It's pretty rare for me to give a ten-star rating, and rarer still for me to feel compelled to write a review for an episode of a television series, but this episode was so good that I was driven to do both.
The writing, while high-caliber as usual, is no better (or worse) than most other eps of "Cold Case", and the usual "trademarks" are here as well. However, with this particular episode, those trademarks are especially well done. For example, the use of two actors (one older for the present, one younger for the past) is here as it always is, but the resemblance between the two actors is better than usual, giving a better sense of realism and continuity between 1981 and 2008. Not a minor casting accomplishment, especially with a weekly show.
Another area that's unusually outstanding is the choice of music. Background music in the flashbacks to the past is standard for each ep of "Cold Case", of course, but the selection of music in this ep is far more effective than usual. Most of the time, the background music in the flashbacks simply helps to set the mood and convey a feeling of the time period of the flashback. There's nothing wrong with that, of course -- far from it, it's an excellent creative use of music -- but in this ep, the music does all that and more: it actually enhances the feeling of the scene being recalled, especially for those of us old enough to remember the music of that period.
The flashback to the victim selling her first car, for example, uses "Brass in Pocket" by the Pretenders as its background music. The victim (an attractive woman) engages the prospective used car buyer in conversation, trying to get a "feel" for him and sell him the car, and as she leads him over to the car she wants to try to sell him, the music wells up: "I'm gonna use my arms... I'm gonna use my legs... I'm gonna use my style... I'm gonna use my sexy..." while the camera focuses on her using her seductive walk to lure the buyer into a purchase, and the buyer (played by an actor who definitely knows what he's doing) tries not to reveal that he's attracted to the victim and does a mostly, but not entirely, good job of it. If you remember watching the music video for this song on MTV back then, the effect is enhanced all the more.
Another excellent choice of music is the track played at the end of the episode, when we have the usual slow-motion montage of the killer being led away, along with the recap of all the other witnesses and suspects that the detectives have spoken to. For this ep, the music played during the ending montage is Journey's "Wonder Who's Cryin' Now", which musically captures the "feel" of the moment in a way that probably no other song from that period could.
I like television, as do you in all likelihood if you're reading this review, but this is one of the very few television episodes -- of any genre, from any time period -- that I consider so incredibly well-done that I'd actually want to own it, rather than (for example) just renting it on DVD whenever the fancy struck me. A job well-done by all involved in the production. They should be proud.
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