Flashpoint: Season 4
Cop shows have been the backbone of network television program for over sixty years. The reason is simple. The job of the police, keeping the peace and investigating crimes inherently is full of drama, conflict and intense emotions. This format is so powerful, successful and lucrative that hardly a season goes by with one or more police procedural series being broadcast. In fact the trend has spread beyond our borders to most nations. One county just to our north has become a rich source of programming for us, including police shows. One of the better ones is under consideration here, ‘Flashpoint’. It is basically the Canadian take on a cult classic shoe from the seventies, ‘S.W.A.T.’ The Canadian version is well able to stand on its own merits although it is fascinating to compare the techniques used in the States almost forty years ago with the modern Canadian methods. Of course in ‘S.W.A.T.’ there was usually a cursory attempt at negotiation with armed hostage takers but most times someone is certain to get shot. ‘Flashpoint ‘demonstrates an amazing degree of restraint during a crisis situation. They first try a psychological resolution then, escalating to ‘less lethal’ methods before the command, Scorpio’ is given; the order for the sniper to take the lethal shot. I’ve been a fan of this series going on four years now. Initially it was not available through my cable provider so I waited until the review copy of the DVD season set came in. Now, the series has garnered sufficient popularity that it is being broadcasted through American affiliates, CBS and ION, as well as several well established streaming video sites. It is fairly easy to tell this series came from up north, besides the obvious, ‘aboot’ and exceptionally clean streets. It is cast predominantly Canadian but there is a subtle difference in the look and feel but one thing; despite the kinder gentler affect the quality is excellent, in some ways superior to the same sort of show produced locally. The series has so far made it to the fourth season now on DVD and it has been given the go-ahead for number five.
‘Flashpoint’ is roughly modeled after the Emergency Task Force in the Toronto
Police force. In this the team is referred to as the ‘Special Response Unit’ or
‘SRU’ set in an ambiguous Canadian city. This is the first of the subtle
differences; we concentrated on weapons and tactics while here the focus is on
special circumstances of the response. Hondo was a rough and ready squad leader
typically in the thick of it with his team members. The SRU is commanded by
Sergeant Greg Parker (Enrico Colantoni) who is the front lines but typically in
their ad-hoc command post. It is up to him to attempt to peacefully defuse the
situation through his skillful expertise in negotiation. Even while he is
talking down the subject Greg is busy evaluating the observations and
recommendations from his team planning the next move should escalation become
necessary. In line with this each member of the squad had a specialty although
there is an extraordinary degree of cross training. While Greg is the hub of the
group Constable Ed Lane (Hugh Dillon) serves as the field leader in charge of
onsite tactics and negotiations. He is also a seasoned sniper when the need
arises. The other designated sniper is Constable Jules Callaghan (Amy Jo
Johnson). Besides the long shot Jules is a specialist in gather intelligence so
the proper assessment of the circumstances can be made in the proper context.
There is an ongoing plot thread concerning her romantic involvement with another
team member Constable Sam Braddock (David Paetkau). As a former military man he
is used to remaining calm in the most intense situations. His role is more in
line with lethal force as a resolution; the go to man of last resort. Spike
Scarlatti (Sergio Di Zio) is the team’s demolition and technical expert. Usually
he is in the command van coaxing necessary information from the computer but is
quick to get in the thick of things. At the end of season three his dying father
begged him to transfer out of the SRU. Wordy Wordsworth (Michael Cram) is the
expert in entry tactics and less lethal solutions. He is forced to leave when
diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. He is then replaced by Raf Rousseau (Clé
Bennett), a reckless newcomer that puts him and other at risk.
For the most part the series remains on track as a police procedural but there are times when the season arc dips into the realm of the prime time soap opera. Beside the most obvious ploy of the forbidden romance there is an ongoing story line where Team One is under administrative review that threatens Greg’s position and the future of the team working together. The external audit of their performance and interpersonal dynamic raised a red flag due to the extraordinary number of high tension situations and the toll it took on the team members. While a significant amount of story time is devoted to these plot devices but this is done with more care than you typically find in similar series here. What remains at the core of the series is action. Despite the perchance for negotiation or less lethal resolution the situations they face each episode are tense and tautly written. They encompass the usual assortment circumstances ranges from bomb threats to hijackers and armed robberies. With the proper mix of personal drama and crime thriller this series achieves and amazingly entertaining show. More than a cut and dry crime show this one delves into the personal toll these constant life or death situations takes on the human beings behind the badges.