Major Crimes / Screen

Major Crimes successfully tackles sexual assault and the failures of the justice system when a rapist is murdered in “Letting It Go”

When “Letting It Go” opens, it’s with the squad in an apartment accompanied by blaring music and a dead body. Their victim, Lucas Cross, is a rapist who went free after the charges were dropped on a technicality (a lab tech lied on his resume). The attorney who handled the case refers to Jackie as “the perfect victim”, one who did everything right by the standards of a justice system that would poke whatever holes in her story that they could. Rape cases are always difficult, because of the ways victims and not their rapists are examined for fault, but Jackie was “bulletproof”. And that’s what makes Cross, who liked to taunt his victims by sending them roses and friend requests on Facebook, literally dancing away with dropped charges all the more infuriating and immediately drops suspicion onto his two victims.

Rape is a touchy subject, one that’s rarely handled with the sensitivity it should be, but the Major Crimes team has tackled the subject before on The Closer so there was little anxiety on my part. But the team investigating the murder of the rapist is bound to toe some lines, especially when the obvious suspects are Cross’ victims. The murder of a known but unconvicted rapist is still murder, and “Letting It Go”, while unable to avoid the reality of Cross’ killer having to face the consequences of her actions still imbues the episode with incredible sympathy for the women. The guest cast is an especially talented group which includes Brian White as DDA Lee and Alexis Carra as Jackie, but it’s Nikki Deloach who is particularly moving as Laura Day, a veteran who Lucas raped during her deployment and whose attack went ignored.

Though Lucas is the victim-of-the-week, it’s Jackie and Laura who are fitted with the episode’s sympathies as they retell their stories. While Jackie managed to find some kind of peace, at least some that allowed her to function following her rape, Laura fell apart. Now an alcoholic, she came to L.A to testify against Lucas in Jackie’s trial, but her testimony went unheard, and Laura ended up stuck in L.A., unable to afford a way back to Chicago. With no family or friends to back her up and having been ignored by the people in power who could have helped her, Laura develops a bond with Sykes. It’s nice that the episode took this opportunity to remind us of Sykes’ military background and use it as a way to forge the connection between the two as Sykes is especially offended that a fellow veteran’s attack went ignored by the military she served in. Their connection makes Laura’s triumphant confession that she killed Cross even more affecting.

Laura’s confession comes too early in the episode to be considered valid, even when the squad is forced to get her to confess again. Laura has no problem doing so, and it’s not surprising when Sykes finds holes in her story that indicate that Laura’s lying. So the squad returns to Jackie. The perfect victim is the also perfect suspect, though she seems to have the perfect alibi as well, a restaurant outing at the same time as the murder. But a signature that doesn’t match and a photo of her sister at the restaurant instead of her reveals her lie, and Jackie confesses to killing Lucas.

“Letting It Go” doesn’t bother trying to advocate for Lucas’ rights during the whole thing thankfully. Everyone’s in agreement that he was a terrible person and a rapist who escaped justice by a mere technicality. Everyone’s also in agreement, however begrudging, that they can’t let Jackie’s actions go ignored either. When the murder is revisited in greyscale, showing Jackie’s attack and murder of Lucas, it’s hardly framed as anything particularly sinister. It’s almost triumphant, as Jackie takes advantage of Lucas’ requests for an opportunity to catch up, dons gloves, sprays him with pepper spray and cuts his throat. As Sykes later notes, it’s not “the fairness system”, and even though Lucas didn’t pay for his crimes in a court of law, Jackie will still have to. All they can do now is try to manipulate the circumstances to make Jackie’s sentence less severe.

And that begins with getting Laura to change her statement. It’s a moving scene as Sykes convinces her, leading to Laura collapsing in tears because she wasn’t the one to kill Lucas. While Jackie was able to sleep through the night after killing Lucas, reclaiming some of the peace that her rape destroyed, Laura’s still suffering and is now unsure if even killing him would have helped her recover.

Rape is a sensitive subject, and it’s one that many shows have tried to tackle and have done so unsuccessfully. But “Letting It Go” is an especially delicate handling of the situation that doesn’t cast either of Lucas’ victims in a bad light, even though one of them is a killer and the other wishes she was. Rather, the episode is sympathetic and understanding to their respective plights however unyielding in the way the justice system works (or rather doesn’t work at times). But it doesn’t have a happy ending. We don’t see what befalls Jackie, though we know she’ll plead guilty to a lesser charge. She’ll still have to deal with the consequences of taking justice into her own hands, and neither she nor Laura is ever going to be able to fully escape what Cross did to them. The only thing either of them can take from this is that their rapist is dead, but the law didn’t help either of them, and they’re still suffering in some way.

Rusty’s storyline is also a good one, and he also has something to let go of: his mother, the Other Sharon, who isn’t as serious about her sobriety as she’d have Rusty believe. Though their initial scene is a good one, showing the Other Sharon’s optimism about her future and Rusty’s own muted excitement, but we already know it won’t last. The decline starts with the Other Sharon asking Rusty to fill a prescription for her. She claims it’s for headaches, but a check by Sharon and Flynn confirms that the drugs are to disguise the side effects of heroin and boost the high. Though Sharon knows this, she’s hesitant to share the information with Rusty, only doing so when Rusty picks up on it himself probably due to the Other Sharon’s saccharine displays of affection and continuous inquiries on the prescription’s status. The resulting confrontation is painful to watch as Rusty tries to gently make his mother understand what she’s doing and she responds by ridiculing him for his sexuality and demanding he overlook her addiction because she’s dealt with him being gay.

It’s a pretty long scene at three minutes as Rusty listens to his mother’s abuse, kept from leaving by her requests for him to stay. There are moments when it seems as though Rusty may start to believe what she’s saying so when he finally turns his back and walks away from her it feels like a victory. It feels even more like one when Rusty refuses to go to her aid when she calls from a payphone looking for a ride. The ending gives me some anxiety because something terrible could easily befall the Other Sharon and ratchet up the drama and angst for Rusty (though I have more faith in Major Crimes than that), but it’s good to see Rusty realizing that his mother and her addiction aren’t his responsibility, that she has to start being accountable at some point and that his love for her doesn’t mean that he has to contort himself to take care of her.

Stray Observations

  • Buzz to Provenza’s “back in the day”: “But now that the dinosaurs are extinct….”

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One thought on “Major Crimes successfully tackles sexual assault and the failures of the justice system when a rapist is murdered in “Letting It Go”

  1. Pingback: Revenge is sweet on Major Crimes | Channel Chelsea

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