed Diamond) to learn the truth about the Mahoney shooting.

In spite of the presence of obnoxious Falsone (Jon Seda), these last scenes are gripping: on one hand I felt sorry for Kellerman (whose self-destructive arc was one the best things about seasons 5-6); on the other, I knew his actions had caused the disaster. A moral dilemma, Homicide at its best.

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