Costober 2021 Day 1: Lilly Rush

Costober begins with a super simple look, but an incredibly complex character.

About the Look

Cold Case premiered in 2003 and ran for seven seasons on CBS. It’s a crime procedural in the vein of Law & Order (Danny Pino co-starred in Cold Case and SVU playing basically the same character with different names) that focuses on murders that have been shelved as unsolved. The structure of the series is very formulaic: each episode features scenes in the present and flashbacks to the past, often with two different casts playing the guest characters, and ends with a musical montage where the victim shares a look with one of the detectives before fading away. Each episode features a soundtrack from the time period of the case. It’s all a gimmick and it’s all incredibly effective. There’s a full cast of detectives but it’s centered on Lilly Rush.

Lilly Rush was “the only female homicide detective in Philadelphia”, a statistic I find mostly laughable. I am certain that homicide detectives are overwhelmingly men, but in 2003 the population of Philadelphia was 5,242,000 and its police force is the fourth largest in the country. Women homicide cops are rare but they aren’t unicorns.

Lilly, however, is a unicorn. She’s a cop who centers the victim, and the victim’s humanity. These are cases all the other cops gave up on, often choosing an easy answer because the victims were marginalized or otherwise don’t matter. Lilly puts photos of the victim at her bedside so she remembers who they are. CSI is about solving a mystery with science and facts. Law & Order is about holding people responsible for their crime. Cold Case is about who these people were and I cry at the end of every episode.

As the series went on, Lilly’s backstory and the resulting trust issues became more and more convoluted and debilitating. But all of that was noise. To me, Lilly Rush was revealed in the very first episode with the line, “People shouldn’t be forgotten. Even if they are my kind of people. Maybe they don’t have a lotta money, they don’t have lawyers. But they matter. They should get justice too.”

About My Look

TV detectives wear the same basics across decades and networks so this was super simple and absolutely no one would suspect I was cosplaying.

My slacks and blouse were purchased second hand for other Costober looks and the sweater I’ve owned for at least five years. I wore it for Blair Waldorf in 2018. Lilly often wore her hair up in a messy knot, especially in the early seasons.

A truly great storytelling detail in Cold Case is Lilly’s cats. She has two, one with three legs and one with only one eye. They represent her fondness for, and championing of, broken things and she has a more consistently stable relationship with her pets than any person on the show.

Sushi, President Madison, and Ygritte

I also have a one-eyed cat, a very sweet tabby named President Madison. She’s a rescue, born feral, and her first exposure to people was having her eye surgically removed. It took a long time but Madison will now let me hold her sometimes, and will jump up on my bed or into my lap if she’s in the mood. She’s still very skittish, especially around strangers, and certainly never wants to pose for photos. But Lilly’s cats, and their link to my own, are a huge reason why I wanted to include her in Costober.

Cold Case is currently streaming on HBO Max. It’s a crime procedural and therefore copaganda. And while there are a number of moving stories about racism, sexism, antisemitism, homophobia, classism, poverty, bullying, fatphobia, mental illness and other important issues, they all include murder and some include sexual violence, hate crimes, or suicide. I strongly recommend it, but it’s important to be warned.

Leave a Reply