Not enough kudos to Blue Bloods cast and creators can be given for this week’s incredibly eloquent Season 4 13th episode, “Unfinished Business.” Perhaps not since Season 1’s “Silver Star” has a storyline and a gifted writer, Siobhan Byrne O’Connor, encapsulated the emotion unresolved of so many returning warriors, nor the painful war within that every day can become in the face of devastating loss.
From Post Traumatic Stress Disorder terrors to morning pancakes, the opening scenes leave irrevocable images, as a recently returned Marine Corps Corporal, John Russell (Chad Michael Collins) gazes surreally at his bloody hands after beating his wife, and Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) delights in making morning pancakes with his sons (Tony and Andrew Terraciano), before the harrowing call comes from the station. Meanwhile, Commissioner Frank (Tom Selleck) has his press conference interrupted by more than pesky reporters, as the mother of a murdered young woman, Betty Lowe (Karen Allen) demands to know the true killer of her daughter, and why her many pleas get no reply. Once on the scene, Danny and Maria (Marisa Ramirez) inquire who injured Mrs. Russell (Kelli Barrett), and she herself replies with her husband as the assailant, and pleads with the detectives to get her son, Tommy (Michael Capperella) before he does. Orders come to back off on the case from the military officers in command, allowing military due process, but Danny pushes back, insisting that any child in danger will always be his business. Maria learns that the school has already released Tommy to his father. Frank demands to see the five letters from Betty Lowe, and Garrett (Gregory Jbara) obliges. Danny and Maria become even more concerned for Tommy’s safety after seeing a drawing from school, picturing Dad shooting him and his mother.
Working on a family history project for school, Jack (Tony Terraciano) interviews Pop Henry, who reveals his wartime service in Korea. When his great-grandson asks “Did you kill anyone?,” he responds only with “I’m proud of my service,” and mom shaking her head not to push further. The Commissioner knocks on Mrs. Lowe’s door, and takes the painful path of all the past photos, filled with potential unfulfilled, with her. She knows that her daughter knew her killer– that she let him in, no need for force, and she fights for her right to know who he was. Danny haggles with military procedure, declaring that a signed form in front of a returning warrior waiting to see his family is no true indication of his wellness. Maria learns that John Russell was paying out of his pocket to see Dr. Dawson (David Wilson Barnes), the same therapist who worked with Danny on his assigned anger management issues. Dawson confirms that Russell is still fighting the war inside himself, surrounded by triggers and terrors that Danny understands so very well. Frank asks Erin to interview a witness that supposedly saw the convicted killer of Betty Lowe’s daughter, named Munday, who confessed already to two other killings, but not to hers. The interview potentially rocks the entire conviction and case, because the witness, Lamar (Doug E Doug) says he was told who to pick by the investigating officer, Douglas (Jeremy Luke). Danny definitely doesn’t like his son speaking of the family legacy in wartime, insisting that the legacy is “service, not combat.”
More revelation comes forth, including Mrs. Russell asking for divorce from the man who was no longer the husband “who would talk to me.” A fellow soldier, Trevino (Jermaine Harris) speaks of nothing but Russell’s wonder as a soldier. Danny knows he is standing by his friend no matter the cost, and tipping him off. When Maria asks why Danny doesn’t stay in touch with his fellow fighters, he replies, “I was the only one who made it home.” Danny and Maria realize that John and Tommy are hiding in Trevino’s RV, but when they enter they find only an apologetic letter. Frank calls Detective Douglas, who dismisses the actions of “the grieving mother,” and insists Lamar is lying. Frank lets him know that Internal Affairs will be calling. There is full Reagan family support for Jack’s school presentation, and he gives his dad credit for being a hero every day. Danny shuns any shine from his commendation medals at dinner, before a call comes of a hit on a prepaid cell phone from a tower in Long Island City. Danny instantly spies Russell and his son atop the building. He coaxes the boy away, so he can go to safety with Maria. He pours his heart out to Russell, relating how he knows about feeling the same sensations all around him, and promising he can help, and give the soldier something more to live for, but he tragically takes the fateful fall. Danny and Dr. Dawson grieve in silence. Telling Betty that the definite killer of two daughters may go free if the case reopens, Frank asks that she put her grief aside, even in light of all the “mays” that may happen.
The Reagan’s prepare for their camping trip, and Frank looks after Danny with special attention, as his son insists, “I will be” okay. For the sake of the son, Danny annotates the case form as an accidental trip that caused the death of John Russell. It’s just one way to lessen the trauma of loss, and the tragedy of war, no matter the outcome.
A moving and beautiful statement read by Tom Selleck closed this Blue Bloods installment, indicating that not every returning soldier faces this measure of distress, yet urging those that do to seek help. Bravo to this series, for speaking powerful truth through every portrayal in “Unfinished Business.”