M: Thanks to the final Presidential debate, there was no new episode of Castle for us to review this week. In its place I am going to provide a PSA. Anyone who has read this space regularly knows that I have been a huge advocate of the Canadian show Flashpoint ever since coming across it on CBS’s summer line up a few years ago. Well, thanks to the ineptitude of Ion (the American network that is airing new episodes of it), I wasn’t able to write about it in our Fall TV previews, as no one had any clue when it was going to premiere. Thankfully my DVR was still set up to find it, and when the fifth and (completely bafflingly) final season premiered on October 16th, I was able to catch it. Let me just say, it is back, and better than ever. Since it’s your final chance to catch fresh episodes of what is literally one of the best shows on TV, and the best police procedural by far, I figured I’d do a public service and give you all the heads up. It’s on on Tuesdays (like tonight!) at 11:00 on Ion (which used to be PAX in another life).
From here on out there will be spoilers, so you have been warned.
Most shows, but especially procedurals, have some formula to them. Castle, the usual review in this time frame, will usually start with showing either a murder or the discovery of a body, and then switch over to a call from Beckett to Castle to bring him in on the case. In Flashpoint‘s case, episodes usually start with a quick clip of a scene in the middle of the case, and then it bounces back to the start of the case. It does a good job of setting a level of tension from the start, as well as giving us as the audience something to look forward to. Mrs M and I like to try to guess how many hours they are going to jump back. It’s also fun to try to guess how far in the episode will go before you catch up to that opening scene. Most of the time, and this episode was no different, it is somewhere smack in the middle of it, but occasionally it’s either really early or really close to the end. In Broken Peace, this season’s premiere, all we got to see in this preface was a girl watching a video feed of a man holding a woman at gunpoint, then gasping “Mom!” It quickly jumped back to 8 hours earlier (for those who care, I had guessed 3).
The scene it bounced back to was of one of our main characters, Toronto P.D.’s Strategic Response Unit (SRU) team leader Ed Lane (Hugh Dillon), speaking about his job to the high school class of both his son and his boss Greg Parker’s (Parker is played by the always great Enrico Colantoni). It serves as a “here’s the premise of the show for new viewers”, and did a decent job of at least giving the audience visual introductions to the main cast. Lane explains that they are like a SWAT team, but they specialize in negotiation, and that the use of force is always their absolute last resort.
As the episode sets up we are introduced to the family at the center of the episode, a mother and daughter, Michelle and May, and estranged father, James. The women are in the process of moving into a new apartment, and the mother very pointedly tells her daughter that she’s the strongest person she knows. When combined with the scene of James attempting to call May to wish her happy birthday, her screening his call, and then him pleading, then heatedly fighting with his landlord who is ready to evict him, you start to get a picture of an abusive relationship that the daughter helped the mother run from, and a man on the edge.
The episode really gets going when James heads to the club where May’s boyfriend Tobias is setting up to DJ. When James pulls a gun and demands to know where Michelle and May are, the club manager calls 911 and the SRU gets involved. While they try to ascertain details from the manager, he gets antsy and tries to take out the crazy dad, quite unsuccessfully, though none of the shots that the SRU team can hear fired find their mark. As the team arrives at the club, James has gotten away and Tobias no where to be found. A DMV search and an ensuing high speed chase lead to Tobias being discovered alive in the trunk of James car, but that discovery allows James to slip away.
As the SRU team puts together the pieces of what is happening, they attempt to track down both Michelle and May. They find May but not Michelle, who went to work but hasn’t been found yet at the apparently incompetent hotel she works for. The team picks up May to get information, and she quickly makes an impact on them, and us in the audience. She gives details of their plight, how they’ve moved several times, how her father has violated restraining orders, found their cell phone numbers, and how her boyfriend has done everything he could to make them feel safe. She asks for Lane’s first name, and makes a connection with him. Then we see one more flashback of James accusing Michelle of spending them into financial trouble, then shattering a plate while May eavesdropped in the doorway, coming in at the right moment to prevent any harm, and comforting her mom when James left the room.
As things progress May is brought along to the hotel as they search for her mom, and on the way there, as both Parker and Lane try to ensure her that they will do everything they can to bring her mom home safely, she asks them their first names again. They respond and she states back “Ed and Greg, I’m going to hold you to that”. It was a very powerful moment, and further endeared her to both the team and audience. May ends up with surveillance/computers/explosives expert Spike Scarlotti (Sergio Di Zio) in the surveillance van when they get to the hotel, and banters with him as he tries to pass off as magic what she correctly guesses was the hotel giving him access to their network of cameras.
James had a head start on them, however, and gets to Michelle first, holding her and the rest of the hotel kitchen staff at gunpoint. This is where we catch up to the initial scene of the episode, with May seeing him holding her mom at gunpoint in the kitchen. The SRU team sets up and tries to talk him down, which starts out fairly well, getting him to release the rest of the people from the room, and guiding the conversation to make him feel in control. He keeps stating that he wants to see his daughter, and that they shouldn’t be kept from him. However, Michelle’s new boyfriend, the chef at the restaurant, tries to intervene and inadvertently lets James get away with Michelle in tow.
They get trapped in an elevator, however, and Spike routes it to the roof to keep them clear of crowds, but also lets them out to keep James from snapping and killing Michelle. As the team heads up, May asks to be able to join them and try to talk her father down. She points out that he’s different with her than anyone else and that her birthday was the trigger for this action on his part. The team mulls it over, and eventually all agree to let her come. With both Lane and another team member, sniper Sam Braddock (David Paetkau), in place in case things go wrong, they try to talk James down. While that’s happening May asks why they don’t shoot to disable him, and they explain to her that their protocol is to always shoot to kill, as they can never be sure if someone will get a shot off, or actually be incapacitated by an arm or leg shot. That’s why it is always their last possible resort. Eventually, they allow May her chance, with team member Jules Callaghan (Amy Jo Johnson) holding her shoulder and Spike to her other side to protect her.
When James sees her his demeanor does change, and for a moment things look like they may end well, as they often but not remotely always do on this show. However, part way through the conversation he turns back to blaming Michelle, and starts to threaten her again. Out of seemingly nowhere (her purse, in reality), May pulls a gun and starts to move toward her father, now threatening him. Lane is forced to switch to train his rifle on her, as a second hostile target, while Braddock stays on James. While the stunned team tries to get to her, May starts shooting, sending two shots off into the rooftop wall, nearly missing her father. Before a thirds shot can be fired, Parker grudgingly gives Lane the fire command, and after his rifle sounds May drops to the rooftop.
Everyone, from James and Michelle to the whole SRU team, is distraught over the outcome. Mrs M cried, and I have to say, the room got awfully dusty for me, too. Eventually, James is cuffed and taken away, while the SRU team is left to return to base, finish their shift and go over what happened. At their headquarters we see Lane meeting with the internal investigator, discussing the shooting, protocol and why two shots were allowed to be fired before he had to be given the kill command. Returning to the squad room, he walks into a heated debate about whether or not they did the right thing. They all argue, with Spike and Jules near tears feeling like they were to blame for letting her get away, and Parker blaming himself for letting her on the roof to being with, for which he’s rebuked because they all signed off on that decision. Lane and Braddock argued that the team followed protocol, that there was no way for them to know she’d have a gun, and that they can’t frisk all their witnesses. In the end it’s Raf (the newest team member, having just hit his one year mark with the group) who loses it, saying that they should have made an exception, and should have let May kill James. When Lane argues with him about them not getting to wing it, despite how they all feel, Raf states that he’s proud of the work he’s done over the past year, but that this situation can never happen again for him, and that he has to “keep the peace” somewhere else, and quits.
Now, the thing about this show is that it will alternately leave you really high or really low, but it will move you either way. The characters that they create, like May Dalton in this episode, or like the Logan family in the amazing third season episode Thicker Than Blood, can grab you so quickly and so completely. They make you care, and you become invested in them. It’s what was so successful, in my opinion, about the first season or two of ER, before it became a soap opera about the regular characters. It was a weekly drama centered around compelling guest characters. Like that, Flashpoint makes you care. It makes you sad when something terrible happens, and ecstatic when something good does. There aren’t many chances left for us to catch new episodes of it, so I suggest that you start tonight.