25 Days of Crime-mas Day 25: Motive is well worth figuring out

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 01: Kristin Lehman attends the Premiere Of Netflix's "Altered Carbon" at Mack Sennett Studios on February 1, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 01: Kristin Lehman attends the Premiere Of Netflix's "Altered Carbon" at Mack Sennett Studios on February 1, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images) /

Motive takes a fresh look at TV crime dramas from the opposite direction, which makes it a great way to end our 25 Days of Crime-Mas countdown.

We’ve reached the end of our 25 Days of Crime-Mas, and we’ve saved a great TV crime drama for last: the Canadian entry Motive.

Airing on CTV for four seasons, the series literally flipped the script by focusing not on identifying the criminals, but exploring why they committed each crime. The episodes were less of a mystery and more figuring out the people involved.

While the series had a truncated run on ABC, many American viewers either missed it when it was on, or didn’t get to see it entirely after ABC dropped the series and it wound up on USA. But it’s so much better than what happened to it, and we’re about to explain why.

Here’s why Motive should be on your watchlist:

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Why, not whodunit

Every TV crime drama searches for a hook, and Motive had a different approach to it. It didn’t try a new city or a gimmicky type of premise; instead, it changed the way it structured the entire show. It’s a modern version of Colombo, but less over the top and more intriguing.

Each episode reveals both the killer and the victim to the audience at the start, not necessarily in that order. It’s then up to the viewer to figure out why the murderer would kill that person, while the detectives search for the guilty party. They unravel the case as they go, allowing the audience to play along—so even though we know more than the heroes do, we don’t completely understand it until someone’s in handcuffs.

The cast

Canadian crime dramas have usually been well cast, and Motive was no exception. The lead of the series was Kristin Lehman (The Killing) as the jaded but experienced Det. Angie Flynn, who was not just great at her job but genuinely fun to watch, as opposed to the many moody cops on TV shows past and present.

Angie’s partner was the stoic Det. Oscar Vega (Louis Ferreira, Stargate Universe), and the two were balancing one another out perfectly. Lauren Holly (NCIS) and Brendan Penny rounded out the ensemble as the coroner and junior detective Brian Lucas respectively.

The show also starred two great actors in the supervisor’s role that helped set the show apart: the first season had Roger Cross (24) supervising the team, while Warren Christie (Eyewitness) took it over for seasons 2 and 3. Unfortunately, neither one made it to the series finale, as there was a big shakeup in season 4.

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What is Motive about?

Motive is an examination of what makes people resort to murder and other crimes. Viewers may know the who from the start, but it doesn’t make any sense until they put the pieces together and are able to get at the why. Very few episodes are truly random; most of them involve people who are hurt by those closest to them, often for surprising reasons.

Most cases are self-contained, though season 3 sees Angie on a season-long quest to topple a powerful businessman, wonderfully played by Victor Garber of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow fame. And there are subplots that extend over multiple episodes, giving the team some continuity even while their investigations end.

Why should you watch?

The series truly sets itself apart from others in the genre because of the “whodunit” concept. It keeps the show fresh, as opposed to other shows which feel like standard cop programs just in another city.

The cast is great, as well; Lehman is top-notch and sets the bar high for the rest of the actors. She and Ferreira are like Canada’s version of Benson and Stabler from Law & Order: SVU, and Motive is taken to another level when the underrated Christie joins the cast.

And while there’s personal drama and love interests for the characters, that stuff is relatively minimal in the series (at least until season 4), so fans can focus on the crimes and the fallout rather than the relationships.

Episodes to watch

“Crimes of Passion” (season 1, episode 2) gets the show off to a strong start when the guilty party is played by Noam Jenkins (Rookie Blue). Jenkins is the kind of guy you love to hate playing another politician caught in a scandal, but this one’s a lot worse than you’d expect.

“They Made Me A Criminal” (season 2, episode 2) continues to introduce Warren Christie’s character Mark Cross, but will be most memorable for an excellent performance by Jennifer Beals (The Chicago Code) as a woman who goes completely off the deep end.

“Kiss of Death” (season 2, episode 12) guest stars another Rookie Blue alum, Enuka Okuma, as the murder victim. It’s a lot of fun to see her on the other side of an investigation after all of her years playing Traci Nash, not to mention her current role as Deputy Anna Hulce on the YouTube series Impulse.

Next. See the full 25 Days of Crime-mas schedule. dark

What do you think of Motive? Which TV crime dramas are making your list for the 25 Days of Crime-mas? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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