Tonight’s episode of Flashpoint is “Terror” (new to CBS, rerun for CTV). It follows a day in the life of Jules. Of course, it’s not a typical day. It is the fourth of six episodes airing for the first time on CBS; Fridays at 8:00.
Synopsis: On Jules’ day off, a man with a handgun holds patrons hostage in a restaurant. The suspect is convinced that there is a terrorist bomb about to go off and demands the presence of the restaurant owner (who is of Arab descent) who is accused of being the lead terrorist.
[I swiped the synopsis from Wikipedia. If you’re a member there and a Flashpoint fan, you should help fill in any gaps on their articles. For that matter, head on over to IMDb as well, join up and provide information there, too.]
Terror. As much as we’d like to think we’ve passed the time when terrorism no longer dominates the headlines, it’s now a part of our cultural DNA in the Western World. It will be for a long time. And before this becomes an article about my geopolitical views (and believe me, stuff has been deleted), let’s just get it out of the way and move on to Flashpoint yumminess:
Anyone who judges others based solely on cultural stereotypes or associated superficiality, is living in a world of fiction which is steeped in ignorance and fear. There are enough real things in the world to be concerned about, so fabricating additional reasons to be afraid of people is like shutting your eyes because it’s hard to see in the dark. Stop fearing, hating, or denigrating others just because you don’t understand them or — worse — refuse to try to understand them.
Okay, moving on.
Let’s Get Technical. Technical. I Wanna Get Technical.
I had a hard time picking out the stills from this episode to — well, to steal some style from Spike — do that hooky happy graphicky thing I do. And the reason for that is unclear because I’m not sure if the credit goes to the episode’s director, Erik Canuel, or its director of photography, Stephen Reizes. Probably a mix of both. In the first half of “Terror” there were just shots after shots which were beautifully framed, blocked, lit, focused, and filmed.
Yes, the director and DoP both are the co-captains of the operation but what little I’ve learned about film and television is that it’s all about collaboration. If everyone doesn’t execute in top form then it brings the whole team’s efforts down. In this episode, the crew performed magnificently. To give you an idea of why it’s important to note the folks behind the camera, let me help you understand what’s required of even a small production when it comes to the cinematography.
Someone writes the story and it gets discussed by the senior Production Team. The Director decides on how they want to shoot the story. The Director of Photography weighs in. Storyboards are drafted. Shot lists and reams of paperwork are generated. The shoot days are set. On the “day-of” everyone shows up. The shot compositions are adjusted. The set is dressed or the location is “cleaned” (including disallowed content like logos). The scene is lit, often several times to compensate for other changes. Cameras are set (which is it’s own micromanagement). The scenes are shot by a Camera Operator, overseen by the Director of Photography and the main Director, and there may also be additional people to deal with running cable, dolly work, lens changes, and focus pulling. Then the actors have to stay “in the moment” throughout the day, despite the machinations going on around them or the breaks in between takes. And then there’s data management and all the post production afterward, including editing.
Here’s the thing. Even if everyone in the above paragraph do their thing to maximum effect, if the guy or gal doing the focus pulling doesn’t do their job, then most of the effort falls flat. That really great tight shot that’s supposed to focus first on a foreground element (like a phone) and then the background (like people in a restaurant) just ends up looking silly or overtly staged. That takes the audience out of their state of suspended disbelief and reminds them they’re watching a television show. That’s a bad thing. All because one person didn’t hit their mark.
So, when I say the crew did a great job on the visuals, I don’t say it lightly.
However, I will name some names. Director Erik Canuel did a fine job not just with the visuals but throughout the episode itself. The pace was great, and the way he staged certain scenes which could have been lackluster was innovative. I didn’t like the location of The Sultan Grill interior. I thought it seemed a bit cramped and lacked inherent dynamism. However, Erik did a fine job of ‘breathing’ in the space he was given. He and the crew, headed by cinematographer Stephen Reizes, captured some magnificent shots given the room they had to play with. So many shots stood out as I was combing the footage for stills that I had trouble paring down the selection for use as the main image in both the promo graphic (above) and the ‘critical incident report’ graphic (below).
Let’s Hear It For The Girls
And I assume both of those fellows were commanded by the duo of Melissa R. Byer and Treena Hancock, who I spoke of in the “Severed Ties” article, and who not only wrote this episode but also co-produced it along with showrunners Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern. So, if you love this episode (which many Jules fans do), you can send your thanks to Melissa and Treena again. They crafted the plan which the crew executed.
Now, I’m not going to get all crushtastic on Amy Jo Johnson. She’s come a long way from a kid’s show to doing this dramatic fare. And, yes, that song at the end is her. [Ed.: You can purchase the album here.] You’d be surprised to know exactly how musical this cast is. I’ll only say this: Amy Jo and Hugh Dillon aren’t the only ones. Winky wink-wink! Nonetheless, it must be said she pulls off another great performance as ‘Jules’ with her well-played beats of Business, Business, Concern, Business, Punch-Your-Heart-In-Its-Kidney. Much as the show itself likes to remind us of (forgive me, Mark and Stephanie, for stealing your lines) the human cost of heroism by showing us the toll the job takes on our team, they also remind us that cops are human in warmer ways, too. You will take note of that at the end.
And speaking of women who make this show what it is, there’s still that mystery figure to whom my confidential informant introduced me and she does her vital job in relative obscurity. Having just watched all the CTV up-front coverage and after reading lots of press about the network’s order for a fifth season of Flashpoint — yes that’s right, a fifth season before a single episode of the fourth season has aired — I can say with certainty, that this person embodies the term: quiet strength. The recent coverage of Flashpoint-related news only furthers the impression I had when I met this mystery figure. We didn’t exchange many words but, I can assure you, I heard a great deal in the silences in between them.
Who is this person? Not yet, dear readers. All things in time.
We Don’t Need Another Novel
Well, I’ve gone on quite enough and haven’t even talked about the exteriors of the restaurant scenes set on The Danforth, in a Toronto borough called The Junction. The Purple Onion Steakhouse and Grill and Solero Mediterranean Bakery are both real, even if The Sultan Grill is not (that I’m not sure about). I haven’t discussed the guest stars who came in and did a bang up job (special shout out to Lara Amersey who played ‘Angela’ and her wonderful moment of righteous indignation which sort of got swallowed up in the POV treatment). Nor have I leveled any hard critique (there wasn’t much aside from what I felt was insufficiently accurate HAZMAT action). Nor the fact that Flashpoint is creeping up to the magical 100-episode mark which means possible perpetual syndication for years to come.
Overall it’s just a strong and thoroughly enjoyable episode in a fine series, and hopefully it (and the remainder of Season 3) brings in more viewers for what I know will be a rousing Season 4. And into the following Season 5 which you know Mark and Stephanie are dreaming up as you read this.
Are you ready for what lies beyond the “Fault Lines”?
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