Flashpoint is not about the crisis per se, it's not about possible terrorism or even about a crazed individual. Instead, it's about aftermath.


Airtime: Fridays, 10pm ET
Cast: Enrico Colantoni, Hugh Dillon, Amy Jo Johnson, David Paetkau, Michael Cram, Sergio Di Zio, Ruth Marshall, Mark Taylor, Janaya Stephens
MPAA rating: N/A
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: CBS
US release date: 2008-07-11

"You know why we're all here?" asks Sgt. Gregory Parker (Enrico Colantoni). "It's about helping you. Do you understand? Help. Understand?" Actually, no. The man he's trying to reach does not understand. He's not close to understanding. It's not enough that he's Croatian and apparently speaks no English, but he's also got a big gun in his hand, held close to the head of a whimpering blond office worker wearing pink. Add to that that the camera tends to circle him from below, the yellowy sky is laced with time-lapsed clouds, and worst of all, the soundtrack is filled with an ominous undertone and Muslim adhan -- ever the sign of big fat trouble in Western mass media.

Parker is no slouch. He knows his time is short, that his subject's increasing panic can only lead to trouble, that his own calm and focus are crucial. As the leader of the Strategic Response Unit (SRU, modeled on Toronto's SWAT-like Emergency Task Force), Parker's been somewhere like this before. And as the star of Flashpoint, a scripted effort -- by way of Canada, picked up for U.S. broadcast during the writers' strike and premiering on CTV and CBS simultaneously on 11 July -- Parker has his hands full too, mostly with clichés.

Aside from the adhan, he's got the circling low-angled camera, the distraught doer-who-might-be-a-terrorist, and multiple SRU members racing to get into positions on rooftops and across streets. He also has that language barrier going on. He keeps his eye on the shooter while demanding translations through his headset: "Give me, uh, 'We wanna help,'" "Give me, 'Calm down!'" None of his versions of these phrases seems to help. The situation is dire. Check check check.

With the crisis thus established, Flashpoint cuts back in time to the beginning of this day, when one of Parker's snipers, Ed Lane (Hugh Dillon), is doing his best to get out the door. Predictably, his wife Sophie (Janaya Stephens) is riding him for being over-committed to the job: "The world is not gonna end," she remarks from her appointed place in the kitchen, "if you and your friends miss a few pushups." He harrumphs, as he must, then heads outside to his buddy's vehicle, the two of them offering a few bars of Gilbert & Sullivan to appease her: "When constabulary duty's to be done, to be done, / A policeman's lot is not a happy one, happy one."

As Ed heads off toward the crisis to come, the show cuts to the very, very unhappy shooter, Goran (Xhemail Agaj). He's riding a subway with his son Petar (Danijel Mandic), whom he embraces as they part ways. Head hanging, eyes dark, Goran is immediately typed as a problem, though he's granted no motivation or English-language dialogue. Rather, he heads off to see his estranged wife (working as a janitor downtown), extracts from her a terrible price for rejecting him, and ends up with the hostage in his grip and surrounded by television cameras, civilians, and cops galore. Again, Flashpoint does what you expect: Ed and the other sniper, Jules (Amy Jo Johnson), set up on rooftops, monitors and cameras are deployed, and forensic psychologist Kate (Ona Grauer) make obvious observations ("I'm thinking, multiple stressors"). The music gets louder, the camera jerks about, the shooter looks increasingly "stressed."

And then, the scene pivots. Suddenly, it's not about the crisis per se, it's not about possible terrorism or even about a crazed individual. Instead, it's about aftermath. Specifically, aftermath for the ostensible heroes (a brief Homicide: Life on the Streets-like montage at the episode's end, complete with sad pop song, offers a glimpse at the shooter's son, bereft in the morgue). When the "hostage situation" ends violently, the poorly characterized Goran is essentially left behind on the sidewalk, while the team members undertake to deal with one another (competitors, buddies, urban warriors) and to square their moral sense with what they do for a living.

As the series thus begins to probe the emotional effects of split second decisions and causing traumatic violence, it does through assorted and refracted angles. Some of these begin from conventional places: Jules is plainly trying hard to be included in the boys' club, while also feeling inclined to nurture. The shrink offers regular advice with unsurprising snark ("You're not gonna have any sleepless nights, flashbacks, memory loss, time distortions; you're not gonna feel alone, feel guilty, feel guilty about not feeling guilty. That's what happens to other people. You'll be fine"). And a new kid named Sam (David Paetkau) arrives just in time to disrupt established relationships and bring with him recent, harrowing military experience (indicated in his sad look at photos of erstwhile buddies in uniform).

However Flashpoint works through the distress and damage it lays out here, it gets points for beginning with the difficulty, not with the triumph. Now, if it can just figure a way beyond the scary perp clichés.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.