Sunday, December 29, 2013

Homicide: Life On The Street: "And All Through The House"

"To get here, I had to run a virtual gauntlet of Christmas cheer.

Bargain-hungry shoppers, mewling kids, carols blasting from diabolically hidden loudspeakers.What kept me going was the thought that once I reached my destination - our sacred inner sanctum - I'd find refuge from this yuletide delirium."
-Det. John Munch

Premiered December 16, 1994.

It's Christmas in Baltimore, Detective John Munch (Richard Belzer) arrives at work in a Scroogey mood.  Munch says he hates Christmas and isn't happy to see a Christmas tree in the precinct.

Munch argues with Bollander about Christmas (check out Stan's Baltimore Orioles scarf).

Fellow Det. Stan Bollander (Ned Beatty) brought in the tree to in hopes of adding a bit of holiday cheer to the office.  He refuses to let Munch ruin his Christmas.

Munch and Bollander get a call about a dead body.  It turns out to be a Salvation Army Santa.  This prompts the cynical Munch to say "Uh-oh, Rudolph's gonna be pissed!" They visit the dead man's home and find a young boy named Fidel (Ryan Goldstein) all by himself.  Bollander steps out to make a call, leaving Munch with the burden of telling Fidel about his father's death.

This is the last thing that Munch wants to do, so he delays telling Fidel the crushing news for as long as he can.  This leads to the two spending Christmas Eve together well into the night, talking about Fidel's father.  They wind up visiting a batting cage, where Munch fails to make contact with a single baseball. The tragic death of Fidel's father forces Munch to find some Christmas cheer in his heart.

At the same time, Det. Meldrick Lewis (Clark Johnson) and Lieutenant Megan Russert (Isabella Hoffman) investigate another homicide.  They find a woman who has been burned to death.

The detectives are surprised to learn a deceased drug addict lived in a mansion.

Russert and Lewis discover her name was Whitney Freeman and she was scheduled to testify against a drug dealer. The detectives learn Whitney came from a wealthy family and they visit her mother to break the news.

Back at the station, Det. Tim Bayliss (Kyle Secor) is trying to get his fellow detectives to play cards. Bayliss suggests it's just for the sake of building camaraderie on Christmas Eve.

 He's turned down by several co-workers.

Det. Kay Howard (Melissa Leo)  isn't interested in playing cards with Bayliss.

But he finally finds a willing opponent in the form of his boss, Lt. Al "Gee" Giardello (Yaphet Kotto). Bayliss thinks he can hustle Gee for money in a game of Hearts, but he may get more than he bargained for.

Giardello accepts Bayliss' challenge to a game of Hearts.

 J.A. Morris says:

I was a huge fan of Homicide:Life On The Streets when it aired back in the 90s.  It was the best drama of the 90s and it featured one of the best ensemble casts in recent memory.  I'm a bit biased, because the series took place (and was partially filmed) in Baltimore, one of my favorite cities.  Homicide was created by the same people who later produced The Wire and Treme and it helped pave the way for those series.

Danielle Spright (Gabrielle Goyette) is interviewed about her husband's possible connection to a murder.

"All Through The House" is probably the darkest programming we've covered here.  It shows that for some, Christmas isn't such a "merry" time of year.

Bayliss critiques the tree.

 The holiday season can be a reminder of loved ones who have departed.  People are killed on Christmas.  Both Munch and Lewis quote statistics about suicides at Christmas time.  For the crack addicts, it's just another night when they need a fix.  And there's a heartbreaking scene where a suspect is arrested in front of their family on Christmas Eve.

Det. Frank Pimbleton (Andre Braugher) wishes he was home with his wife on Christmas Eve.

This episode is also a reminder that some jobs force people to work on Christmas Eve.  When asked how he's doing, Pimbleton says "I miss my wife.  I miss my fireplace.  I miss Nat King Cole."  Det. Beau Felton's (Daniel Baldwin) wife has recently left him and taken their children, he doesn't know where they are.  Felton says spending Christmas Eve at the precinct makes him want to put a bullet in his head (ouch!).

Felton wraps a baseball signed by Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina  (I love the Baltimore references on this series!) for his son.

But For Russert, investigating a murder is preferable to being at home with her family, since they remind her that her husband (whom she first met on Christmas) is dead.  Lewis misses his late patrol partner (they spent Christmases together), who has recently committed suicide.  There's a nice scene where they share coffee and bond over this.

It's not all grim and depressing.  One of the cases has a happier-than-expected ending.  Munch's monologues about his hatred of Christmas (and just about everything else, except being a detective) are funny (helped by Belzer's background in stand-up comedy).  Bayliss' attempts to engage the other detectives in a game of Hearts helps lighten the mood.  And we get a brief but fun scene where the detectives engage in a snowball fight on Christmas morning.

Howard prepares to hurl a snowball.

In addition to the regular cast (who are great as usual), I wanted to commend the performance here by the late,great Nancy Marchand (best remembered for her award-winning roles on Lou Grant and The Sopranos) for her excellent portrayal of Lorraine Freeman.  As soon as the detectives arrive, she knows her troubled daughter is dead.

But she keeps decorating her tree, discussing the arts of how to hang different colored bulbs, trying to delay hearing the awful news.  When Lewis blurts out "Your daughter's dead" you can practically feel a jolt when Marchand's expression changes.

We also get a nice scene at the morgue.  Lewis is surprised to that Scheiner (Ralph Tabakian), the coroner has Hanukkah decorations on display.

Scheiner explains his Hanukkah decorations.

 Scheiner isn't Jewish, but he says he displays a Menorah because he wants "everybody to feel welcome".  This is a bit of a play on words, since he could be talking about everyone who enters or every dead body that arrives.  In any case, it's a nice reminder (especially in a city as diverse as Baltimore) that not everyone celebrates Christmas.

Bayliss gets in a cheap shot!

"And All Through The House" is a great episode of one of my favorite series.  I strongly recommend it, even if it isn't the most "feel-good" Christmas story ever.

Gee is greeted by a Christmas morning snowfall.

J.A. Morris' rating:

Four Candy Canes.

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