Sunday, June 30, 2013

Crossing Lines

Crossing Lines
Episode 1: Pilot
By: Carlos Uribe

Crossing Lines is a show about a special task force that solves crimes that cross international boundaries.

Spoilers Ahoy!

Crossing Lines is a show that has a pretty nifty premise because it follows a team of detectives that travel through Europe to investigate crimes. This gives the show the freedom of being able to visit famous cities across Europe which sets it apart from the typical American (or Canadian) cop drama. This international flavor is used to help create conflict as the team of detectives is going to be running into problems with local authorities. These jurisdictional battles aren't new to television but they do seem more justified than on other shows. It makes sense for a local police force to be wary of foreign detectives while conflicts between local police and national police tends to be more forced. The former has a sense of nationality and patriotism to help sell it while the latter lacks that. The hook of Crossing Lines is definably that this is a cop show set across Europe. It makes sense that this show aired in France and other European countries but I must question if American viewers will be interested in this show. I'm sure there are American viewers out there who would love a cop show set in Europe but I imagine most of them probably aren't. I'm not saying this because I think Americans aren't interested in different cultures or open to the world but simply because it's more difficult to relate to overseas locations. They are so distant from our continent that it feels like a whole world away. The stakes, the investigation, and the characters might be familiar but they also feel like they're far away. In countries that we might visit but that bear little relevance to our day-to-day lives. It is possible for Americans to tune in to shows set outside our country. We wouldn't have science fiction or fantasy if this wasn't possible. It's just that it can't act as the hook. This can't be the reason for the show's existence to Americans. Downtown Abbey works because it's a show about the two different classes in England at the beginning of the twentieth century. The hook isn't it's location or even it's time period but it's exploration of aristocracy and their servants. Crossing Lines doesn't have that. It's about cops in Europe.

The mystery of the first episode of Crossing Lines isn't a terribly interesting one. The pilot picks a serial killer who likes to kill in different capitol cities. They aren't able to identify the victims because they were taken from one capitol city to the next. The serial killer was able to accomplish this because he worked for the American consulate. I'd like to note that not only is the crime show already feeling pretty distant but the first bad guy of the week is an American. The pilot is a two-hour episode and the show adds a huge wrench that ups the stakes when one of the detectives gets kidnapped. Now they have to find the serial killer but now there is a clock on it because the life of one of their own is in jeopardy. The pilot does have a small, actually surprising twist when a different detective ends up biting the dust. The mystery is a little bit too boilerplate to land the impact. It's like the show was thinking that having him kill people in different capitols was the only necessary requirement to make the crime stand out and make an impression. I'm not sure if that's true. Even if it was, how is it going to handle different crimes? They'll start to blend together if the only thing that separates them from normal investigations is the crossing the lines bit. The series is going to need stronger mysteries if it wants to keep viewers hooked. It's also going to need to answer why Interpol can't catch these bad guys. This special team of detectives are working for the International Criminal Court, the organization that tries cases on genocide and war crimes. They don't deal with ordinary crimes that cross borders. He organization that does is Interpol. The show tries to make the argument where there is nobody that ensures one country's law enforcement don't communicate with another country's law enforcement. Which would make sense if Crossing Lines didn't exist in an organization like Interpol, that does exactly that. Interpol helps investigate crimes that cross borders. This serial killer case would be right in their wheelhouse. They would share the data between the police forces and help facilitate this capture. The pilot confirms that Interpol exists in this show's universe when they use data from their database. Oh, you mean right after stating no such database exists?

The good news is that the protagonist of Crossing Lines is actually an American. The location feels distant, the bad guy in the first week is an American, but at the least the main detective is one of us. He's the character that the American audience is going to want to relate to the most which explains why he narrates the episodes. The detective, Carl Hickman, used to work for the New York Police Department. He was one of the city's greatest detectives until he got shot in the hand trying to retrieve a kid from a child predator. His life went down the tubes as he got addicted to pain killers, got fired from the NYPD because his superiors backstabbed him, and he lost confidence in his skills. He's a flawed individual but being on this team allows him to start rebuilding his life. He gives up his addiction when it gets a teammate kidnapped which allows his mind to think more clearly. Crossing Lines is his redemption story. He's a strong detective and his role within the team is familiar to viewers. Like almost every American detective that headlines a cop show, Carl is someone whose good because he can observe details everybody else misses. Like almost every American detective that headlines a cop show, Carl has serious problems dealing with people. Carl is a character with a great background but he's also just like every other detective that seems to be on American television: observant, smart, and socially awkward. If it wasn't for his hand, he would be a stereotype. The role that Carl plays on this international team is of the typical modern-day American detective. He's even seeking revenge as he's living right across from the man who shot him, waiting to catch him as he continues to lure kids into his home.

The rest of the team is made up by members who play a role. This makes it feel like a collection of detective stereotypes from different shows. Annie-Marie San, from France, is like the detective from Unforgettable, as she remembers everything. This comes in use in that she can remember the names of detectives who were there and when she's able to save her life by defying the serial killer's fantasy. Tommy McConnel is a former criminal who acts as the weapons specialist for the show. The smart thing to do would be to allow him to prove his use but he doesn't really play a role in the investigation. He gets to know the detective who dies. The undercover specialist is Eva Vittoria, but she doesn't really help out much. Sebastian Berger is the tech specialist who can use cool technology to help solve crimes. In this episode, he creates a hologram machine to help recreate the crime scene and maybe find missing clues. The head detective is Louis Daniel, whose basically the kind of leader that bends rules. He does have some tragic background as a Russian killed his child when he set his house on fire. The dead detective won't appear but her role in the team was to basically make anybody tell her what the team needs to know. I don't know if she'll be replaced. The final main character on the show is Michael Dorn, the guy at the ICC who basically acts as the team's final boss. Donald Sutherland is a great acting force but he seems wasted on this role. The team is okay and some of their dynamics are more interesting than you would think but it does seem like a collection of cop show cliches. It's a pretty international cast so it's diverse in that way. It's not diverse in the sense that there is no people of different color.

Crossing Lines is an international cop show but it doesn't aspire to be much beyond that. The international flavor helps separate it but it's not a real reason to watch. The mystery in the pilot is pretty basic and the team's justification doesn't sell because of Interpol. The actual team itself is largely made to fill typical roles and many of them aren't developed beyond that. The few who do feel a bit more interesting. If you're interested in catching this show, it's not a complete waste of time but there's no compelling reason to check it out or to tune back in.

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