For “Blue Bloods” and the drama’s faithful Friday night following, holiday breaks can be hard to take, so for its December 11 Season 6 winter finale (Episode 10), “Flags of our Fathers,” there was enough fodder around themes of what it means to serve one’s country, family loyalty, having a partner’s back, and defending rights (and even wrongs) to fill any feast tray. Superb performances and strong writing come to the forefront in this farewell to 2015, reverberating that free speech is about far more than words, and fighting for justice still has to follow proper procedure, no matter how much it hurts.
During his daily brief with Garrett (Gregory Jbara), Frank (Tom Selleck) would prefer to peruse his newspaper, but the pesky matter of a demonstration by Battle for Peace, including their plans for a flag-burning, gets bantered about, and the boss tries to send it back down through channels before he realizes that, like it or not, it’s in his lap. He wants a face-to-face meeting with group leader, David Gore, portrayed with nuance by Sam Gilroy. The actor has had several roles in notable TV and feature films, including The Day the Earth Stood Still and Michael Clayton, and gets noticed here, playing his games for “rights” against notoriety, but Frank is a worthy match. A typical school visit for Jamie and Eddie (Will Estes and Vanessa Ray) becomes troublesome when one in their audience labels “cops are murders” in response to her father’s death. Any viewer who lives for scenes between strong actors ate up the scene between Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) and Steve Schirripa, in a confrontation about Danny’s past partner, Detective Darryl Reid (Malik Yoba), who is thought to have planted evidence in the high-profile Donovan case, on an absolutely guilty perpetrator, but perhaps not convictable in court. The tension is perfectly tantalizing! Erin (Bridget Moynahan) knows she’s violating protocol with her brother, but she warns him that Donovan is about to be sprung a free man if this plays out.
When Danny asks his former partner about the alleged tampering, he responds that the case had stalled, and he “couldn’t let this bastard skate,” so he stole blood from the lab. When David Gore comes in for the requested meeting, Frank reminds him that a flag burning “drowns out” any well-intentioned effort directed at veterans, like his father, like Frank’s father, and sons. Gore persists, and Frank ultimately signs his permit. Erin tells Danny the news that he has been cleared all wrongdoing in the case, but Danny is still consumed with the guilt and defense of his former partner. The conviction of Donovan seems more and more unlikely, under the circumstance. Predictably, the flag-burning goes from page. In a last-ditch effort, Danny pleads with his sister to offer a plea deal to Donovan. She calls it “a long shot at best,” but they go to his cell to try. The fatherless Lily Crawford (Lily Coleman) definitely doesn’t feel that Jamie is doing her any favors by telling her that her father was a drug dealer, she only wishes that they would “shoot me, too” in her sense of loss. Frank goes to see Gore in the hospital, reminding him that any wounds “didn’t have to happen,” but the patient remains insistent, declaring that police “stood down,” without protecting demonstrators. “We did our job,” the Comissioner declares. He equates the young man’s actions to “spitting on their graves,” including David Gore’s own father.
Eddie relates to how Lily feels, remembering how hard it was to cope with her own father’s criminal conduct and imprisonment. She and Jamie get word from the principal that Lily is missing. Erin offers Donovan 14 years in exchange for pleading guilty to two counts of manslaughter, quite the deal, considering he’s in for 50 years, but he’s coy, and not copping to any charge on the verge of being free. “He may be psychotic, but he’s right,” Erin rightly surmises. The Reagan family dinner even turns battleground, as views on the flag, what it is to defend it, and freedom all boil up to the surface, with Danny and Jamie sadly mixing it up, Danny accusing “the one who never even wore a uniform” of being anti-American, as it were. “I wear one now, and I defend it (the rights being represented under country) every day,” he contends. Henry’s admonishment to “keep it civil” is a tough one. Erin gives Danny 48 hours to come up with something for a case against Donovan. Jamie and Eddie find Lily in a park, and all right. She can’t reconcile her dad’s history with who he was to her, the dad who watched Three Stooges and made breakfast. Danny begs help from Reid on making the case. His former partner tells him he is no longer a detective, being asked to surrender his shield and his gun that very morning. “I’m done,” he concedes. Frank orders that manpower be doubled for the rescheduled rally. Sgt. Gormley balks, saying “I’ll pass on that,” uncharacteristically resistant. The boss still gets what he wants. Danny interviews a pharmacy owner, Tavares, who stood outside the night of the killings, and saw everything with Donovan, but knows the price he may pay for the truth as well. He tells that he just doesn’t know. In a complete turnabout, the next day, he walks in, saying he’ll testify. Danny knows the system, and that a “squeeze” has been put on by a certain someone. Lily tells Jamie and Eddie that she’s got money stashed, and she’s leaving. They warn her that she’ll be treated just as a runaway, and never get help. The officer who shot her father comes to her, offering her all the help and services that his youth program can offer. He bears scars from the loss, still, that she’s still too frozen to react. She picks up the brochure.
Danny goes to Reid, relating what he knows about Tavares and the testimony. Reid contends that he should “take the yes” this time, knowing it’s better than Donovan on the streets, but Danny has a lot with which to wrestle. He comes in with all he needs on paper, but he can’t subdue his conscience. “There’s a line you don’t cross,” Erin counsels and that confirms Danny’s next move. “I got nothing,” he remarks, folding the envelope. Both brother and sister need a drink. The next morning, Gormley is in shock that Gore was not present to protest. Frank knew that his father was buried at Oakdale, and his son could not bring any conflict demonstration there. As “Blue Bloods” approaches the rolling credits, Frank insists that their job every day as protectors of all rights is “no less sacred” as that of any soldier.