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Rizzoli & Isles: Just Add Soap

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Written by : published Monday 23rd July 2012

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I've always considered Rizzoli & Isles to be different than most other police procedurals. While Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) is your typical no-nonsense female detective, and medical examiner Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander) is somewhat stereotypically socially awkward and uncomfortable around the living, the series always emphasised the friendship between Jane and Maura as being key. The crimes themselves has sometimes taken a back seat as struggles in the title characters' personal lives has often taken center stage. I have always found this refreshing, but I can't help noticing that throughout season 3 (as of writing, only 7 out of 10 episodes have aired), Jane and Maura's respective family matters have been increasingly focalized. As a result, many of the storylines have taken on an unrealistic and almost soapish quality.

Although each episode of Rizzoli & Isles often deals with disturbing murders, the show generally takes a light-hearted approach. Jane's family has been omnipresent throughout the series, in fact the opening scene of the pilot was of a basketball game between her and her brother, Frankie (Jordan Bridges), who also works for Boston PD. Jane's mother, Angela (Lorraine Bracco), is often a nuisance to her daughter but it's clear that she always means well. The rest of the Rizzoli family do not get as much screentime - Jane's other brother Tommy (Colin Egglesfield) has been in and out of jail, and her father Frank (Chazz Palminteri) surprisingly left Angela at the start of season 2. Frank hasn't been heard from much since but this has changed during the course of the last few episodes. Frank reappeared during season 3 with a new girlfriend and came to file for divorce from Angela, much to her chagrin.

Rizzoli & Isles

The soapy twist to the Rizzoli storyline came when Tommy revealed to Jane that he had a fling with Lydia, his dad's new girlfriend. It seemed that arc had been abandoned until episode 7, when Lydia crashed into Angela's new car. We immediately saw that Lydia was 7 months pregnant, and Angela, not knowing who this woman was, was determined to come to her aid. Frankie and Jane couldn't bring themselves to tell their mother who this woman was, especially since they didn't know if Angela would become this child's stepmother and aunt. I can only presume that this arc will be stretched out leading into the finale. I can't honestly say that I'm not interested in this storyline but I can't help feeling that this story arc seems out of character for this series. The show has always dealt with the ups and downs of Jane's family life, but a paternity mystery combined with a love triangle involving a father and son seems a little over the top for this show.

Maura Isles' family life has always been more complicated than that of Jane's. She was adopted at birth and has a frosty relationship with her adoptive mother. During season 2, Maura discovered that her birth father is Paddy Doyle, a leading figure in the Boston Mob and as she becomes a target for Paddy's enemies, she slowly begins to connect with him despite hating the kind of person he is. Her birth mother remained a mystery until this season, when Maura, keeping her real identity a secret, struck up a friendship with her. Again, this Your New Best Friend Is Really Your Biological Daughter storyline is reminiscent of something you’d find in a soap, not Rizzoli & Isles.Rizzoli & Isles

It’s fair to say that this trend started in the season 2 finale, when Maura was used as bait to catch a criminal. Not only was Jane and the rest of Boston PD waiting in the wings, but so was Paddy Doyle. When Paddy tried to protect his daughter the only way he knew how, with a gun, Jane was forced to shoot him before she herself was shot by him. While Paddy was not killed, season 3 started with the central friendship in ruins and it wasn’t until episode 3 that it was truly repaired.

Rizzoli & Isles is still a very enjoyable series. The crimes are still fresh and mysterious and the characters themselves are still likeable. I just hope that the writers don’t stray too far from a formula that works by continuing to introduce sensationalist storylines involving the protagonists private lives. 

About the author David


I'm a 21 year old English student from Ireland. To put it simply, I love TV, Some of my current favourites include Parks and Recreation, Community, Veep, Parenthood and Revenge. Follow me on Twitter @losingstreak12

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