Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lieutenant Drumm: Hard as nails, but sensitive

Over the past week or two I’ve been stepping up my quest to find Wesley Lau and Richard Anderson in some of their various guest-spots. This has resulted in new bursts of enthusiasm over them both, depending on the day. (Seeing The Impatient Partner again and starting a Wild Wild West story involving Richard’s guest-starring character hasn’t hurt, either. I suppose figuring out what inspired me with what is a bit of the “which came first” unanswerable question.)

Well, Wesley’s received a good bit of my lavishing attention on the blog of late, so I decided it was time to spotlight Richard’s Steve Drumm again. Heaven knows he needs fan love.

One thing I’m always wondering is whether The Sausalito Sunrise handled Steve’s personality change believably. Time and again I’ve praised how they did it; if you’re going to make a character act different than usual, give an explanation and have the other characters take notice. The episode does that beautifully. But an issue I didn’t really address is that, even if they do us those good turns, is the behavior believable? Would the character really act in those ways, no matter the explanation?

To some extent that’s also an unanswerable question. Not even the writers or the actors know every facet of a character’s personality. On the other hand, however, there should always be some basic knowledge of the character’s traits and some idea of what they would and would not do.

Now, Steve is noted for being very by-the-book. I’ve compared him to a 1940s hardboiled detective. On the job, he does indeed display rough, harsh, just-the-facts behavior. This is in sharp contrast to Tragg’s friendly facades or even his most serious moods. And Andy seems to come across as more businesslike and efficient while amiable (although he also has scenes devoid of amiability). They’re all excellent policemen, but they have varying approaches to their jobs and how they deal with people.

This does not mean, however, that any of them care less about people than do the others. Tragg has been shown to be very gentle and sobered when bringing the news of a loved one’s death. In one season 4 episode he even sadly says that for thirty years, it’s never gotten easier for him.

Andy, albeit he tries to keep up the businesslike persona, does let it drop. Of course, this is most noticeable in The Hateful Hero, when he displays a wide range of emotions, from worry to shock to gentleness.

He and Tragg have both gone more “hardcore” on occasion, Andy when he faces the real murderer in The Hateful Hero and snarls, “Well, what are you going to do with that gun?!”, and Tragg in The Moth-Eaten Mink when he rescues Perry from the dirty cop and then comments in anger how a corrupt officer ruins the hard work the honest police are trying to do.

While Tragg and Andy fall back on being tough only occasionally, it’s Steve’s usual approach. But, though he is usually gruff while on duty, he does not like offending or hurting any innocent parties any more than Tragg or Andy do. I’ve noted how he suddenly becomes awkward when he realizes how frustrated and irritated the apartment house manager in The Candy Queen has become.

In The Silent Six he feels that he is not supposed to have friends in his line of work, a curious and sad “lone wolf” view not apparently shared by Tragg and Andy. And in spite of Steve’s viewpoint, his partner is clearly his friend, as are Paul, Perry, and the others. And off-duty he is very relaxed and friendly, almost showing a 180-degree turn on his personality.

Coming back to The Sausalito Sunrise, the whole reason for Steve’s anger and fierceness throughout most of that episode is because of the cold-blooded murder of a policeman and the heart-broken family left behind. He does lose sight of the truth of a dirty cop being behind it all, and hence makes some mistakes that he would not ordinarily make (which requires Perry to force him to take a long look at himself). But as I see it, the real root of the problem just may be that he is deeply sensitive to tragedy and horror and the shattered pieces left behind after a murder. Perhaps that is the reason for his usual tough attitude: it could be what he feels is his best defense against the evil he encounters every day, as well as a defense against his own feelings. He tries not to let his personal views color his behavior on the job (which he pretty much outright says in The Silent Six and cites as why he feels he cannot have friends; he thinks they would color his view and make him less objective). Usually, in this he succeeds. In The Sausalito Sunrise, he could not. Having been dealt the final straw, the dam broke. Once Perry got him straightened out, he realized how he had been conducting himself and quickly set about doing his best to amend the damage. He never had a breakdown like that again in the series, so hopefully he figured out how to further master his feelings against it happening another time.

Is his behavior in that episode in-character with his personality? Is it conceivable that he could feel that way? I would say, in all honesty, yes.

(Of course, that also leads to that inevitable question of Hamilton’s behavior in some of those season 9 episodes. I still say that by season 9 it is far less likely for him to behave as he did in, say, The 12th Wildcat, based on evidence of episodes from every season, including some of 9’s better ventures. However, no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes and slip-ups. So if the writers want to do that with Hamilton, they need a viable explanation, which as far as I know, we did not get in any of those season 9 episodes. But had logical explanations been provided, they might not have come off as bizarre and out of place and out-of-character as they did.)

I’ve seen it said (and to some extent I believe it), that particularly angry or harsh people might actually be the most sensitive of all. Not knowing quite how to deal with it, it comes out through their emotions and/or is hidden by the shield over their emotions. Taking all of the known aspects of Steve’s personality into consideration, both could very well be true in his case. Perhaps as he grows older and gains more experience he will acquire a better hold on and understanding of his feelings and be able to deal with them in a healthier way.

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