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Motive Review: The Child Becomes the Parent in “Framed”

By on August 11, 2013
(ABC/Kharen Hill)


This week’s Motive episode was a tale of the hapless consequences of manipulation and the self-sacrificial bond between parent and child, a bond that defies description and extends beyond rationality. Contrasting the new and the antique, ‘Framed’ forces us to ponder the question of what you would be willing to do to protect your offspring or, for that matter, your parent.

The startling conundrum comes not in the form of a willingness to commit murder to protect a loved one, but in the sacrificial act of volunteering to wrongly endure punishment for a loved one’s crime.

There is nothing rational about a mother’s dedication to her child. In ‘Framed,’ the killer, Marion Reader, is an elderly woman who endures the obnoxious job of selling aluminum siding over the phone to stave off foreclosure on the house she shares with her adult son, Owen. As a sideline, she paints and sells itchy second-hand art into which she has inserted images of her beloved cat, Mathias.

At first glance, Marion appears unlikable and condescending, referring to her son Owen as ‘SweetPea’ and to herself as ‘Mommy’ (queue the eye roll placard). At points one cannot help but hear the echo of Anne Ramsey’s haggard cigarette-hardened baritone screaming out “Owen!” in her part as Momma in Throw Momma From the Train.

As the story unfolds we learn that Marion is anything but disingenuous in regard to her stalwart commitment to her son.

On the flip side, her son, Owen or is it Oedipus – is an on-line reseller of military memorabilia and a more than dedicated son to his aging mother, coddling her as much as she coddles him.

As the story unfolds and Owen realizes his mother’s crime, a crime whose evidence points back to him. As snubbed hopeful boyfriend, the owner of the murder weapon, he immediately takes responsibility for it and is trotted off to the pokey by Flynn and Vega.

Screech! Let’s back up. The plot: Marion paints her cat, Mathias, into a landscape she purchased at a thrift shop. Julia Conrad (Hilary Jardine), a Bisson Art Gallery minion and hopeful future proprietor herself, notices Marion’s kitsch cat vs. landscape at a coffee shop and recognizes it as a missing masterpiece lost during the early occupation of Poland in 1939 and worth over a million dollars. Julia purchases the kitsch painting for $100 and visits Marion and Owen at their home in hopes of finding out where they found the original painting.  Through a series of events, Marion learns of Julia’s duplicity in purchasing her painting with the intent to remove Mathias from it and return it to its original owners for the Million dollar booty.

Marion confronts Julia, bringing along her son’s antique Webley Mk , an 1899 revolver which vertically expels the casings of spent ammunition during the firing of a round. The gun plays a key role in Owen’s and the detectives’ deductions of Marion’s guilt. Julia refuses to return the painting to Marion or split the booty and gets shot.

The final draw emerges, once again, in the concluding conversations. First between Owen and Marion as Marion is being cuffed after confessing:

“I ruined everything, Sweetpea.”

“But, Mom, it didn’t matter.”

“You don’t hate me? I don’t think I could take it if you hated me.”

“Hate you? I love you.”

“You’re a good son, Owen.”

Wow. There it is, folks. Against all reason, there remains love.

Then, in the final discourse between Flynn and Vega, Flynn wonders aloud if there is such intense devotion in her own relationships:

“(Flynn) Do you think Manny would go to the mat for me the way Owen went to the mat for Marion?”

“(Vega) I don’t know. Who are you thinking of knocking off?”

“Boyd.” (Sergeant Boyd Bloom, her boss and devil’s advocate to all her schemes)

“Kinda sad in a way. Marion’s dream of becoming a famous artist coming true. “

“Probably not the way she imagined.”

“And all this time, the masterpiece was right under her nose and she didn’t even realize it.”

“Amazing, right? What people will take for granted.”

Then Flynn points at Vega, a look of surprised recognition stealing across her face.

“You think I don’t appreciate you.”

“I do. I know you do.”

They clink coffee mugs.

“I do.”

Need I say it again? The old, the new.  A masterpiece disguised as a kitsch painting; a a snooty art gallery hopeful disguised as an interested buyer, a loving dutiful son and a devoted mother disguised as a slacker son and a controlling mother.  In the end, no matter how you frame it, sacrifice.

An aside – the time transitions were much more cohesive in this episode in comparison to last weeks. Still, more screen time for Dr. Betty and for Flynn and Vega’s relationship would add considerable depth to this show. We’ll see how the ratings did!

Tune in next week to learn the motive behind the killing of a priest by a young gambler in ‘Fallen Angel’ Thursday, August 15th (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on ABC.