With the influx of crime procedurals on television, the last thing anyone wants to see is another cop show about psychotic killers, methodical detectives and gory crime scenes. So the fact that Motive steered clear of all those tropes not only made the show so appealing to CTV, it also influenced the network to give it the choicest of all scheduling slots: the post-Super Bowl hour.
After a flurry of applause-worthy, country-wide advertising campaigns, Motive debuts Sunday night, bringing with it a unique twist in the crime drama family — viewers are immediately introduced to both the killer and the victim, and then stay with each of them through a series of flashbacks that piece together the story of what happened and why. Linking those scenes together is the investigation led by Det. Angie Flynn (Kristin Lehmen, The Killing) and Det. Oscar Vega (Louis Ferreira, Breaking Bad), as well as some clever camera transitions with inanimate objects.
While the twist seems gimmicky at first, upon closer look it actually allows for plum guest-starring roles with more character development than the traditional format, thanks to the time spent following the killer. Thankfully, it also avoids the cliché end scene in which the killer will invariable realize that he or she is cornered, and therefore bitterly confesses everything all to the hero detective.
Also unlike other cop procedurals with hard-lined female leads, Motive allows its star, Angie, to have an actual personality. As a single mother she definitely toes the tired line of having it all at work and dealing with a messy home life thanks to her wayward teenaged son (played by Breaking Dawn’s Cameron Bright), but the character cracks a smile every so often, and thanks to Lehman’s portrayal, is immediately likeable and down-to-earth. It’s clear why she beat out fellow Canadians Andrea Roth and Sophie Brown for the role.
Her relationship with Vega is light and easygoing, and while there is a close friendship there, it comes across as only that, and never as a potential romantic tryst. Perhaps the biggest part of Angie’s charm, her nonchalant attitude, is inspired by one of the most successful TV detectives of all-time: Columbo.
Much like the late Peter Falk, Lehman plays the character as someone with seemingly chaotic and unprepared methods, while the writers script her as a quirky detective who is on top of her game but disarming. It doesn’t hurt that Angie loves her old ’86 Hurst the way Columbo loved his Peugeot, or that she finds herself in comical situations, such as in the pilot when she thinks she can talk down a vicious dog.
In “Creeping Tom,” viewers are not only introduced to the rest of team (including Brendan Penny as young Det. Brian Lucas, Roger Cross as Srg. Boyd Bloom, and Lauren Holly as Coroner Betty Rogers), but we meet guest star and New Kids on the Block crooner Joey McIntyre as a high school teacher who is murdered by one of his students, played by Tyler Johnston. Fans of the former boy band should definitely watch for McIntyre’s big karaoke number.
The offering opens with a football scene that’s pretty perfect considering the episode lead-in, but most of the hour feels overly dark in terms of camera work, and has that inescapable, cheesy feel of a pilot that has to introduce you to characters you’re supposed to care about. Also problematic are the scenes between Angie and her son, which border on weird thanks to dialogue that includes Angie asking her son’s girlfriend about her breasts.
As an overall show, however, Motive will be the next big Canadian hit, one that deserves several episodes to find its footing and a long life in the television landscape. There is amazing potential for award-winning stories and memorable guest stars, but as is the Canadian way, it never takes itself too seriously. The characters are relatable, fresh and intriguing, with just the right amount of comedic relief for the subject matter led by the luminous Lehman.
Kudos should once again be given to CTV for not only attempting shows of a different nature, but for believing in Canadian content and promoting Motive almost as much as it has promoted another midseason bigwig and U.S. acquisition, The Following.
Motive debuts on Sunday, Feb. 3 after the Super Bowl on CTV. The following week it shifts into its permanent timeslot, Sundays at 9 p.m. ET. ABC, which picked up the show in the U.S., will air Motive this summer.