Major Crimes / Screen

Sharon considers adding to her family while the squad investigates the murder of a runaway in Major Crimes‘ “Jane Doe #38”

We’re not very far in Major Crimes’ third season, but it’s been a twisty one. The premiere kicked us off with the dead family and an incestuous relationship between cousins, the next took us to a long murder mystery as a falsely-convicted man was released from prison looking to clear his name and murdered. Just last week the show took us into the world of diplomatic immunity in a case where getting to the truth was like pulling teeth so it’s notable that “Jane Doe #38” is probably the season’s most straightforward episode though, like others, it also has a bittersweet (mostly bitter) ending. The episode surrounds the squad’s search for the killer of a runaway, but they spend an almost equal amount of time searching for the victim’s identity, and only one of their mysteries is solved.

Alice Herrera is the name on the victim’s library card, but the address leads them to a family who has no idea who she is, and all other attempts at identifying Alice only prove that she’s a runaway from “an M state” who, according to the cigarette burns on her back, may have fled an abusive home but has a younger sister somewhere who means a lot to her. Her job as a maid for a wealthy family leads the squad to the pool she was drowned in, where one of her barrettes is still in the filter and a recent robbery has the family assuming that Alice betrayed their happy relationships to make off with their things.

It’s as close to a twist as the episode gets that Alice wasn’t actually stealing from the family though the people she ran with were more than willing to relieve the family of their valuables. The other twist, which works out just fine, is Bug (Alyson Stoner), Alice’s neighbor, being shot by Alice’s killer as she runs from police.  But Bug’s alive and well in the aftermath and tells all about what happened to Alice: Slider (Garrett Coffey) killed her when she argued against his plans of robbing the house of the people who had been kind enough to purchase Alice a hair styling kit so she could pursue her beauty school ambitions.

It’s understated, but the episode makes clear that Alice’s importance isn’t made less because she has no name and no family, but it does make her less important in the eyes of the law. When Tao calls in the charges they’re filing against Slider, he regretfully announces that their victim is a Jane Doe, and during his interview Slider shrugs off Alice’s murder because now she’s just trash.

Is it harder to care about people who you don’t know? Who don’t seem to really exist from a legal standpoint? Alice’s family is out there somewhere, and so is her name but it’s possible the squad may never learn it despite finding out about Alice’s Virginia Piedmont dialect. There’s no one to inform of Alice’s death besides a woman who worked with other runaways and called her Jessie, and there’s no one to attend her funeral beside the members of the squad, Hobbs and Morales.

Alice’s lack of family is juxtaposed with Sharon and Rusty’s unique familial situation which is on its way to evolving as Sharon considers adopting him. Its the season’s first foray into Sharon’s personal life as its spread its wings more in paying further attention to the other members of the squad and of course, Rusty. Sharon’s family life has always been unorthodox, beginning with her decades-long “marriage” to Jack (Tom Berenger), who resurfaces as Sharon tells him about her plans. Her situation’s only going to become more unusual if she goes through with her plans to adopt Rusty, who’s already eighteen. Going against the wishes of Jack (who she’s definitely going to be divorcing after his transparent interrogation of Rusty about Sharon’s dating life and telling him about Sharon’s adoption thoughts) and perhaps even her children, who have yet to be asked about their opinions on the subject, is only going to make things more complicated.

On one hand, what’s the big deal? Rusty might as well already be Sharon’s son. The adoption would make it legal, giving Rusty someone to fall back on in situations where he’d need help from someone more reliable than his again-absentee mother. But it’s an interesting question to ask. Sharon’s other children are out of the house already so she’s already gone through with raising her kids, and bringing Rusty into the fold now would create some pretty big ripples in Sharon’s family. Suddenly her son and daughter would have a brother, and Sharon would officially have another son who she would assume responsibility for as he goes into his post-high school life.

The one low point of the episode, if it can even be called that, didn’t even turn up until I read James Duff’s preview of the episode in which he discusses Flynn’s reaction to Alice’s murder and writes:

Lt. Andy Flynn, who carries with him regrets over his own role as a father, finds himself unusually affected by investigating the murder of a homeless, unsupervised teenage girl. Where did she come from? Why does no one step forward to claim the body? How is it the victim ended up so far away from her “M state” of origin? Is Flynn’s anger at the killer only what it seems, or is it an outward projection of his own guilt and regret? That he can’t quite articulate the passion of his experience helps explain where the Major Crimes Division goes to finish up this particular investigation. (x)

“Jane Doe #38” wasn’t as in-depth with Flynn’s own emotional response as this statement would suggest. Aside from a few comments made by Flynn, which were mostly in concert with various other squad members’ reactions to Alice’s murder, Flynn’s own family situation was hardly expanded upon. His anger at Hobbs’ initial deal for Slider didn’t feel like anything different, with any tensions simmering beneath the surface since Flynn and the rest of the squad have been similarly annoyed by the LAPD’s new deal-making policy in the past. It was only Flynn’s arrangement of Alice’s funeral that indicates that he took more of an interest in this case than others, and I wish the episode had done more to flesh out Flynn’s feelings. At times it seems as though the episode focused more on his and Sharon’s currently non-existent romantic relationship (though there’s promise for it to grow into something) than anything else that may have been happening with him.

Stray Observations

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2 thoughts on “Sharon considers adding to her family while the squad investigates the murder of a runaway in Major Crimes‘ “Jane Doe #38”

  1. Pingback: Major Crimes: “A Rose is a Rose” | Channel Chelsea

  2. Pingback: Major Crimes devotes “Two Options” to a potential spinoff | Channel Chelsea

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