First Watch: Motive – “Creeping Tom” (Season 1, Episode 1)

ABC must be missing the good ol’ days because their newest show looks to be inspired by Columbo. Motive introduces the Victim and Killer first, skipping what is often the first half of the mystery.  After you strip away whodunit, you’re left with one mystery—the motive. Ah. That’s the title of the series and the same formula Columbo used back in the day.

Detectives Angelika Flynn (Kristin Lehman) and Oscar Vega (Louis Ferreira) investigate murders in British Columbia. My first thought was the same as yours: Canadians kill other Canadians? But I guess it happens. It would be fair to call Flynn the main character because the show does follow her life outside of the precinct, while Vega’s life is almost as much of a mystery as the crimes they solve. Flynn has a son, Manny (Cameron Bright), a good kid who has a knack for finding trouble. I appreciate the mother-son relationship; Flynn does the best she can as a single, working parent. Vega is the series’ single greatest homage to Columbo. Nostalgia is possibly one of the easiest entrances into an audiences heart and Motive enters tactfully.

The walking talking homage.

The walking talking homage.

The show operates using a flashback mechanic. The narrative is straightforward so far, but I’m afraid they’ll complicate things eventually. Often more interesting than the flashback is the transition. The editing is superb, but the scene transitions are fun to watch — and if I’m entertained by editing, they’re doing something right.

There isn’t much of a through line, but the characters are given distinct personalities. Detective Brian Lucas (Brendan Penny), the rookie, is often used as an intern: for coffee runs, sorting through a ton of files, and bagging the evidence that had been smashed into a million pieces. He’s around for minor comic relief — although, I find the degradation of the new guy a little off-putting. Brian has “sweet-guy-syndrome”; he’s constantly doing what he’s told with a smile. He’s a cadet. On the other side of the coin we’re introduced to Dr. Betty Rogers (Lauren Holly), the medical examiner. Dr. Rogers is an older, very attractive, woman. You can catch her wearing her trademark, brightly colored outfit under her white lab coat. I chose to say brightly colored, instead of slightly seductive, which is what they really are. She provides the deadpan one-liners Vega occasionally misses, and you can catch her bisecting a human while answering the detectives’ questions..

As with most police procedurals, the stories are episodic. We see a bit of Flynn’s life, but, for the most part, every episode’s plot is completely separate from every other episode. I prefer a story arc. This show is entertaining — quick and sharp dialog, superbly edited, and well acted — but it’s also surprising. I could not figure out why this kid killed that teacher. I had my theories, but they weren’t quite there. Of course, they did withhold a vital piece of information: the whole reason the killer was in the victims house to begin with. Yes, the motive. I understand why they want to save it for the big reveal — the show is based around the motive — but it’s counter-intuitive to the way an investigation is run. The upside? You might never be able to figure out the motive on your own. The downside? You might never be able to figure out the motive on your own.

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