Tom Selleck’s “Blue Bloods,” or “The Conflict of Interest Family” as we call it around our house, continues to explore difficult unethical dilemmas for an all-law enforcement family. Its latest episode’s message, however, was troubling.
Forget the secondary plot of Police Chief Frank Reagan’s staff squabbles. The meat of this installment was police detective Danny Reagan’s discovery that the well-oiled bank robbery he was on the scene to witness (it’s amazing how often the main characters in procedurals just happen to be in banks when they are robbed) has been carried out by a group of three military combat veterans—just like Danny!. They have banded together to raise $100,000 so the female member of the trio can pay for expensive medical treatment for her wounded veteran husband. He lost his legs and sustained brain damage in Iraq.
Danny is seething at the injustice of the wounded hero being in an endless line writing for help from the Veterans Administration, and perplexed that the three perps who he has personally identified from his observations of them during the robbery—the loving spouse’s voice, one of the men’s scarred wrists, a neck tattoo on the other—are acting out love and loyalty, not greed.
By tailing the female bank robber, he learns that she is cheating on her suffering husband, who being legless and no longer much of a challenge in Scrabble, can’t meet her emotional and physical needs. Danny gets photos of her adulterous liaisons, and threatens to show them to the husband unless she confesses and implicates her two accomplices in the robbery. As she is deciding whether to let Danny break her husband’s heart (Don’t worry! He’ll be upset for a while, but thanks to his wounded brain, won’t remember a thing tomorrow…) or confess, which will leave him untreated and alone while she goes to the Big House, Danny reveals that he has “pulled a few strings” with a guy who owed hi9n a favor, and now everything is set for her spouse to be treated immediately by the VA at no charge.
That’s’ enough, apparently, for her to confess, and apparently her gang confesses too. The money, we are to assume, has been returned. City District Attorney Erin Reagan, Danny’s sister (remember, Conflict of Interest Family) pulls a few strings herself, and her office recommends only five years in prison for each of them. After all, they are good bank robbers, meant well, and will obviously never do it again.
“Yessss!” says Danny. And we see the husband roll off to get his brains tuned, as he looks back lovingly at his wife.
All has worked out as well as could possibly be expected. Except…
- Why should perceived need be a mitigating factor in sentencing those who committed armed robbery?This is an extreme example of “The Saint’s Excuse,” isn’t it? It was all for a good cause, so the robbery wasn’t really bad? I assume most thieves need the money, or think they do, sufficiently to rationalize the crime. At the Reagan’s weekly Sunday dinner together before Danny has solved everyone’s problems, the Reagans agree that this is a slippery slope. The episode sloloms down it anyway.
- We saw the robbery, and the military vets were pretty threatening and waving assault weapons around. The bank staff was terrified; Danny nearly started shooting. The fact that nobody was hurt or killed was pure moral luck.
- Why didn’t the two men get heavier sentences, since they didn’t confess but were fingered, presumably, by the crippled vet’s wife?
- And wasn’t that nice of her: she talks them into committing a major felony to help her husband, and as soon as he gets guaranteed treatment, throws them to the wolves. Or are we to assume that they all confessed once they learned that the money they stole at gunpoint wasn’t needed? Was this always the plan?
- I wonder who Danny bumped down the waiting list to get the husband immediate treatment. Poor sap: his family and friends didn’t have the sense to rob a bank. Or they didn’t love him enough.
- Is the message that military veterans should get a break when they rob banks? That VA administrative incompetence justifies armed theft?
I would have been ethically satisfied if all three robbers got at least ten years. Otherwise, Blue bloods appears to be championing the cause of Good Bank Robbers. There are no Good Bank Robbers. Why someone engages in armed robbery shouldn’t influence law enforcement or the justice system at all.