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Flashpoint: Jumping At Shadows

I've mentioned that I don't seem to cry over Flashpoint the way I used to do. I thought this was going to be the week I went back to my old ways, but then (as noted in the short Friday entries) I opted for cold shivers instead, which persisted through much of the episode.

The episode opens with a little girl alone in a fenced yard, explaining the composition of cirrus clouds to her stuffed monkey, Maurice. She holds him over the fence so he can peek into the yard next door and tell her what he sees--other little stuffies are already sitting up there, apparently enjoying a freedom she and Maurice do not. It's a heartbreaker of a little scene (and seriously, where do the casting directors find these children?)

The heartbreak is cut considerably when someone starts aggressively rattling the padlocked gate of the yard.

Meanwhile, at the dispatch centre for 911, an operator arrives a little late on a busy morning. She gets a call from "Alexis"--the same little girl we've just seen--and reacts as if there is no emergency. It becomes apparent that Alexis is a repeat caller and has been flagged for crying wolf. The operator, Katie, is kind but firm and gets off the line without being pulled into conversation.

The problem is, this time Alexis really does have an emergency.

At about the same time, Winnie looks up from her desk to find a teenage boy hanging around looking anxious. He'd like to see Sgt. Parker. Winnie asks for his name.

And nobody watching is at all surprised when the kid says, "Dean."

At which point Greg appears, folds the kid into an awkward hug, and my throat started closing--Greg just looks so damned vulnerable, and the kid is so uncomfortable. I do get that Greg lost custody for a reason, but he is a changed guy.

[I should also note that my own relationship with my dad is extremely important to me, therefore I am sentimental about dads in general. The Greg-and-Dean thread pushes all my buttons. YMMV.]

Ed comes over to say hello, and after a fumbling moment of embarrassment Dean does remember him, and Clark, and playing on the golf course near Ed's place. (It's been clear for a while that Ed and Greg go way back, but it's clear their friendship predates Greg, at least, being part of the SRU. I'm not planning to pick on timelines, though, since it's possible the timelines have been Pratchetted a little--you know how Pterry will make an offhand reference in one book that he incorporates into the character later on? I'm okay with that.)

Greg and Dean go off for a father-son chat, where Dean explains that he and his mother are in town visiting his aunt, and his mother thinks he's at the movies. There's a cutaway at some point to another scene, then we come back to Winnie getting a call for the team. Greg apologizes and explains that he really has to go. Really. Dean says he understands but it's clear he does not, and resents being blown off. (I still haven't seen last week's episode but I get the impression something similar happened in that one. Don't tell me, okay? I'll make time to watch the episode.)

My two cents on this attitude is: I think you can "know" something intellectually without really knowing it. Does that make sense? You have the information in your mind at a surface level, but you don't really understand the implications. So Dean, while he knows what his dad does for a living, doesn't exactly "get" it. And of course the facts he's been out of touch for years, and Greg was in pretty bad shape when the marriage broke up, and Dean's mother has resisted Greg's efforts to get back in contact to the point that there are now lawyers involved, doesn't help. Dean's had a particular perspective on his own family story for quite some time. He looks surprised to find out that Greg's actually a pretty warm and apparently quite normal guy. But he's here to ask Greg to lay off, and he doesn't look a bit surprised when Greg tells him he's got to go.

He agrees to hang around for a while, at least until his mythical movie would have let out, and Winnie (God love her) lets him hang out with her so instead of stewing in a briefing room, he can actually hear what Greg and the team are up to.

All the above took place in cut-up scenes, which I have run together for storytelling purposes. For the same reason I'm running together what's happening with Alexis at home.

She's called 911 and been passed over to Katie, her particular 911 "friend." Katie has obviously talked to her before and has a lot of sympathy for her, but it's a busy day and she has to be firm.

Until she realizes Alexis is squeaking in terror that someone is in the house. As a viewer it was frankly pretty awful to see both sides of the conversation, because Alexis (who I keep wanting to call Lexie, and I don't know if that's in the script or I just like her) is trying to get the breath and the words to describe her mother struggling with a gunman, and Katie just thinks she's lonely and looking for attention.

Until Katie hears the shot. As a viewer, you know those awful cold shivers that are purely emotional but still make you shake? Yeah. Like that. And Lexie runs to hide under the bed, and we hear this shrill helpless little prey-animal cry of "Daddy!" as someone yanks her out from under, and I actually had to go put on a sweater. No, really.

Katie, realizing what she's done, is almost too spooked to give Lexie's address to the other dispatchers, but she eventually gets it out and that's when Team One is called.

They arrive to find Lexie's mother on the floor in a pool of blood, unconscious but thank God not dead. (I may have said that out loud, when the EMT explained the bullet had glanced off her skull and she was going to live. At that point I had little reason to be attached to the mum character, but I didn't want Lexie to have seen her mother die like that.)

It turns out the family is so reclusive that neighbours didn't even realize they had a child. The shriek at the end of the 911 call leads the team, understandably, to assume the mother was hiding out from an estranged spouse, but it turns out both parents live in the house. While this obviously doesn't rule out a domestic tragedy, Lexie's phrasing in the phone call did--she sounded like she didn't know who the gunman was, and there seems no obvious reason for the dad to be breaking into the house. Greg has the sick feeling that Lexie was actually calling to her father to come protect her.

The team searches the house, which looks like a furnished rental--one that's between tenants. Aside from a few more stuffies (including Maurice, dropped on the floor) there's practically no sign of anyone living here.

Spike finds a safe in the master bedroom. Can he crack it? asks Jules. "Easy peasy," replies Spike, elaborating that "easy peasy" is a highly technical term meaning the owners of the safe seem to have left the factory-set combination rather than choosing their own. Spike, to no one's surprise, knows the factory default.

In the safe he and Jules find several sets of documents under several different names, from Ontario, Manitoba, and BC. It seems highly unlikely the family is international spies, so the next question is whether they're in witness protection.

Well, not exactly. The mother is starting to come around, but before the team can question her properly there are more shots. One of them men who broke into the house has actually come back and taken a shot at his victim. Fortunately, from a distance with a handgun his accuracy is nowhere near as good as Steven Keller's in The Streets of San Francisco, so he misses. Greg and Ed, Sam and Wordy go after him in pairs.

Dean's hearing all this, remember? He's sitting with Winnie, who starts to switch to headphones-only so as not to scare Dean. Dean is scared already. But he's suddenly getting a perspective on his father that even Clark doesn't have on his, and this sudden immersion in what Greg actually does has flipped his idea of his father sideways. (It's like a more traumatic version of what will happen in a few years when Michael Palin's grandchildren see Life Of Brian for the first time.)

The other thing Dean seems to be noticing is, he doesn't want anything bad to happen to Greg. That has to be progress.

Nothing bad happens to Greg. The team manages to collar the suspect, who is uncommunicative.

Jules, on the other hand, has managed to get some information from the mother. She and her family went underground three years ago, after Lexie was witness to an organized crime hit--three men dressed as police officers killed the family of one of her friends. (The dad was an accountant who followed the wrong paper trail and was going to testify against a mobster. Al Capone was brought down by the IRS, wasn't he?) The family was relocated but the bad guys tracked them down and they barely escaped. They've been on the run ever since. It's not paranoia if someone really is out to get you.

The whole trauma has marked the family in a number of ways, one of which is that Lexie is terrified of police--okay, not police, exactly, but murderers dressed up as police. Spontaneous cops appearing on the scene would not look like rescuers to her. The compromise is this: her parents have told her that if she needs help she can call 911, and the civilian dispatchers will send real cops to help her. The result of this policy (which is eminently sensible) is that Lexie doesn't have any friends except for Katie (who is maybe a little more patient than most because she's had a personal loss of her own and understands Lexie's loneliness), the 911 operator she asks for by name.

Right now everyone at the dispatch centre and on the team is hoping Lexie will do just that.

The only reason she hasn't, so far, is that her dad (who did in fact drag her out from under the bed) has bundled her up and made a run for it. Lexie wants to call Katie and find out whether her mother is okay. Dad, played by Yannick Bisson from The Murdoch Mysteries, is regretful but firm: they keep moving. Which looks worse in print than it probably is: I'm pretty sure Dad would not abandon Mum for anyone but Lexie.

They have a whole elaborate escape route worked out, including evasive maneuvers. The two remaining killers don't want to make a move in public (they're trying to remove a witness, not create dozens more) so the next few scenes remind me a bit of a nature show told from the point of view of the antelopes. Flashpoint is the show that generally doesn't do unregenerate bad guys, but once in a while they give it a whirl. These two are implacable as a couple of sharks and they scare me considerably.

Niagara Falls was supposed to be their next stop. Lexie and Dad make it to the bus station, where another double-fake has Lexie running for it while her dad holds the second gunman at gunpoint himself, which is when the team catches up. The Klatchian standoff occurs on a crowded bus, Sam and Wordy outside ready to shoot whoever is first to pose a real threat to the other. Ed assures Dad that he does not want to hurt him, but he can't let him hurt any one else. Then, in his curiously formal yet firm Ed way, he reminds Dad that "these other people are not involved with your dispute," and asks Dad to let the other passengers off the bus. He does. The gunman, cutting his losses, lowers his gun.

And nobody seems to have seen Lexie, until a teenage girl reports lending her cell phone to a little girl in the locker area, then looking around to find her gone. Spike uses the cell number to find its GPS location, Jules and Sam light out for its position, and Greg brings Katie along to keep Lexie from panicking when the police catch up to her.

Lexie's called Katie again and told the operator that she's all alone and tired of running away. She's probably also tired of being terrified, to the point that fatalism has set in. Sam and Jules find her on a playground, surrounded by other kids on the safety-in-numbers principle. Sam find a sniper perch and Jules monitors the bad guy.

And just to make sure we all know I am a bad person, I want Sam and Jules to shoot him now. I know, I don't dig vigilantes, and you can't kill people on a prophylactic basis, and the fact there is no death penalty in my country is something I greatly appreciate. This is fiction, and this fictional motherfucker has spent the last three years tracking down a small child to fictionally murder her. I want someone to bust a fictional cap in his ass.

This being Flashpoint, the team naturally does no such thing, because they don't execute people they think are contemplating a crime. Can't be done. Ask Sam Vimes. Sam and Jules stay in cover because if they show themselves and Lexie panics they might never get control over the situation again.

The other kids' teachers and playgroup leaders call them away, and Lexie, from her swing, watches them go with a dawning comprehension of what's going to happen next. The third killer walks up to her (and Sam loses his clear shot) and tells her she's the reason he hasn't slept for three years. "Me neither," she replies, with a last little spurt of defiance and then he raises his gun and she ducks and shrieks and there is a shot and I screamed for real and the killer falls over and Greg lowers his gun.

ohjesus

I mean, I was pretty sure they weren't going to kill a little girl. But not sure enough.

Lexie bolts at the site of Greg and tries to take cover in a jungle gym, until Katie calls to her and Lexie recognizes her voice. It is a wonderful thing to realize you are not entirely alone.

Also not entirely alone is Greg, who leaves his Internal Affairs debriefing to find Dean still waiting for him, and offering to come along home with him and maybe make some pasta. "You cook?" "I make pasta." "Okay."

It's a very small thing, but it might be a start.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
revelininsanity
14th Sep, 2010 04:14 (UTC)
At which point Greg appears, folds the kid into an awkward hug, and my throat started closing--Greg just looks so damned vulnerable, and the kid is so uncomfortable. I do get that Greg lost custody for a reason, but he is a changed guy.

[I should also note that my own relationship with my dad is extremely important to me, therefore I am sentimental about dads in general. The Greg-and-Dean thread pushes all my buttons. YMMV.]


This is interesting because in my experience, as someone who's very alienated by her father due to abuse and neglect, I always felt a little frustrated by Greg's continuous attempts to reconnect with his son, especially in the face of his disinterest. It was only as I got to know Greg and understand him a little better that I started rooting for him to have a relationship with his son. Now that I see how far he's willing to go and how loving he is(honestly, I think if his son still said he didn't want a relationship, he'd step back. It would hurt, but he'd do it, because Greg is stand up that way), I've been rooting for him. My favourite part in this episode is him and his son at the end. For reals.
coneycat
14th Sep, 2010 09:49 (UTC)
I do think they did that well, and I agree with you that Greg would, once he knew Dean's wishes, respect them.
(Anonymous)
14th Sep, 2010 04:44 (UTC)
Cold shivers and crying both throughout it all. On the edge of my seat, too. And thank you CBS for finally giving us US watchers this show live instead of having to search for it here and there!
coneycat
14th Sep, 2010 09:57 (UTC)
I'm so glad you guys are getting the eps in real time, too!
zorinlynx
14th Sep, 2010 22:20 (UTC)
I hope CBS's stupidity doesn't hurt the show's future. I want to see Flashpoint keep going. And going. Because it's the best thing on TV right now and if it gets canceled I think I might just have a panic attack.
chocolatekettle
14th Sep, 2010 22:52 (UTC)
GULP.

But Dean seems a nice kid. And oh,Greg. The man who always knows what to say, absolutely lost for words. And also Ed gravely contemplating the ceiling while he awaits the inevitable awkward silence. How is it possible for two middle aged, heavily armed bald men to be so gosh darn cute?
coneycat
15th Sep, 2010 13:49 (UTC)
I don't know either, but as a double act they are adorable!

Poor Dean. I hope knowing his dad is not really an irredeemable shit is a good thing for him. He does seem to be a nice kid and Greg is overdue for something good to happen for him.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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