Honoring the Heroine: Sharon O’Dwyer Raydor

Well, let’s leave the street this time around and discuss a character who isn’t walking the beat anymore but certainly did at one point of her career. Sharon Raydor is the protagonist of Major Crime which is in turn a Spin-off show to The Closer.

I never watched The Closer, mostly because I don’t like the main actress (what? Just because I do want more female characters on air it doesn’t mean that I have to be into every single actress, no matter how popular she is). But Major Crimes is one of the few police procedurals I turn on once a while. Mostly when I am in the mood for something unpredictable.

What makes the show special is its tone. Most crime procedurals fall in one of two categories: Either they are meant to be light escapism, or they go all serious. But Major Crimes borders on being a comedy most of the time only to turn around and punch the audience in the gut. You never know if a case will have an even remotely happy end, and the victims are more often than not quite likable people who really didn’t deserve their fate, instead of the usual arrogant jerks who drew the attention of the killer to themselves through their own selfish actions. And that is a mix which is actually way more effective than the more grim and gritty approach.

Sharon-Raydor-Banner

Sharon Raydor herself is an interesting character, mostly because everything she isn’t. She isn’t the typical “always wanted to be a cop” character, nor is she necessarily a career woman. Her backstory is more, well, typical for the lack of a better word. She didn’t became a cop because she initially wanted to be one, she did it in order to put her husband through law school. The plan was that once he had his degree, she would be able to follow suit (and really, why is it always the woman who goes second in those kind of deals?), but her pregnancy prevented her from doing so. So she juggled being a mother and cop instead, ending up separated from her husband on top of all this. So you could say that her plans for life didn’t work out at all.

That doesn’t mean that she is bitter, though. With time she realized that she actually liked it better to “fight at the front” so to speak, enforcing the law instead of practicing it. And in her current position, she is actually doing a very special form of lawyering. See, the basic idea behind Major Crimes is that the city wants the division to make as many deals as possible with the criminals they catch in order to spare the city the cost of a long trial. If you really think about it, this is a truly terrifying idea. Put this kind of power in the wrong hands and you risk that there are innocents convinced to plead guilty in order to keep the statistic up, or that criminals get away way too lightly in exchange for a confession. But Sharon ensures that every criminal who confesses is actually guilty of the crime committed, and that an appropriate punishment is handled out.

Her start at Major Crimes is a difficult one, though. Not because she is a woman, but because she audited the division prior to being assigned to it. In addition to the basic mistrust this set-up alone creates, the notion to give the position to an outsider doesn’t sit right with one of the detectives who felt that her position was promised to him. Nevertheless she manages to win over the trust of the team over time. And their friendship. Because while Sharon is crazily competent in what she does, she is often plagued by doubts over her own decisions and does need reassurance from time to time. Just like everyone does.

And finally there is Sharon’s relationship with Rusty, an underage murder witness in desperate need of a foster home. Rusty is what one would call a troubled teenager, though a light version of it (in that he doesn’t take drugs and dislikes violence). Sharon starts taking care of him, even though this brings her eventually in conflict with her position at Major Crimes as well as her own family. But Sharon sticks to her guns, eventually adopting Rusty officially.

The ongoing subplot of the show is just as strong as the cases themselves, though it notably struggles a little bit once Rusty is no longer in danger and safely in college. Still, having a mother/son relationship as a major plot point is yet another element which makes Major Crimes different from other crime procedurals. Usually the focus is more on romantic relationships, if the characters are allowed to have a private life at all.

In the end, Sharon mostly works as a character because she is ruthless and compassionate. She truly cares and the burden she carries due to all the horrible crimes she sees is often visible in her face (in a very nuanced performance of the actress). But she is also not afraid to make the difficult decision, on the job and in her private life. If she has to make the divorce from her husband official in order to adopt Rusty, she will do it. If she has to tell off her own son in order to do what she feels is right, she will do it. If she has to smile a murderer into the face in order to get a confession, she will do it. And if she has to tell a family that their beloved child was killed in a most horrible way, she will do it, too. It is easy to feel for her, but it is also very easy to admire her.

Quote: “One of the nice things about me, D.D.A. Rios, is that when I’m really unhappy about something, people never have to ask.”

Best Episode: Return to Sender, Part 1 and 2

Best Sharon Move: Making a deal with a killer over theft in order to get proof that he had the murder weapon in his possession, effectively entrapping him.

If you want fluff, Major Crime is not necessarily the right show for you. If you want to go all grim and gritty, it might also not float you boat. But if you like some serious drama mixed with some silly humour, this is the right show to watch. There is no need to necessarily see every single episode, though there are some key ones one should catch at one point or another.

 

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