Judge Cynthia Boris takes no prisoners.
Our reviews of Flashpoint: The Second Season (published June 2nd, 2010), Flashpoint: The Fifth Season (published May 22nd, 2013), Flashpoint: The Fourth Season (published June 6th, 2012), and Flashpoint: The Third Season (published June 16th, 2011) are also available.
One moment changes rverything.
In 1968, Los Angeles became the first city in the world to have a Special Weapons and Tactics Team (aka S.W.A.T), an elite group uniquely trained to handle crisis situations such as hostage taking, riots, and homegrown terrorist attacks. Covered with body armor, backed up by crack-shot snipers, and moving with military precision, these were the Navy Seals of law enforcement and it wasn't long before teams like these were commonplace all over the United States.
In 1976, thanks to Spelling/Goldberg productions, America got its first look inside the LA SWAT team, demystifying them, humanizing them and they got a number one record out of it, too.
S.W.A.T. the TV series was corny and cliché and over the top from the frozen title cards of the characters caught mid-action to the humorous tags that closed each episode. Still, I loved it. But times have changed and now there's a new series that truly captures the essence of S.W.A.T. It's Flashpoint: The First Season now on DVD.
Facts of the Case
Sgt. Greg Parker (Enrico Colantoni, Veronica Mars) heads up an unnamed Canadian city's Strategic Response Unit (SRU) but keeping the streets safe is only half of his job. When he's not talking a gunman into giving up a hostage, he's counseling his young team members, trying to keep their heads on straight.
Sam Braddock (David Paetkau, Final Destination 2) is an ex-special forces operative who believes that might makes right. Mike 'Spike' Scarlatti (Sergio Di Zio) is their demolitions expert, Lewis 'Lew' Young (Mark Taylor) is a former gang member who now handles "less lethal weapons" (tear gas, rubber bullets). Kevin 'Wordy' Wordsworth (Michael Cram) is a "close quarters" expert and Julianna 'Jules' Callaghan (Amy Jo Johnson, Power Rangers), the only girl on the team, is the secondary sniper. Experienced officer Ed Lane (Hugh Dillon, Durham County) is the lead sniper and second to Parker.
When they roll, a peaceful solution is the goal—but it doesn't always work out that way. There are 13 episodes in Season One. They are:
Flashpoint is one of those really good TV shows that you're probably not watching. The series was created for Canadian TV and was picked up by CBS during the writer's strike as a way of keeping fresh content on the air. Though the city they work in is never named, it's obviously Canadian making this the first network TV in the US to be set entirely north of the border.
What sets Flashpoint apart from its earlier counterpart is the amount of humanity that's poured into ever episode. Sure, there's a lot of action, but there's a lot of talking, too. Psychology plays a huge part in this series and it's not always about getting inside the head of the perpetrator. Flashpoint is one of the rare cop shows that focuses on the impact the job has on an officer who's forced to take a life in order to save another.
Enrico Colantoni is excellent in his role as the calm, compassionate leader of the SRU. Every time his team his called upon, he sends them into the fray with the phrase, "let's keep the peace." It's an ironic sentiment for a group of officers who show up at the crime scene armed to the teeth, but that phrase is the heart of this show. In each episode, you can feel Sgt. Parker ticking off the boxes, exhausting one possible way out after another until he has nothing left but a bullet fired from a sniper's gun. The snipers let him know they have a clear shot at the perpetrator by uttering another interesting phrase, "I have a solution." Parker says go and a life is taken away—just like that.
Flashpoint isn't as violent as you might imagine and they certainly don't take the violence lightly. The writers make it very clear that there are consequences to every action, be it the fired employee pushed to his limit or a cop who chooses not to act, and because of an innocent hostage dies.
If you're into happy endings, this isn't the show for you. More often than not, even when the good guys win, they lose.
Hugh Dillon is also excellent, and you may scoff at the idea of Power Ranger Amy Jo Johnson as a S.W.A.T. sniper, but it works. She's still cute. She's still girly but she does her job and she's very real in the role. She was also pregnant when she filmed much of the season, and still she climbs staircase after staircase loaded down in a bulletproof vest and with a rifle slung over her back. She's a trooper.
From a production standpoint, Flashpoint is visually interesting and you may not even realize why until you listen to the commentary on the pilot episode. Wide angles, sweeping camera moves, artsy shots of buildings, and lots of tech all combine to keep the episode moving even when all of the characters are standing in the same place for thirty minutes at a time. It's tense. It's tight and it's never boring.
Flashpoint: The First Season comes on three discs snapped into swing holders inside a plastic case with a slip sleeve. In addition to the commentary, there's also a behind the scenes featurette, and a piece called "The Human Cost of Heroism." They're nicely made, but they're short and they don't add much.
Visually, the show looks great, it suits a wide screen HDTV and the 5.1 stereo audio is well balanced.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The episode titles and descriptions are written on the inside of the DVD cover, so they're difficult to read. It's particularly annoying because they spent the money to include an advertising booklet, when they could have put in a booklet about the show.
When people hear that Flashpoint is a show about a S.W.A.T. team, they immediately think of high-action, bullets flying, bodies dropping, and nothing could be further from the truth. Each episode of Flashpoint begins with the perpetrator deep in the middle of a crisis, then they hit the rewind button to show you how they got there. Suddenly, we see that the gun-totting bank robber is man who loves his wife enough to kill for her. And a woman threatening to kill a man, is really only trying to protect her sister.
These aren't black and white bad guys. These are people caught in bad situations and it's up the SRU to make it all come out okay in the end. Sometimes everybody lives—but only sometimes.
The jury finds Flashpoint: The First Season did what it had to do in order to keep the peace. Not Guilty.
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