Teenage tragedies are one of the oldest type of stories, dating back to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. In modern times, these stories often include a teenage psychopath.
The sheer number of young psychopaths featured on crime dramas makes it hard to do this kind of story well. Rizzoli & Isles Season 6 Episode 7 gets it right... sort of.
"A Bad Seed Grows" has the creepiness factor down as well as the reactions of good people like Jane to sheer insanity. While this story is far from original, it's entertaining.
The weirdness of the victim's murder, the near-deserted police parking lot where a teenage killer can threaten police officers and parents from his bicycle and the obvious fear on his mother's face all contributed to the atmosphere.
The most effective piece, however, is Jane herself. Her angry facial expressions and her passion for solving her young victim's murder helped lift this story above its somewhat stereotypical framework.
She was 16 years old and she was stuffed into a cage. That's a pretty horrible way to die, don't you think?Jane
Vince and Frankie also took time to mourn for the parents of their teenage victim rather than just playing jokes on or with each other.
Frankie: How the hell do you get through a day like this?
Vince: Right now they're on autopilot. The worst day is coming. The day the shock wears off and they know their little girl is really gone.
This was a nice change. Cops have to be detached in order to do their jobs. If they allow themselves to be too aware that they're looking at a life snuffed out rather than just a body, they can't analyze the evidence or catch the bad guys. But they also can't do this kind of work day in and day out without it affecting them. Seeing everyone's reactions to the young victim's senseless death helped drive the horror of this particular crime home.
Dr. Foley, Maura's medical school friend who tried to tip her off about his patient, was a more interesting character than most witnesses. It wasn't clear exactly what he was hiding, even after his killer was found in the closet near his dead body. Was Daniel a murderer or a witness to a murder? At first it wasn't clear, and Foley's ambiguousness about what he knew helped add to that confusion. For me, anyway. Jane already had it figured out.
Two people in a room. One of them's dead. Who's the murderer?Jane
Let's talk about our psychopath himself, Daniel O'Neill.
I'm always slightly uncomfortable when TV shows feature a psychopathic character. They don't always get it right, plus sometimes the writing implies that all mentally ill people are murderous psychopaths. I trusted Rizolli & Isles to do better after Rizolli & Isles Season 6 Episode 6 featured a likeable witness with a rare brain disorder. For the most part, I wasn't disappointed.
Daniel O'Neill was an effective psychopath not just because of the way he switched back and forth from sounding innocent to being threatening or because of his ability to lie convincingly without flinching, but also because of the reaction of his parents. So many of these shows feature parents who are somehow to blame for their kids' condition or who ignored their behavior for too long.
Not this time. Daniel's mother was terrified of him, and with good reason. I got the sense that his parents didn't know what to do, beyond sending him to a therapist and hoping he'd get straightened out.
For most parents, I think there is a significant degree of denial that has to be overcome as well as the guilt over having a child be such a person. I can't imagine.Maura
Daniel also had the ability to sound like a normal 16-year-old, which is probably how he got so much information out of his victim about her habits. His constant refrain that he was just a kid made me wonder how much he had gotten away with by making people think he was a kid who didn't know any better.
There wasn't any particular reason why he did the things he did, or at least not as far as killing Sheila MacIntyre goes. That's what makes this type of crime so horrifying and tragic. It's completely random and insane.
The crime was interesting when compared with Jane's desire to hold onto her old, falling apart couch. Jane has struggled with change all season and was looking for stability.
I like the couch the way it is.Jane
This need for order, reliability and familiarity in Jane's life underscored the senselessness of Sheila's death.
I also enjoyed Frankie and Nina's conversation about UFOs. I don't mind Frankie being the comic relief if he also plays a serious role like he did in "A Bad Seed Grows."
I'm all for humorous interjections into serious hours like these, but what was up with the last five minutes? Clearly Maura arranged for the couch to be delivered, and everyone was in on it. But the whole thing was weird. It made it seem like Maura set the house on fire so that Jane would have to accept a new couch, as the fire clearly was not fake. Did anyone get what was supposed to be going on here?
What'd you think? Was "A Bad Seed Grows" too somber an episode, or did it strike the right balance between creepiness, tragedy and comedy? Did Maura turn to arson to get Jane to give up that old couch? Weigh in below!
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Jack Ori is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.