Kay Howard

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Detective/Sergeant Kay Howard
Det./Sgt. Katherine 'Kay' Howard
First appearance January 31, 1993
(1x01, "Gone for Goode")
Last appearance May 16, 1997
(5x22, Strangers and Other Partners") (HLOTS)
February 13, 2000
Homicide: The Movie
Created by Tom Fontana
Portrayed by Melissa Leo
Nickname(s) Howie
Gender Female
Occupation Fugitive Squad Sergeant
Homicide Sergeant (Formerly)
Homicide Detective (Formerly)
Title Sergeant
Family Wesley (father); Carrie (sister); Josh (brother)
Significant other(s) ASA Ed Danvers (Seasons 1 - 3)
Nationality American

Katherine "Kay" Howard is a fictional character in the American TV series Homicide: Life on the Street. She was played by actress Melissa Leo.[1] In the first two seasons of the show her character was the only female detective or member of the main cast. However, NBC president Warren Littlefield felt that the lack of other female detectives was alienating the audience so this was later changed with the addition of Megan Russert. It was stated in a special edition of Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, the non-fiction book that the film was based on, that the character of Kay Howard was based on real Baltimore Police detective Rich Garvey. Howard is also influenced by Detective Bertina Silver, a female detective on Lieutenant Stanton's shift, referred to as 'Bert' by her colleagues, thought by many in the unit to be the exception to the 'Secretaries-with-guns' female officer stereotype.

Early and family life[edit]

In the Season 3 episode "The Last of the Watermen", Howard visits the small coastal oyster-fishing town where she was brought up. Though not actually stated this town is presumably in Talbot County on the Chesapeake Bay coast; her brother Josh lives here. She also has a sister, Carrie, who appeared in a Season 4 episode (portrayed by Melissa Leo under the pseudonym Margaret May).

Professional life[edit]

Having been a homicide detective since April 1991, Kay was generally portrayed as a tough female detective. That being said she was not entirely hardened by her job and at times expressed disbelief that seemingly good people were murderers. As a detective she was thorough, realistic, and generally had among the highest clearance rates in the squad. Her high rate of success was important to her as she felt that as the only woman she needed to prove herself. Megan Russert would later chide her for this tendency. Despite her generally rational approach she held strongly to magical thinking as she felt some things "transcended" logic. This included varied superstitions, which she displayed at work, and the idea that the ghost of a victim aided her in solving a case.

During Season 3, she and fellow detectives Stanley Bolander and Beau Felton were shot while trying to serve an arrest warrant on a suspect. Howard was struck in the heart, but eventually made a full recovery and returned to work. Her family came in from the coast to visit her in the hospital; her father was especially concerned over how little information the doctors were willing to share.

In the Season 4 premiere, Howard passed a promotion exam and was elevated to Sergeant. Most of her fellow detectives had encouraged her to go up for the position, but on actually assuming the role she became alienated from them. This came in part because she seemed at first to "micromanage" them and in part simply because her position put her in a different relationship to them. Her friendship with Det. Meldrick Lewis, who had been strongly supportive of her desire to seek the promotion, grew especially stormy afterward and affected their working relationship.

Personal life[edit]

In her personal life, she valued privacy and the idea that having secrets had value, but was less consistent on this in the first two seasons. She did keep an adulterous relationship she had with a Lt. Jimmy Tyron, one that predated her joining Homicide, secret at first but later admitted it to Frank Pembleton as an investigation of Pembleton's concerned Tyron. Tyron would later be arrested for shooting C. C. Cox in the back while fleeing. However she later admitted to Pembleton her sexual involvement with Ed Danvers without much pressing and even commented on Danvers's "prowess" (although she indicated to Pembleton that she might have been kidding). Aside from the sex, and their shared desire to bring criminals to justice, she had little similarity to Danvers so the relationship ended at an unspecified point in the third season of the show. After this relationship she became far more reticent about personal matters to avoid being the subject of office gossip.

It was implied in the fourth season that her love of privacy, combined with her tough nature and masculine clothing, had led to some speculation that she might be a lesbian; upon seeing Kay with a mystery date, Det John Munch said as much, although this may have just been a tactic to get her to tell him who the man is. The DVD commentaries for the show reveal that the producers were aware that the character was extremely popular in the LGBT community.

Although she is generally "one of the team" her being female was occasionally remarked upon at the squad. The crime scene photographer J. H. Brodie expressed his infatuation with her, but due to a miscommunication she felt his expression of affection was a way to make fun of her. Det. Mike Kellerman also stated she was attractive "because of the hair." In certain episodes she expressed concern about her sister and gender issues. In general she disliked both being deemed masculine and being treated "like a lady."

Final season[edit]

Season 5 saw her character relegated to some degree, but also showed important developments. Her former boyfriend Danvers would get engaged much to her surprise. In a later episode in the season Danvers' fiancee would be murdered, a shock for both of them. In addition her former partner Beau Felton would die violently in Season 5, which was an emotional shock to her. When Season 6 began, Howard was no longer in the Homicide unit; she had been rotated into the Fugitive squad, where she decided to remain. The character was not seen again until Homicide: The Movie, when she joined the current and former Homicide detectives to search for Gee's attacker.