Flashpoint is the best cop show you’re not watching
Canadian favorite ‘Flashpoint’ is coming to a close, but why didn’t audiences in the United States ever get into the show as much as our brothers to the north?
In the three-or-so years I’ve been working for CliqueClack, I’ve started a post about Flashpoint four different times. It is a show I like a great deal, but I’ve created a variety of excuses for not wanting to write about it. Considering just how great the show has gotten in its final two seasons (the first part of the series finale airs this week in Canada), it’s a crying shame that the show never found a greater audience in the States. If you’ve missed out, it is definitely a show to circle back around to (it is available on Netflix); American fans of the show are in for a great couple of episodes as the series comes to a close.
For those unfamiliar with Flashpoint, the show follows the exploits of Team One of Toronto’s fictional Strategic Response Unit, based on the city’s real Emergency Task Force – SWAT for American audiences. Each episode beings in medias res, showing the “flashpoint” of an incident, where guns are usually out and sighted and tension is at its highest. The show then flashes back to the past, showing the steps that lead the team and the subjects up to that crucial moment.
Flashpoint is filmed and produced in Canada, and originally aired as a joint production between CTV and CBS. The history of when – and how – the show aired in the States likely has a lot to do with the show’s challenges at catching on here. CBS primarily used the show as a midseason replacement – for filing the holes created by cancelled shows – and split blocks of episodes into different years. As a result, some of the season-long arcs were spread out across multiple “seasons” in the States instead of they were originally conceived and aired in Canada. Don’t get me wrong, Flashpoint is far from a heavily serialized story, but there have been story elements and thematic elements that have been disrupted because of the way CBS aired the show.
Seasons four and five – or perhaps some of three … or some of four … it does get a bit confusing – have aired on ION in the States. It’s likely just coincidental, but in these two years the show has gone from being good to great. In both years there was a greater focus on two similar serialized story arcs. In season four, team leader Greg Parker (Veronica Mars’ always outstanding Enrico Colantoni) experienced a crisis of confidence in his ability to make critical decisions and lead a team. As Team One’s primary negotiator, such a challenge leads to big problems for the team. The arc also coincided with a recurring role for Victor Garber as the psychologist assigned to evaluate Team One – and Parker – and determine if they were fit for duty.
Flashpoint’s final season has raised the stakes even higher. In the season premiere, Parker’s second and the team’s tactical leader Ed Lane (Hugh Dillon) is forced to shoot a young woman who had been their protectee until she pulled a gun on her abusive father. His actions were terrible, but they were following procedure. His actions have haunted him ever since, showing audiences the high level of emotional trauma that police officers go through.
The focus these last two seasons has been on the long-term effect the job has on the cops that are often asked the most of. There’s been a great deal of attention in the media recently — thankfully so — on the challenges that service members face when returning from war. Flashpoint has crafted several stories reminding us that post-traumatic stress comes in more than one flavor.