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Motive “Public Enemy” Review: Retribution Without Redemption

By on July 12, 2013
Image © ABC

Image © ABC

By Catherine Cabanela

Tonight’s episode of Motive presented a case where nothing was as it seemed. Four victims: the hero, the star-struck ingénue, the unsuspecting spouse, and the psychopath who gets his just desserts. But who got killed and who got retribution?

In the first three minutes Detectives Flynn (Kristin Lehman) and Vega (Louis Ferreira) embark on a case rife with misconceptions. Molly Parker (The Firm, Deadwood) plays Chloe Mighten who at first blush appears to be a conniving psychopath, stalker, and killer. Or is she the hero of this story?

Sturla Gunnarsson, one of Canada’s most accomplished and celebrated award-winning film makers, holds nothing back in his directing of ‘Public Enemy’ where each character is portrayed with such finesse and credibility that doubts remain about which is the psychopath, which is the victim, and which is the perpetrator—almost to the very end.

Jack Bergin, played by Cameron Bancroft (Blackstone, 24) is a swaggerific organic food guru who fancies himself God’s gift to the nubile and unattached. Turns out, Bergin is an active serial rapist who keeps Polaroids of his duct-taped victims in a hidey-hole under a pile of fresh charcoal in his unused grill.

When Mighten recognizes Bergin’s distinctive tattoo on his left breast, she contrives to meet Lila, (Camille Sullivan of Rookie Blue, Shattered), Jack’s wife, to gain access to their home where she hopes to confront Bergin while his wife is away.

Chloe’s carefully designed plan succeeds, culminating in a Taser delivery of 50,000 volts of electricity into Bergin’s body as he lounges in his hot tub. Before she fries him, however, she recites the details of his brutal attack eight years previously and forces him to admit his crime. He gives her a disingenuous apology. Apparently no one informed Bergen that redemption requires true repentance. In an extraordinarily courageous move, Chloe delivers her final accusation with righteous aplomb: “It wasn’t what I did or didn’t do, it was what YOU did!”

Every once in a very blue moon a transformative experience challenges the universal assumptions we human beings depend upon to perpetuate our distorted sense of invulnerability.

More exceptional yet is when that transformative experience comes to us vicariously through the portrayal of characters and events on the small screen during 43 minutes of episodic programming.

The beautiful Molly Parker exquisitely portrayed Chloe Mighten as an intelligent, deliberate, and rational person who hadn’t set out to locate her abuser and demand retribution, but who had the courage to seek it when the opportunity was presented.

During a moving interrogation in which Flynn is visibly disheartened by the facts of the case, she tells Chloe: “I can’t imagine what you went through; what an experience like that does to the rest of your life,” to which Chloe responds, “You have no idea.”

“No I don’t, but I do understand why you did it,” Flynn says, then tells her there were many more victims—victims who would probably like to thank Chloe for what she did.

During a tender final scene at their offices, Vega senses his partner’s unease and gently reminds her that catching the killer is a winning end to a case. “To me it feels screwed up,” she chagrins in response, reflecting what viewers are probably thinking as well.

Vega ensures that they will find Bergen’s other victims via his DNA. From there, one can only hope that, through due course, Chloe will be set free, though she admits that her true freedom is knowing that Bergen is dead.

A final word about Detective Vega who genuinely cares a great deal for his partner. In that final scene where he senses her distress, he offers to take her out to dinner, which sounds like is not a common occurrence. We know she has a son at home, but we still know nothing about Vega other than that he is unattached, charming in an understated kind of way, and getting more attractive by the episode.

So you see, the good guys don’t always wear white and eat all natural foods. The bad guys aren’t always ugly or without a reasonable cause. Survivors are neither responsible for their abuse nor powerless to do anything about it. And partners on television shows don’t have to be in love to care about each other. One thing is for sure though: where there is murder, there is always motive.

In Motive’s July 18th episode, “Detour,” a mortgage broker found strangled in his office parking lot leads Flynn to “a man who will stop at nothing to conceal his motive for murder.” So – what was the motive? You’ll have to tune in Thursday, July 18th (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on ABC to find out.