Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cleared: Flashpoint, Season 1

Netflix had been recommending Flashpoint to me for months, so I finally caved and gave an episode a try. It didn't take that long for me to watch the rest of the first season. Netflix's rating algorithms apparently know what they're doing, because this is quickly becoming one of my favorite shows ever. The show follows an elite police tactical team called the SRU (Strategic Response Unit) as they go about their business. And this is where what could easily be a straight-up action show gets really interesting. First of all, if this is what law enforcement in Canada is actually like, I envy the Canadians their police. The SRU members are, to a person, decent, honest, compassionate human beings. They take quite seriously their goal of using lethal force as a last resort and the show's realism comes not from depictions of corruption and brutality, but from the fact that often the "bad guys" in some of these high-stress situations aren't so bad at all (though sometimes they are) and that doing this sort of work is a really stressful job. Time and again, they demonstrate that their team has the resolve and skill to put people down permanently if they have to, but not the desire to do so. Team members routinely take risks with their own lives and safety to make sure everybody else gets out alive, but they're not reckless, either. The Strategic part of the team's name definitely applies. They work as a team, think things through, and try to make good judgment calls. The show is well-acted, well-directed, and well-written, and it's set up in Toronto, Ontario, which means that the locations are usually beautiful. In a way, this is kind of the antithesis of shows like The Shield. I really enjoy this one, and I plan to watch the other seasons. I know I recommend a lot of stuff on here, but I recommend this show especially strongly. If you have a Netflix subscription, just try a few episodes and see if you don't agree with me.

RPG notes: Unlike most of my RPG notes sections, this one is spoiler-free, so read away. First of all, if you have plans to put together a competent, effective and honest city watch or police force for some part of a homebrew setting, you could do a lot worse than to watch this for inspiration! The team also makes an interesting case for how not all people of the same "alignment" are cookie-cutter copies of each other. In D&D terms, the entire SRU is Lawful Good (with the possible exception of the sergeant who may be Neutral Good), but the way that manifests is different for each member. The show also provides a wonderful object lesson for demonstrating that winning doesn't always mean annihilating the opposition. It's been my experience that  lot of the time, PC parties view anything that raises a hand against them as an entity that has automatically forfeited its right to continued existence. Now, that works in some games, but not being able to just go scorched-earth and kill everything that opposes occasionally might be a good way to really stretch your players from time to time.

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