I have recently started rewatching Hill Street Blues on Hulu and there are two things I can say for sure about the characters who appeared on this seminal cop show.
Anyone who thinks that anything in the world can be defined as simply being all-good or all-bad is due for a rude awakening.
Anyone who spends any time with Detective Mick Belker is destined to die on a sidewalk.
Unfortunately, Captain Freedom made both of those mistakes.
Played by Dennis Dugan, Captain Freedom appeared on four episodes during the second season of Hill Street Blues. He was a goofy and friendly man who dressed in a red lycra suit with green shorts and Chuck Taylor running shoes. He believed that he had super powers and would jump in front of muggers and shout, “Stop this criminal act, or I shall be forced to use violence!”
As always happened whenever an eccentric appeared on the show, he spent three episodes annoying Bruce Weitz’s Detective Belker, a streetwise detective who always looked filthy and who often growled at criminals. Belker told Captain Freedom to stop following him and to stop trying to help. Captain Freedom said that it was his duty to protect Belker and keep the city safe.
During Freedom’s Last Stand, the 11th episode of the second season of Hill Street Blues (aired on January 28th, 1982), Captain Freedom’s dedication to keeping the city safe got him killed. In the middle of a dramatic shoot out between robbers and some of the Hill’s best cops, Captain Freedom jumped on top of a car and shouted, “Stop this criminal act!” The shocked robber responded by shooting Captain Freedom in the chest.
The show pulled out all the stops for the death of Captain Freedom. Not only did he get shot in slow motion, but he even got a monologue before finally dying of his wounds. He gave Belker his gloves, explaining that all of his powers were stored in the gloves. Belker sobbed as the Captain went on to become the first of many Belker acquaintances to die on a sidewalk.
After his death, Captain Freedom was never mentioned again and Dennis Dugan went to become a comedy director but the character made an undeniable impact. He only appeared in four episodes but Captain Freedom is better remembered than some of the show’s regulars. Few people can tell you who Ken Olin played for three seasons (Det. Harry Garibaldi) but anyone who has binged through the early seasons of Hill Street Blues remembers Captain Freedom. He was someone to whom everyone can relate. Who doesn’t want to be a super hero? Who doesn’t want to stop evil doers and make the streets safe again? His death was the show’s loss of innocence. If even the likable and funny Captain Freedom can die, than anyone can die.
This Halloween, pour one out for Captain Freedom, the man who tried to make his costume a reality. Evildoers beware!
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