Motive and King and Maxwell premieres both ran at the beginning of the summer. At the time, I had been stretched between all kinds of whodunits using the episodic formula of coppers cracking crimes and cuffing criminals, and I was unenthusiastic about ingesting more. The last thing I needed was a CSI-type series without any major plot or character development like Motive cramping my style. Comparatively, I was almost excited by the prospect of reviewing a buddy-cop, detective crime-dramedy like King and Maxwell. Never judge a show before seeing it.
I discovered Motive is a well-acted, well-written, and in-depth study of the human being, while King and Maxwell is decidedly bland. Motive provides interesting and dynamic situations for ordinary people to become killers due to their primal emotions, while King and Maxwell provides sex appeal. When this dawned on me, it became clear that I owed this show a Turning Point, but how could I accurately display the twist and turns inherent, not only in the story, but the human psyche, as well? I’ve decided to walk through an episode providing details of characters, guessing the motive of the killer along the way.
Each episode begins with the reveal of a killer and a victim: this time our victim is raw foodist and purveyor/spokesperson for his lifestyle, Jack Bergin (Cameron Bancroft), while the killer, Chloe Myton (Molly Parker) dresses store windows. After a brief look into their lives (mostly to make a point of how unconnected the two are), the scene of the murder is revealed — in this case, Jack’s hot tub — along with the murder weapon, a Taser. At first I think this is a home invasion gone wrong, but who brings a stun gun to a robbery? Not to mention, they’d already done that twice before.
Robbery-gone-wrong would be too easy. The detectives stumble onto a new piece of evidence: Lila’s (Camille Sullivan), Jack’s wife, open house sign-in sheet with Chloe’s name. Jack and Lila bought the house soon after. Motive excels at creating a twisting and turning narrative to connect two people that would not have met otherwise. In that spirit, I hypothesize the killer wanted that house — enough to kill for it. I realize how cheesy that sounds, but I’m trying to stay sharp, look at every possible angle, including the extreme case of home-envy I concocted just now. I didn’t crack the case, yet.
The next item on the police procedure checklist is questioning the neighbors. Everybody has that nosy, borderline-paranoid neighbor, and Jack does, too. This neighbor takes photos of cars on his street. One of the photos caught Chloe. Now we know that Chloe was stalking the happy couple, but why?
The series relies on flashbacks to spin their stories. Turns out our killer had been in therapy for a while, confronting some previous trauma. The session appears innocent enough; possibly a broken heart needed mending. When you add stalking to the mix (and the fact that Jack was a good-looking flirt) it paints the picture of a spurned lover — one of Jack’s old flings who discovered his wife — resolving her issues in a homicidal rage.
Now for the twist: the detectives pay a visit to Lila and find Chloe consoling her. Apparently, the two are best friends. Now we’ve established the link — except they only met a month before she became a widow (at a cooking class). The information created more questions than it answered, but I do have another Hail Mary hypothesis: is Chloe in love with Lila? Did she kill Jack out of jealousy and offer console in hopes Lila will realize her untapped attraction for Chloe? Alright, I admit that might be more of a fantasy than anything.
What about the facts? The alarm system has a few inconsistencies — the killer had the code and a key. With this information, the detectives were also able to extrapolate the amount of time the killer was in the house: long enough to search the garage. My thought goes back to the spurned lover theory; she’s clearly trying to erase evidence of their relationship. The detectives were able to find it, though, and bring Chloe in.
The detectives Angie and Vega found a photo of Chloe and show it to her in the interrogation room. Chloe had tape over her mouth — this photo was not a memento, but a trophy. Jack might have been labeled the victim at the beginning of the episode, but Chloe was a true victim — of rape. It takes a sick person to save a photo of his victim; a true sociopath. On cue, Angie hands her a stack of other photos, full of women with tape over their mouths. She went from a victim enacting revenge on her attacker to a regular Lumen, avenging a myriad of Jack’s victims. Chloe isn’t sorry about what she did — Jack wasn’t sorry, either — and she would do it again. Detective Angie, along with the audience, wonders whether she caught a criminal today or locked up a woman who did the world a favor.
Clearly, I didn’t stand a chance — how could I know Jack was a serial rapist? The crime isn’t the point, though, the moral dilemma is. The actors explored some dark places in the realm of human emotions, and the writers charted some dark territory. Motive is worth the watch and I plan to continue watching the show for as long as it’s on the air. Hopefully Motive will have the stamina of Law and Order or CSI.