Series / Motive

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/motive_9656.jpg
A Canadian crime/mystery drama which started running in 2013, set in Vancouver, British Columbia. It blends elements of Police Procedural and Criminal Procedural in a unique format: the audience already knows the murderer and the victim; what the audience learns, through a combination of the unfolding investigation, conducted by Detectives Angelika "Angie" Flynn and Oscar Vega, as well as flashback sequences, are the events leading up to the murder and the motive for that murder.

It premiered on CTV following the Super Bowl; its first season finished on May 16, 2013 and the show was renewed for a second season, airing starting March 6, 2014. A third season aired starting on March 8, 2015 and ending June 7, 2015. A fourth and final season is now airing.

The series also got picked up by ABC for a summer run of its first season in 2013, but after poor season 2 ratings in the United States, ABC stopped airing the show. Since then, however, it was picked up by USA Network and they aired season 3 and are currently airing season 4 in concert with its Canadian release.

There is a parallel show of sorts, the TV series "The Dark Corner", which fits roughly sometime within the period of Season 1.

Be aware that possible episode plot twists or reveals may not be spoiler-tagged unless they occur in Season 4, or would spoil major arc-based reveals in Seasons 1 through 3.


The motives for these tropes are as follows:

  • Adult Fear: In "Interference", a man returns home from a trip to learn that his wife was dead and his sickly son abducted. Bad enough, but then he finds out that his wife had been poisoning his son for months and had already killed another child the same way.
  • Angry Guard Dog: In "Creeping Tom", when the police arrive at the scene of the crime, they find the Body of the Week is guarded by an angry guard dog that barks at anyone who tries to approach the body. Later Angie realises that that while the dog barked at all the police, it did not bark when the intruder was in the house, meaning it was someone the dog knew and trusted.
  • Artistic License Law: Because the show has to appeal to an American audience as well as a Canadian one, "Crown counsel" is replaced by "prosecution", and Angie and Oscar speak of "felony offences" rather than "indictable offences". Other changes like this are in the show.
  • Artistic License Medicine: British Columbia has a single-payer health insurance system, so "Frampton Comes Alive" is a bit of an inaccurate portrayal of the extent to which "extended medical" companies' insurance denial can affect people. Then again, considering that the episode centres on a manipulative, passive-agressive Asshole Victim, it's entirely possible he'd just been lying to blackmail his clients for kickbacks.
  • Asshole Victim: Depends on who the Victim of the Week is. Can also be applied to the killer, too.
    • A definite "asshole murderer", if ever there was one, is Stephanie Carson in "Calling the Shots".
    • "Glass Houses" features a definite asshole victim in the form of a controlling douchebag who is strongly implied to have abducted a child approximately a decade before the events of that episode.
    • "Pilot Error" features a stalker, Chelsea, who is killed in self-defence by Brad.
    • "Fallen" has Perry, who impersonates another artist to profit off him and uses this assumed identity to goad an eager fan into becoming his fall guy.
  • Attack Backfire: In "Purgatory", Vega tells a suspect to drop their lighter. Their response? "As you wish", upon which they drop the lit lighter right into the pool of gasoline surrounding the intended victim.
  • The Beard: The Victim of the Week in "Overboard" is married to a gay entrepreneur; allowing him to continue seeing his boyfriend while maintaining an acceptable facade for his Catholic family, with the wife to richly rewarded after five years of marriage. Although the cops investigate this angle, it turns out to be a Red Herring that has nothing to do with the murder.
  • Benevolent Boss:
    • Angie to her son, Manny. She catches him with his rather well-endowed girlfriend, doesn't throw a fit, and casually wonders how much the boob job cost.
    • Both of Angie's supervisors, Boyd Bloom and Mark Cross, are fair-minded and are not abusive.
    • In the fourth season, Angie's supervisor is Oscar Vega, who continues to be the same thoughtful and fair-minded man he was as her partner.
  • Bikini Bar: "Undertow" opens in one (referred to as a 'strip club') that a drug dealer is using as his base of operations. Angie and Oscar later visit during the course of their investigation.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: A common bit as often the killer (and sometimes the victim) is revealed to be less innocent than they seem.
    • A key one is "The Frog and the Scorpion" as when a murder occurs similar to a past one, it seems the woman in jail for the crime is innocent. It's revealed that it was the woman's therapist who committed the recent murder and framed an unstable patient for it as he'd fallen in love with the convict and believed in her innocence. After he pulls it off and she's freed, they unite only for her to stab him and as he lays dying, he realizes too late she was guilty after all and using him to get free.
    • While not as murderous, Rick Wyatt from "Frampton Comes Alive" is an incredibly nasty piece of work. Among other things, he all but poisons a celiac co-worker, blackmails a client with a cancer-striken son, harasses his neighbour incessantly and ultimately kills the neighbours dying wife by cutting off the power to her medical equipment. And why? The neighbour would occasionally have friendly conversations with his wife. Fittingly, his neighbour, a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, murders him in retaliation.
  • Body of the Week: As this is a homicide Police Procedural show, there is usually a dead body involved.
  • The Boxing Episode: In "Brute Force", Angie and Oscar investigate the murder of boxer Mark "The Machine" Mason, who is found stabbed to death on the floor of his gym. Oscar is shown to be a boxing fan (or, at least, a fan of Mason's).
  • Broken Pedestal: Angie is rocked when a judge she considered her mentor and good friend is murdered. She's more stunned when, in the course of the investigation, she discovers the judge had been taking kickbacks for sending juvenile offenders to a certain "boot camp" jail.
  • Butt-Monkey: Detective Brian Lucas, but starting to be averted in season two as he's ahead of all of Angie Flynn's and Oscar Vega's requests and even manages to answer the Superintendent when put on the spot about a case. In a bit of a Brick Joke, Angie nicks his coffee and then a couple episodes later, is the one bringing three coffees: one for her, one for Vega, and one for Lucas. In Season 3, Angie is so happy to be back in the saddle she starts butting in on Lucas's work again.
  • Buddy Cop Show: The main characters are Detectives Angie Flynn and Oscar Vega, often shown solving cases together.
  • Cain and Abel: 'Brute Force' and 'The Vanishing Policeman' both involve a man killing his brother - and it's not necessarily the Cain of the family doing the killing.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Flynn is a race car nut (as is her son) and her knowledge of cars comes in handy in "Crimes of Passion", and then again in "Raw Deal".
  • Chute Sabotage: In "Pitfall", the Victim of the Week is murdered when the killer swaps out his parachute for one that has the lines on both the main and reserve canopies cut.
  • Coffin Contraband: In "Fallen Angel", a cache of stolen diamonds is buried in an old grave in a no longer active cemetery. However, the thief was arrested and sent to prison so the diamonds stayed there for 20 years.
  • The Coroner: Betty Rogers. Some of her traits are similar to Alexx from CSI: Miami, although she doesn't do much of a "Speaker for the Dead" theme for the victims, unlike Alexx.
  • Cramming the Coffin: In "Fallen Angel", a thief used a grave in an old cemetery to hide a cache of stolen diamonds. He also uses the grave to dispose of the body of his partner, whom he has just murdered.
  • invokedThe CSI Effect: Lampshaded in "Crimes of Passion", when Detective Vega is texted by forensics, and Flynn looks at her watch and remarks that it was pretty fast.
    Vega: I have friends in forensics.
    • Weaponized by Angie in "Against All Odds". She manages to bluff the murderer into disposing her crowbar and implicating herself by claiming that technology can trace scratches to a specific crowbar.
  • Dark Secret: Angie Flynn and Mark Cross have one. They reveal during the second season that they falsified a report about who shot first in a standoff with an abusive husband.
  • Death by Falling Over: In "Abandoned", the killer shoves the Victim of the Week during a heated argument and the victim falls and strikes her head on a kitchen bench. Thinking the victim is dead, the killer panics. However, the victim is still alive. Or, she was, until the killer decided to stage a Fiery Cover Up.
  • Disappointed by the Motive: In "The Dead Hand", Angie is rather underwhelmed to learn that what set off a series of Disaster Dominoes resulting in a double homicide, a Miscarriage of Justice and a hostage situation (where she was the hostage) was a guy wanting to be with his new girlfriend without the hassle of a divorce.
  • Disposing of a Body: A large chunk of "Bad Blonde" consists of the killer and her best friend attempting to work out the best way to dispose of the corpse of the Victim of the Week. They still have the body when they are arrested.
  • Dull Surprise: Averted during "Fallen Angel", when Betty mimes the killer's actions, causing Angie Flynn to rear back suddenly, as she wasn't expecting it.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: A common motif as the final flashback revealing the true reason behind the murder shows the situation far different than what the other flashbacks seem to indicate. Quite often, it's a different motive behind the murder and at times the "victim" turns out to be not so innocent after all.
    • A key example is "Pilot Error" as the flashbacks indicate pilot Brad is cheating on his fiancee with chef Chelsea, who boasts an engagement ring and photos of them together as she prepares for thier wedding. When Brad is arrested, the final flashback reveals that Chelsea was just someone who sat next to Brad on a flight and began stalking him, photoshopping them together, planning their wedding and creating thier "relationship" out of nothing. When Brad confronted her about it, she attacked him and her killed her in self-defense.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Done for the Victim and Killer in the beginning of each episode. Often, the introduction foreshadows developments that aren't immediately apparent that come into play during the episode. For example, the victim in 'Pilot Error' is shown as a romantic perfectionist... who's quite ready to let her romantic ideals override what other people actually want.
  • Everybody Did It: In "A Bullet for Joey", three brothers shoot the victim at the same time. However, two of the three guns are loaded with blanks; the idea being that they will never know which of them fired the fatal shot. But one of the brothers confesses to knowing which gun was loaded with the real bullet, and choosing that gun to ensure the murder happened. He is charged with murder, and his brothers are charged with conspiracy.
  • Expy: London Montgomery resembles Kim Kardashian, and is a composite of various celebrities with drug addiction issues.
  • Eye Twitch: Angie apparently has one, though she vehemently denies this.
  • Feet of Clay: Stan Matthews, the medical examiner murdered in "Deception", turns out to have been purposely slanting his testimony in child-death cases to make the parents look guilty (or guiltier, anyway). This hits Betty hard, since she looked up to him.
  • Fiery Cover Up: Done by the killer in "Abandoned". After the Victim of the Week suffers Death by Falling Over in the kitchen of a diner, the killer turns on all the gas and then uses a Reusable Lighter Toss to ignite it. What she does not realize is that her victim is still alive as the fireball goes off.
  • Flipping the Bird: Flynn to Vega in "Crimes of Passion", covering her hand with a file folder. She then does it later, under her coat, as the prosecutor walks away from her.
    Flynn: Guess how many fingers I'm holding up.
  • Grail in the Garbage: The motive for the murder in "Framed". A woman purchased a painting from a thrift shop, not realising it was a lost masterpiece. The used the painting as a canvas and painted a cat painting over the top of it. A gallery worker saw the painting and identified what it really was, and bought the painting; planning to strip off the cat painting. When the woman discovered the truth, she attempted to reclaim the painting and ended up killing the gallery worker.
  • Happier Home Movie: In "Undertow", the killer is shown sitting at home alone watching a video of his dead son on a rocking horse. The death of his son provided the motive for the murder, and earlier he had been shown disposing of the rocking horse because he couldn't stand to look at it any longer.
  • Hate at First Sight: Flynn embodies this for the new supervisor, Mark Cross. It turns out they had an affair some time before, and she took it quite hard. He doesn't help matters by obviously showing favoritism to Brian Lucas, as well as butting in on areas Angie feels are her turf, such as the details of ongoing investigations before they're wrapped up. It turns out the affair may have been precipitated over being rookies involved in a cover-up regarding a shootout during a standoff.
  • High-Class Call Girl: A high-class call girl was the last person to see the Victim of the Week alive in "A Bullet for Joey"; conducting 'business' with him in his office. Initially a suspect, Angie and Oscar dismiss her from their inquiries once her alibi checks out.
  • I Just Want to Be You: Rather disturbingly done in Episode 2-5, "Dead End", with a girl trying to become her older brother's girlfriend. This leads to a witness to the latter's murder misidentifying the killer—the former—as the victim. Turns out that the now ex-girlfriend was pregnant—but by the killer's father rather than by her older brother. The mother found out about the affair, though not the pregnancy, and attempted suicide, providing the motive.
  • In Love with the Mark:
    • In "Raw Deal", one of the men involved in a hit-and-run runs across the victim's then girlfriend. He falls in love with her and by the time of the episode, she's his fiancée.
    • Played with in "Six Months Later". London Montgomery admits to having manipulated Derek, in order to get drugs. She, in turn, was manipulated by Dale, the lawyer.
  • It's Personal: Averted in "Pitfall". It turns out that the victim wasn't even involved in the car accident that caused the killer's PTSD. Invoked in other episodes, however.
  • Motive Misidentification: Quite common as the flashbacks will make it appear to the audience that the reasons behind the murder were one thing but the final flashback reveals the truth to be different. For example, a woman appears to have murdered a call girl because of an affair with the woman's husband. It turns out that the call girl had discovered the woman was running a ponzi scheme and killed to keep it quiet.
  • Murder by Mistake: In "Ruthless", the killer poisons the room service breakfast being delivered to hotel room of her victim. However, the victim was not eating breakfast and the meal was for her lover whom the killer did not know was spending the night.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: Given a dark twist in "Abandoned", where an emotionally Abusive Parent learns they have a grandchild. Rather than making amends with their estranged son, they'd rather 'start over' with the new baby, and harass the mother until she murders them to protect her son and his adoptive family.
  • ...Or So I Heard: Happens twice while the team an investigating what appears to be a bondage session gone wrong in "Angels with Dirty Faces". Angie remarks that it is odd that the victim wasn't using quick-release handcuffs as bondage fetishists usually want an easy escape route, which earns a glance from Oscar and is followed by "Or so I've head". Later Betty is discussing the autopsy findings and says that the lack of drugs isn't unusual as downers would take the edge of the adrenaline rush you get from being tied up. This gets a glance from Angie and is followed by "Or so I've heard".
  • The Password is Always "Swordfish": In "Crimes of Passion", a mayoral candidate has his laptop password as "I've got your back": which was his campaign slogan and prominently displayed on a poster in his study.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Played with as the third season opens. Angie actually requested reassignment to the training academy, claiming she's felt "burnt out". Meanwhile, Vega is still in his old job. Angie comes back as of the end of "Six Months Later".
  • Reusable Lighter Toss: In "Abandoned", the killer uses a Zippo to ignite her Fiery Cover Up: turning on all the gas in the diner kitchen and dropping the lit Zippo on the floor. Justified as a) she hadn't planned the crime and needed a source of flame in a hurry, b) she knew exactly where the lighter was kept in the kitchen, and c) it wasn't her lighter.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: In "Pushover", a waitress seduces a customs officer as part of a scheme. The morning after, she is wearing his uniform shirt and nothing else as she delivers him breakfast in bed.
  • Shear Menace: In "The One Who Got Away", the Victim of the Week is stabbed to death with a pair of garden shears.
  • Shipper on Deck: The detectives and M.E. for Lucas and Sung during the first two seasons.
  • Shout-Out:
    Betty Rogers: You two [indicating Flynn and Vega] are the Butch and Sundance of this place.
  • Shovel Strike: In "Fallen Angel", the Victim of the Week is killed with a shovel: first a blow to the head that does not drop him, followed by a slash with the blade that cuts his throat.
  • Sickbed Slaying: In "Angels with Dirty Faces", the Victim of the Week is killed when the murderer injects a lethal dose of morphine into their saline drip. This leads to Angie and Oscar wondering why you would kill someone who was already brain dead.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Season 3's "Pilot Error" reveals Chelsea is this. After hinting throughout the episode that she's the "other woman" involved with pilot Brad, it turns out that she was just someone he sat with on a single plane ride and invented the relationship from there. She stole the ring he gave to his real fiancee, photoshopped a photo of them together and is convinced Brad is only marrying his fiancee for the money to support her. When he confronts her on this, she attacks him and he kills her in self-defense.
  • "Strangers on a Train"-Plot Murder: The murder in "Undertow" turns out to be a case of this. However, the second man gets cold feet and cannot go through with his part of the bargain.
  • Strictly Formula: For the most part, Flynn and Vega manage to catch their culprit. There are some exceptions:
    • "The One Who Got Away" has a killer who manages to escape being captured by committing suicide. His accomplice dies in a police shooting.
    • While technically they did arrest a murderer in "Six Months Later" per the episode formula, he's bumped off in prison shortly after and Flynn and Vega are very sure that it was so he couldn't spill his boss's (Neville's) secrets.
  • Suicide by Cop: In "For You I Die", Dirty Cop Slater pulls his gun on Angie, saying that he won't go to prison. Angie realises that he wants her to shoot him (especially as he has just let a hostage go), and calls his bluff: saying this case has already taken too many lives and lowering her gun. Slater continues to advance, however, only to be shot by Vega.
  • Surprise Incest:
    • In "A Problem Like Maria" it's revealed that Maria Snow is actually Neville's daughter. Since she knew of this, it explains why she broke off her engagement with Robert; she would have been marrying her half-brother.
    • Averted in "Natural Selection". It is (apparently) revealed that the murderer, who is the father of a friend of the victim's, has a rather inappropriate interest in a woman who appears to be his daughter. It is, however, revealed that in fact he is a bigamist and his "daughter" is actually his wife.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: In a few cases in the series, most notably "Pitfall".
  • Television Geography: Mostly averted, but residents of Vancouver and environs will spot the occasional fudging of geography for dramatic or narrative purposes. Some examples:
    • Homer and Pacific is not that close to West 7th; it is about a 40 minute walk.
    • A rather egregious case is when a pawnshop near Metrotown in Burnaby is claimed to be a pawnshop in Richmond.
    • It takes about an hour to get from Vancouver to Abbotsford - more than enough time for the killer to wipe out another victim. However establishing shots clearly show a mechanic shop somewhere in Vancouver proper.
  • That One Case: A few of the detectives have them, as is expected for a cop show. One that hangs over the series is the investigation in 'The Suicide Tree'. While the murder itself is solved at the end of the episode, during the investigation a burglar breaks into the morgue and attacks Betty. The effects of the attack drive most of the subplots in the final season.
  • Too Clever by Half: The killer in "Oblivion" had a pitch-perfect murder scheme that honestly might've been dismissed as an accident, but she decided that the best alibi for herself was to fake her own death. Investigating her apparent death leads the cops to her victim's murder and her eventual capture.
  • Vancouver Doubling: Sort of a meta-doubling. The city is recognizably Vancouver, but the police force has been replaced by a generic "Metro Police"; as another example, the BC government lottery signs are replaced by generic lottery signs. Presumably this avoids legal liability issues.
  • Vehicle Roof Body Disposal: In "Fallen", the Victim of the Week is shoved off an overpass where he is struck by the top of a container truck passing underneath. He would have wound up on top of the truck had he not been tied to the bridge.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Generally averted, as the killers are too emotionally drained from the events of the episode to make much of a fuss on being caught. One notable exception is the killer in "Natural Selection", who starts screaming to absolutely no-one when all his crimes are exposed.
  • Wham Episode:
    • At the end of "Oblivion", Angie is informed by Maria Snow of a recording that purports to prove Neville Montgomery ordered a hit on Derek Caster, his fixer.
    • "A Problem Like Maria" reveals that Maria Snow is Neville Montgomery's daughter, and in fact is not even the real Maria Snow.
    • "Natural Selection" ends with the surprise retirement of Oscar Vega.
    • "We'll Always Have Homicide" for the first time ever has Angie in near mortal danger at the hands of a suspect.
  • Window Pain: In "Bad Blonde", the killer throws a half-brick through the windscreen of the Victim of the Week's classic car not long before the murder.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Seems to be a recurrent motif.
    • The former prosecutor turned mayoral candidate David Jacobs in "Crimes of Passion" has been having affairs with other women.
    • One of the driving forces of the murder in "Pushover" is a love triangle.
    • In "They Made Me a Criminal", a central component of the murder involves a man who apparently is a serial cheater, and a woman having second thoughts about what she's been apparently doing with him. It becomes averted as we learn that the killer was paying him off to attempt to keep him away from her son.
    • Season 2 plays with this regarding Brian Lucas and Wendy Sung. He's married, but is having relationship problems, and as of the end of the second season his wife has left him. It doesn't help that Officer Sung is Adorkable and seems to have a bit of a thing for him. In season 3, Lucas has broken up with Sung, and he has signed the divorce papers as of "Oblivion".
    • In Season 3, "Pilot Error", it's implied that Brad Calgrove is a serial cheater, but it becomes more complicated than that when it's revealed that Chelsea, the woman involved, was stalking him. In truth, he and Chelsea simply sat next to each other on a plane ride and she invented their entire "relationship" from there, complete with faked photos of them together. His co-worker, another pilot, says she hit on him but he declined to pursue that opportunity.
    • The introduction of 'The Affair Jar' in season 4 indicates that the team no longer seriously regard it as a motive. The one time the murder does involve an affair, the situation prevented anyone from cashing in.

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