Tonight’s episode of Flashpoint is “I’d Do Anything” (new to CBS, rerun for CTV). This episode is all about conflict, choice, and consequence. It is the fifth of six episodes airing for the first time on CBS; Fridays at 8:00.
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This is one of my favourite episodes, even though it’s not quite as high octane as some of the others. I’m going to credit a lot of people here because I think it’s worth noting how — strictly on a dramatic level — there were home runs all over.
Synopsis: Based on information from a confidential informant, Detective Merry Danner tasks Team One with conducting a high risk raid on a night club, where major players in the bank card fraud racket are meeting. A split-second decision turns the nighttime raid into an overnight chase.
Pam, Bob, and Weave
The script from Pamela Davis (House) and Bobby Theodore (Instant Star) is what, in my own lingo, I call a strongly-woven tapestry. There are effectively ten main characters in the story and each one is drawn with care despite the crisscrossing plotlines. From a storycraft standpoint, what makes this successful is that none of the attention feels spotlighted for too long nor does it slow the momentum. For that, I applaud the writers. Too often in television and movies, and in my own efforts at fiction, the writer spends too much time on a single character and the story’s pace grinds to a halt. Pamela and Bobby did a fine job of moving the story along while keeping the characters solid and never losing steam.
All our SRU team members get some play here. Despite being the penultimate episode before “Fault Lines” (which marks the break in show’s run — midseason in Canada, ‘new’ season in the US), this is one of the episodes I’d show to newbies in order impress them with and prime them for the show. Sure, we get more from Greg, Ed, Jules, and Spike than we do from Sam and Wordy, but it has a great team feel to it, nonetheless.
And the guest stars are wonderful, too. I mean just wunderbar. The main actors and those in smaller roles are all solid, rounded, and believable. Even the bigwig Euro-crook’s assistant (played by Christine Tizzard), who looks the part as a runway-esque ice queen, seems far more in-depth than your average 3-line bit player. The assistant, her jet-setting boss, the hacker, and even the waitress interviewed later each feel like fully-realized characters. It’s a goal of this series (any good series, in fact) to achieve that dramatic level in every episode but “I’d Do Anything” sets the benchmark for Flashpoint. No one feels like they’re just running lines. Especially not the main guest stars.
The Really, Real World
Rachel Blanchard (Jackie Emery) and Tim Rozon (Alex Carson) establish their connection right away and, given the Flashpoint-style intro, we know their passion is going to come to a head. Rachel is already an acting veteran at just 35-years old and her experience shows (she was in The Littlest Hobo, by gum!) as she carries much of the emotional weight of the episode. Tim Rozon some of you may recognize from his smoldering run in Instant Star, which scored him a legion of smitten fans. And Richard Chevolleau as the once-closest pal (Tom) now bitterly second-fiddle may seem cliche but I found it forgivable because it’s so very common in real life. Richard (a fellow Jamaidian) also has a lengthy resume which runs a heady gamut from Four Brothers to a starring role in Earth: Final Conflict. These three are no neophytes.
I’ve seen this episode several times and each time I can’t help but wonder if there would be a We Own The Night potential for a spin-off. Sure it’s silly because the “nightclub owner caught betwixt the law and the underworld” trope has its limits (just see the series Las Vegas for an example) but Alex and Jackie make a strong case for exploring it. The strength of this episode come from it feeling less like these characters have been created for this tale and more like we’ve come across lives already in progress. Honestly, I haven’t been this intrigued by what happens to the guest characters after the show since “Attention Shoppers”.
Natalie Brown as ‘Detective Merry Danner’ is just as intriguing. At first, you may think she’s just another up-and-comer detective who likes to get her hands dirty once in a while but listen closely. She’s specifically tasked to financial crimes and is the lead detective in a cyber-fraud investigation. That means she must know her way around a computer, which means … well, you’ll see. She’s perhaps the least strong of the guest cast but still believable as the hungry-eyed detective, and I still want to see more of her character. Which is not so much a criticism as it is an interest in Danner’s past and future.
‘Skimming‘, by the way, is as big a problem as the show portrays. In Canada (much more so than the US), we use our bank cards all the time and, as a former security professional, I can tell you it’s a very big problem for the banks. Not so much the private citizen as, in most cases, the banks will refund your losses but that means it comes out of their pockets. Furthermore, the organized crime groups take their business seriously. If you think someone is engaged in stealing bank card info, take as much note of it as you can in the moment and — this part’s important — when you’re safely away from the situation, contact authorities. The use of cards with chip tech has reduced the threat but there are still ways to steal your info and skim (a term which stems from the notion of ‘skimming off the top’ in smaller amounts so you are less likely to notice).
The Guest Star You Don’t See
We get Davis and Theodore’s well-woven script, more production magic from Melissa R. Byer and Treena Hancock (who gave us “Severed Ties” and “Terror“), and of course the now-steady hands of our showrunners Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern. But there’s one more star most people might miss (so, being the mouthy cuss that I am, I’m not gonna letchya). It’s the director: Helen Shaver.
For those of you who don’t recognize the name, Helen Shaver is an award-winning actor who knows her way around the subject of volatile relationships, and who has been quietly building a long resume of directing in the last few decades, for which she has also garnered awards. As much as I have praised all of the folks above, Helen Shaver’s touch here is a star turn of its own. She’s directed episodes of Medium, The Unit, Private Practice, Law & Order: LA, and NINE episodes of Law & Order: SVU, just to name a few. Her longest run was on Judging Amy (11 episodes), so you know showrunners trust her — even south of the border on big ticket shows. Her experience, intuition, and ability to evoke performance from her actors benefited “I’d Do Anything” immeasurably.
What’s more, according to IMDb (though it remains unconfirmed), Helen Shaver will be back to direct an episode next season (production #4.08), along with writers Pamela Davis and Bobby Theodore. That is good news to me.
Do You Know Where You’re Going To?
So where is Flashpoint headed? Here’s the thing, dear readers, I was a latchkey kid. I’ve followed television shows for a long time and here’s an observation: Most dramatic shows hit their stride somewhere around the third or fourth season. It takes about two years for the showrunners to figure out what they’re doing, how their initial vision needs to be augmented for the medium, who their linchpin players are, and just what boundaries and risks they’re willing to take. The actors have started to settle into their characters and have become comfortable enough to easily run a scene and instinctively find motivation and emotional logic — they may even fight the writing to say, “My character wouldn’t do that.” The crew has established its regimen and mistakes or delays are rarer. Everyone’s gotten their sea legs. The groundwork has been laid.
And if the show lasts that long, it means the people with the money and who make scheduling decisions (like whether you’re on the schedule or not) have developed some trust in the show. Maybe they’ve even developed a rapport with the showrunners. Maybe they even like the show. So, the growing pains are subsiding, the dust is settling, and now the show is reaching apogee. And if there is an arching narrative to the series, then it can hit the high gear somewhere in this sweet spot. In traditional narrative structure, your first few seasons have been the introduction/exposition and the rising action. Now, at this point, you can insert the complication and build towards a climax. You can repeat this ad nauseum but The Powers That Be need to identify and strike while the iron is hot. When is your audience primed for this gear-shift and narrative tension?
For my money, the time is now. And from what is to come in “Fault Lines”, the Flashpoint folks might just agree. But what is that narrative arc of Flashpoint? It’s not an epic tale of war, or a mystery novel, or film noire, or anything quite so overt. But we’ve heard what it is. Mark and Stephanie have said it a dozen times. I’ve even mentioned it in a previous article.
“I’d Do Anything” offers us a hint or two, as have the previous handful of episodes. The thing about Flashpoint is — subtle though it may be — there is a narrative at play in the series, otherwise it would just be another episodic police procedural as some of the more cynical, casual viewers have dismissed it as. I wouldn’t be this enthused if there wasn’t character development.
I don’t know precisely where that narrative means to take us and, ultimately, I’m only guessing at what it truly is. However, this much is certain to me: we’re in the sweet spot. The dust from the building of the show’s framework has settled and now that they know they’ve been given a Season 5, they know they have the latitude to let their narrative breath.
Where is Flashpoint headed? I don’t really know. I’m not privy to what goes on in the writer’s room. But I can tell you I’m pretty excited to find out. I’d do anything to see what happens next. Except that. I won’t do that.
Pop and Lock and Load Me Up
- Was that The Guvernment nightclub? I swear that’s where I saw those manga images on the walls.
- I’m pretty sure a “Pink Floyd” is a reference to “Dark Side of the Moon”.
- The “Leslie Spit” is probably something which confuses everyone outside of Toronto. If you don’t know what it is, you might want to find out here before you watch the show.
- There’s a scene in this epi which makes me yearn for more Jules’-with-windswept-hair.
- Also, I think all the candy bars and confections in the vending machine are utterly free of identifiable logos. Okay, prolly just the first in each row but, still, I want some Flashpoint merchandising in the form of confections in wrappers labeled only: CHOCOLATE, CANDY BAR, or COOKIES.
- Can’t get away without a criticism (which is always meant constructively). So, please, Art Department, fix the spelling error in “CRIMINIAL (sic) RECORD” on the perp screens? I’m begging ya.
- Speaking of narratives, I haven’t forgotten The Mystery Person steering Flashpoint along. That’s coming. After the twist.
- The original sub-heading for this bullet list was “Quick Hits” but it looked so anemic. The current subtitle has absolutely no correlation to the content. Cuz I’m a kooky kid.
- I’m over 2000 words in this post (2034 to be precise). Dear Blogging Conventions: Bite me.
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Flashpoint airs on CBS and CTV, Fridays at 8:00 PM. Join the producers on facebook.com/FPTOne for more insider info. You can also find Mark Ellis on Twitter at @Flashpoint_TV. By the by, I’m also on Twitter at @Rancorr, if you’re into that sort of thing.