by Deborah Harter Williams
We’ve all seen plenty of television “Who Dunnits, some “How Dunnits” and even procedurals that focus on how the villains are going to get caught. Motive is a “Why Dunnit?”
This Canadian series was a number one hit at home and is making a visit to ABC on Thursday nights. It challenges the concept of what makes a procedural by telling the viewer right up front not only who is the victim but who is the killer. It’s a restrictive gimmick. Where a Castle or even an NCIS land a body within the first few minutes, there is a certain distance from the corpse as a person. Killers are frequently jealous, greedy or crazy, but aha, once they’re caught there’s a certain sense of satisfaction!
To find out “why” forces the viewer to learn a lot more about the victim and killers. On Motive there can be an uncomfortable understanding, even empathy with the killer and sometimes a feeling that the victim was complicit or even deserved it. Not as gratifying as the more traditional route. For long-term mystery watchers and readers the “Why” seems too easy to anticipate and relies too much on the detective’s intuition.
The lead is a wisecracking and flippant Kristin Lehman from The Killing, as Detective Angie Flynn. She has a teen-age son (Cameron Bright) and knowledge of cars, which frequently comes in handy. Her partner, Oscar Vega (Louis Ferreira–Stargate Universe) is rumpled and attractive–naturally there is bickering, though not a lot of chemistry. Roger Cross is the grumbling boss and Lauren Holly (now a Toronto resident) is Dr. Betty Rogers, the ME. Can’t say she brings anything new to this role, well mined on Castle, Rizzoli & Isles and Burden of Proof.
The ensemble just doesn’t connect in a way that makes me care what happens to them and what they are doing. It’s odd considering that the creator, Daniel Cerone, has excellent credits and successes with The Mentalist, Charmed and Dexter. The show doesn’t take full advantage of the location of Vancouver–a beautiful city that frequently masquerades as New York, Seattle or Portland. The location doesn’t have power the way it does in NCIS: Los Angeles or Person of Interest. A missed opportunity, I’d say.
Ultimately, putting the focus on “why” is an intriguing concept that deserves points for effort, but Motive won’t be on my playlist long term.
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