Synopsis: After a woman abducts two children, Team One begins the chase to find her. As they close in on the subject, the details of her pained history reveal more than anyone would have suspected.
Since this is an encore, I’m going to talk more openly about the story so I can level some very specific praise where it’s due. Ergo, if you haven’t seen this episode, please take note: This article is ***FULL OF SPOILERS***.
Quite frankly, this is an episode I have a hard time watching because it gets to me. The lovers of melodramatic hyper-realistic crime shows often turn their noses up at Flashpoint’s approach to humanizing its antagonists. On occasion, even I have a hankering for some straight up badass villain with no redeeming qualities for the SRU to take down. However, in “Severed Ties” the Flashpoint formula is impeccable.
Courage Couldn’t Come At A Worse Time
The story is unfortunately believable. Kelly Rowan plays Maggie Perrello to perfection as a mother who fell into an addiction to prescription medication, which is a growing problem in the Western world. This addiction creates the same patterns of personal destruction which we normally only associate with the addiction superstars of alcohol, gambling, and narcotics.
We meet Maggie after she has served her time in both jail and rehab, and is rebuilding her life despite the unfortunate turn which came before. She was committed to the task and achingly earnest. She was ready to win back her place in society and her role as a mother but, in another sanguine plot point, it turns out that the mechanism of society — government — isn’t quite as forgiving as all that. She has lost all rights to her children, who have both found new families through adoption.
This is also an all too common problem in the real world, whether the severity of the system, the stress of often underfunded and poorly monitored child protection services, or just cases slipping through the cracks. It is extraordinarily difficult to put in place systems of governance over the complex and unique issues of family law and, like many problems, we pay no mind to it until it affects us. In Maggie’s case, it’s not the just actuality of what the courts decided which affect her, it’s the well-meaning civil servant who neglected to tell her when it did.
And it’s that late delivery of news, after years of incarceration and months of well-used release time, which breaks the dam of Maggie’s restraint. This is where find Maggie in the episode and, since you already know the SRU is going to catch up with her, you can see the heartbreak coming.
Seeing it coming, though, does little to lessen its impact.
Greater Than The Sum of Its Parts
That’s the sign of a great script. It’s not so much about the mystery of the case (and most good yarns are predicated on a mystery of some some sort) but more about the paean and pathos of the main character even as they are drawn toward their inextricable fate. This is what Flashpoint does for its guest stars, whether it’s Henry Czerny in “First In Line” or Kelly Rowan in “Severed Ties”, the show creates roles for these actors to sink their teeth into. And here, Kelly Rowan dines masterfully. I mean, I’m obviously not a Mom (traditionally viewed as the more emotional of the parents), I’m not even a Dad, and I don’t spend enough time with my brother’s kids but I sympathized the heck out of Maggie’s plight. I could feel her pain and, worse still, I could feel the walls closing in around her.
It’s a fine line to create sympathy for the initial antagonist of the story (and you’ll find many writing guides that strongly recommend against it) but I think Melissa R. Byer and Treena Hancock did a phenomenal job in their high-wire act [AB — I had a lot more to say about the story-craft but I’m already in TL;DR territory and my editor is a heartless bastard] [Ed. — You ARE the editor, jackass!] [AB — I rest my case.]. These two have been a writing team for years, and have penned and produced for such series as Crossing Jordan and CSI. It’s little wonder that they walk this tightrope with the greatest of ease.
And director Holly Dale seemed to let the script breath without ever losing the pacing and tension. Holly Dale is one of my top guns. Aside from have a long career in directing episodic television (including Heroes and Cold Case), she’s responsible for one of my Top Five Flashpoint episodes: “Attention Shoppers.” Here in “Severed Ties” her steady hand and attention to performance is at its usual strength. In fact, I don’t think she’s going to get the credit she deserves for saving this episode.
A great script, a great director, and a great main guest player could all have been wasted by the episode’s only failing. At the risk of being W.C. Fields I’m going to say the girls didn’t really cut it for me and I suspect it was apparent to Dale during filming. I don’t want to take them to task for it. They’re kids. And not all kids are from the space alien Fanning clan which has given us Dakota and Elle. Sometimes, the kids just don’t work out. What I saw was a minimization of the screen time or line delivery from ‘Becky’, the younger girl. Sure, I’m guessing at that but, given Kelly Rowan’s performance, the tight script by Byer & Hancock, and the guidance of Holly Dale (who also gave us “Who’s George?”), I believe the only flat note came from the young actors.
Again, no offense to them. They’re young and have years of experience and opportunity ahead of them should they decide to pursue a career in front of the camera. It just is what it is.
What Lies Beneath and What Is To Come
Otherwise, I really enjoyed this episode (obviously, since I can’t shaddup about it), the highlight of which is the climactic scenes — as it should be — between Enrico Colantoni‘s Sgt. Parker and Kelly Rowan’s Maggie. Colantoni is always on his game but this time, when he sympathizes with his patented “I know”s, it’s a home run. Obviously his story arc for the season very much plays into this. For me, it’s one of the times Sgt. Greg Parker goes home and really hates his job.
And, in the narrative of the season, we see the beginning of the Parker’s feelings which lead to … well, an episode which hasn’t aired in the US. So, there I’ll draw the line on spoilers. However — and I couldn’t tell you if it was deliberate — for that unspoken connection, airing “Severed Ties” ahead of the final three new episodes works just fine for me. [Ed. — Yeah, that didn’t pan out.] [AB –Thank you, Captain Obvious!]
This series is so heavily strengthened by nuance that I think it serves as both a feature and a drawback. That dichotomy is actually appropriate because people who don’t watch the show judge it by its surface, which is a theme of Flashpoint: There is always much more to discover about people than what you see on the surface. All you have to do is take the time to see *what lies beneath. The same is true of Flashpoint.
The producers and writing team operate as much as a unit as our beloved Team One. And in a future article I hope to talk about some of the criminally unheralded heroes of the Flashpoint family. People whose names you fans have probably read a hundred times but about whom you know very little.
And that, dear readers, is the mystery hook of my narrative.
(Happy Memorial Day Weekend, my American cousins. Don’t forget the new episodes resume on CBS, Friday, June 3rd, at 8:00 PM. So far it’s listed as “Terror” but join the producers on facebook.com/FPTOne to stay in the know.)
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* This is a wink and nod to Holly Dale’s work on Durham County, Hugh Dillon’s other series, where she directed an episode entitled “What Lies Beneath.”