This one will rip out your heart...have LOTS of Kleenex nearby.
I have never said this about any other episode of "Dragnet", but this is one you might want to skip. No, it isn't because it's a bad episode--on the contrary, it's one of the very best. The problem is that if you experienced abuse as a child, it might be very tough going to watch this show--even though the director (Jack Webb) did NOT show any blood or gore. Believe me, I was crying towards the end.
The show begins with Friday delivering a speech about child abuse to a women's club. However, it's cut short when they receive a call of a severe case of abuse at the local hospital. There, the doctors explain that the baby was severely beaten and shaken and the child is in terrible shape. They do not show the baby--nor do I think they really needed to. The mother is not there at the time the detectives show and when they go looking for her, they find the address given is a warehouse! Eventually, the mother does return and her portrait is a fascinating one. She is one of the most clearly defined and stereotypical cases of a Dependent Personality, as she MUST protect her husband at all costs--even if it means lying about the baby's injuries. She tells the cops the child fell down the stairs, but many of the injuries are inconsistent with this story. Later, when Friday and Gannon go to the home to interview the father it's really quite strange and shocking to see the mother's reaction. She is terrified that he will become angry or blame her for the police involvement--even though it is becoming obvious that the father is a sadist who uses the baby as a punching bag. Her sense of panic about possibly losing her husband is significantly more that her worries about the baby. This is NOT a case of a woman who is afraid because of her husband's brutality--it's more a pathetic and sick need to keep him at any cost--including the life of the child.
After a brief interview, eventually the truth comes out and the father is arrested. He is sentenced to a year in jail and it seems the story has a happy ending. Well, it doesn't. The epilogue is just plain sick...and proves that in abuse cases it often "takes two to tango"--in other words, the abuser AND the enabling parent who does not physically abuse the child are a team--a team that works together and are both at fault for the abuse. The worst part about it is then, and now, the Dependent partner often gets away with little or no punishment.
See this wonderfully written episode. It will rip your heart out, but it hits a bullseye.
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