Series / Motive
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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 similiar 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 commited the recent murder and framed an unstable patient for it as he'd fallen in love with the convict and believered 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 coverup regarding a shootout during a standoff.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.