Through the first Blue Bloods season, faithful fans loved the themes of loyalty, family values, and the law, but yearned for more of the Reagan's story "off duty." By the midpoint of the second season, the show's creators had captured a near-perfect balance between the characters' personal and professional lives, and Season 3 is feeding fans the best-ever character-centered concoctions in the storylines.
"Scorched Earth" opens with a joyful couple preparing for their impromptu elopement wedding day. Alyson [Justine Cotsonas] poses on the stoop for her betrothed, Johnny [Shane McRae], to snap photos, and just as he captures a parting shot of her stepping into the limo, shots ring out from a passing car, fatally taking her to the morgue rather than her matrimonial vows. Speaking of marriage, a gift bag of lingerie left in the squad car is first assigned as Jackie's, but revealed to be an anniversary gift from Danny [Donny Wahlberg] to Linda [Amy Carlson] to honor their 15-year anniversary. Initially, as Detectives Danny and partner Jackie [Jennifer Esposito] investigate, Johnny seems the picture of the bereaved almost groom, protesting even the surrender of those final photos for evidence. Danny is completely enthralled by the case, but he is called away to dreaded "dignitary duty," guarding the arrival of a corrupt Presidente Valverde, coming to America for a medical operation perfectly timed to coincide with a people's revolt to oust him from power in his own country. Commissioner Frank Reagan [Tom Selleck] would rather swallow nails than give shelter to the dirty dictator, but orders his officers to perform their duties while he secretly enlists daughter Erin's [Bridget Moynahan] assistance in finding a legal way to hasten his exit.
Youngest Reagan and youngest Reagan on the Force, Jamie [Will Estes], is grappling with maintaining loyalty to his partner, Vinny Cruz [Sebastian Sozzi], whose personal prejudices provoke a "bad bust" of a young gang member, who technically is guilty, but unworthy of such scrutiny, yet nonetheless, steers Erin and investigators to the shooters of Alyson and identifying the vehicle. Jamie uncharacteristically throws back shots of whiskey, attempting to counterbalance his conscience, and dad Frank ultimately tells him it comes to a matter of peace between head and heart. Face-to-face with Erin, Jamie sticks with his partner and "signs off" on the bust. Disgusted that he and Jackie were defending a decoy, Danny ditches assigned duties and uncovers a phony police raid jacket that belongs to a friend of Johnny that was in regular communication right up to the shooting and after, and he admits that Alyson's demise was part of a drug deal involving ADT for 12 pounds of pot, worth $30,000 on the street. It doesn't take long for Danny and Jackie to find Johnny still wrangling to keep his room at his reserved "honeymoon hotel," and book him for another kind of accommodation, with a much longer term!
When Vinny toasts Jamie, saying, "I owe you one," Jamie's ultimate request is "when you make a move, check with me first." Time will tell if the agreement holds.
In the spirit of "can't we all get along" Nicky [Sami Gayle] offers a Buddhist blessing at the Reagan table, and sparks the dilemma that public servants can't always choose who they serve. Frank finds vindication in the final scene, as he visits Valverde's hospital room with signed release orders, sending him back home or anywhere but New York forth with, and relieving New York's finest from protecting him further. When asked where he will go, Frank's perfect response is "to Hell, eventually." Kudos to the fine writing of Dawn Denoon for that!
Blue Bloods is not just a better police drama, it is the best of police dramas, perfectly meshing characters to stories with meaning.