And so it ends. “Fault Lines” is the last episode of Season 3 for Flashpoint (I’m ignoring alternative season conventions). It’s new to CBS, and a hella rerun for CTV. What’s it about? In short: Pressure cooking. It is the last of six episodes airing for the first time on CBS; Fridays at 8:00.
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If you think it looks the same as “Acceptable Risk”, you’re only half right and three-quarters wrong. That math is hinky and intentionally so. This time, there is no “hot call” to attend. There is just retesting fitness for duty, two silver briefcases, and one guy named Larry.
Synopsis: It is time for Team One to be re-evaluated for marksmanship, combat tactics, endurance, and psychological health. However, it’s been a rough three years and, this time around, the standard test routine is anything but standard.
We Love Doctor Toth
Victor Garber guest stars at Dr. Larry Toth, the ringer of a psychoanalyst whose reputation precedes him. If you’ve watched a single promo for this episode you know, Dr. Toth is notorious for being a team-breaker. Victor Garber, lovely actor that he is, is no stranger to playing an unflinching, steely character on television. For five years, he was father to Jennifer Garner’s ‘Sydney Bristow’ in J.J. Abrams’ spy-fi show ALIAS. Garber is also a veteran of the stage and has several supporting roles on the big screen (including the Captain of the Titanic).
Here, he once again displays his skill at nuance, delivering a character who, though we know little of his backstory outside of a fearsome reputation, is instantly credible with intelligence and expertise. Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern gave Garber a tightrope to walk: Dr. Toth had to be, all at once, loathsome yet respected, relentless yet human, and aggressive yet ultimately compassionate. Garber danced across the tightrope.
Other than Victor Garber, our guest list includes mostly old friends, like Jessica Steen as Donna Sabine, Philip Akin as Commander Holleran, and Tattiawna Jones as everybody’s sweetheart Winnie. Along with a host of flashbacks to both notorious and beloved characters, we also get a peek at Spike’s personal life. How and why we see Dominic and Michelina Scarlatti (played by Louis Di Bianco and Lucy Filippone) is for me to know and you to find out — but it is significant.
In fact, what differentiates “Fault Lines” from “Acceptable Risk” is this very significance. Both episodes looked at Team One with a very deliberate gaze. Both episodes covered past events and leveled criticism at the unit. Yet, at the end of “Acceptable Risk”, what we learned gave us answers. What you will have at the end of “Fault Lines” is questions.
Twist and Shout
This entire episode is about that arcing narrative I spoke of in past articles. While it serves as a great cheat-sheet introduction to our characters and their three-year history on the show, I can’t help but feel it marks a confidence the writers now have. A confidence not only in themselves, their characters, and their actors but also a confidence they have in us, the audience.
The personal lives of Team One, which are usually only touched upon with measured grace, are brought to the forefront under Dr. Toth’s gaze. In a way, Dr. Toth is the manifestation of showrunners Stephanie and Mark. I am reminded of the philosophical questions which power the eternal rumination upon the human condition. That’s a mouthful of ten-penny words to describe these very simply worded questions:
- Who are you?
- What do you want?
- Why are you here?
It excites me that these questions are being asked on the cusp of season 4. This is a complication of the narrative, and that’s a good thing. It’s the necessary hubris of the writer to decide that they’ve done the job of making you familiar enough with the characters and the story that they can shake it up. And what’s more, they have the confidence that you will want to follow them down that path.
This is the maturity of writing someone once saw in Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern.
To quote Doctor Toth: “Your instinct was right.”
The technicals here are up to snuff, once again under the steady direction of David Frazee and with the wonderful eyes of Stephen Reizes, both of whom I’ve highlighted in previous articles. From the opening scene of Ed arriving at SRU HQ (where he pauses to look up at the police flags) to the terse times in the briefing room to the final shot, these gents are on their game, using a visual language to induce the necessary emotion. My favourite shot in the entire episode involves hands which are casually joined. Blink and you’ll miss it but you’d be missing out on ‘a moment’ if you do.
And, of course, none of this works if the actors aren’t along for the ride. Last week I told you that somewhere in the third season of a show the cast members become truly comfortable in their characters’ skins. Now, in “Fault Lines”, in scenes which in essence attack the fabric of their character, our actors can respond with surety and nuance. They fire back with overt indignation, passive-aggression, smiling derision, obstinate defiance, and more.
Enrico Colantoni, Hugh Dillon, Amy Jo Johnson, Sergio Di Zio, Michael Cram, and David Paetkau are ready for the challenge of this script and its rapid-fire dialogue. They are ready for the pressure cooker in which Team One finds itself.
And they are ready for Season 4. Are you?
Gall-Dang Prairie Dog Burrows!
- Way to reinforce superstition, gang! This episode’s production number is 3.13.
- Yes, that’s Hugh Dillon’s music (“My Mistakes”) at the start.
- The end song is “Bluff” by Pilot Speed. To paraphrase Dr. Toth, that’s a curious choice for the montage.
- I’m a huge ALIAS fan, so seeing the former Jack Bristow on Flashpoint was double-plus good.
- What I didn’t like: Too many “Whaddya mean..?”s and not enough Winnie. Seriously, can we get a Winnie episode in S4?
- Michael Cram is getting hitched. Sorry, ladies.
- This brings me full circle with what started me down this path of Flashpoint-specific writing and graphic design because “Fault Lines” is what inspired the mini writing contest held on Flashpoint Team One. I won that competition, much to my surprise, and over the next few weeks I was further surprised and delighted by the people behind the show.
- Ninja edits applied at 7:58 PM today. Take that Team Three!
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Flashpoint airs on CBS and CTV, Fridays at 8:00 PM. The new season starts on July 8th. Join the producers on facebook.com/FPTOne who will probably have things in store as July 8th approaches (they can also be found on Twitter: @FlashpointTeam1).