Everything about 19-2, eh?

19-2: Burying cops and bad memories

To say last week’s episode of 19-2 was shocking would be an understatement. I think we all knew, as loyal viewers, that J.M. was headed for a bad end, but I never imagined it would be in a hail of gunfire at the station, defending his fellow cops. That climactic finale capped off one hell of an instalment that had begun with the squad letting off steam at a rented cottage.

Appropriately, Monday’s newest episode, “Flowers,” dealt largely with the aftermath of the events at the station with a funeral for J.M. 19-2 will always rank among my favourite television shows not just because of the dialogue and action, but the quiet moments. Bruce M. Smith’s spare script and Louis Choquette’s direction was stellar in Monday’s opening moments as Ben prepped in his dress blues, the ghost of J.M. standing, reflected, in the mirror. Usually, when Ben sees something ghostly he turns away and it disappears; in the case of J.M. the dead cop was still there, a spectre over Ben’s shoulder. It was an incredible piece of drama and symbolism.

It was good to see Suarez attending the funeral, back on his feet and recovering from being shot, as well as J.M.’s wife, Justine. It’s been awhile since viewers have seen her and Justine looked healthy; kudos to Nick for sitting with her, lending support and holding her hand. Bear’s speech was heartbreaking and heartfelt, presenting J.M.—at that moment—as a hero who saved lives by engaging a suspect armed with an assault rifle with a mere handgun. The camera panned to Ben and Nick, two men who spurned J.M. and shut him out. Were they feeling guilty for the way they’d treated him in the days before J.M.’s death? And who would Audrey turn to now that the one person she could relate to was no longer there? (The music and camera work during the moving of the casket was spectacular.)

The moments of quiet reflection on 19-2 are always brief. The funeral over, Ben was approached by an ex-cop who shook his hand and then wondered where the items were that Ben stole. He was, of course, referring to the drugs and guns Ben secreted out of the car of the dealer he was doing surveillance on. The drugs and guns he dropped off a bridge into the river. (Reeling from that information, Audrey poured more pressure on Ben, demanding he recognize J.M.’s heroics.) Ben then told Nick he was reporting the incident to Internal Affairs and planned to inform them he’d stolen from the dealer and very likely gotten the man killed. I understand Ben wanting to get it all out in the open but—paired with him saying he ran down the student—it was going to be bad news. Would Ben choose justice or the truth?

The meeting with Internal did not go well. The suits weren’t interested in the threat against Ben but whether or not he did steal the items and why his partner left him that night. In fact, because Ben had killed a boy (he hadn’t) and of Nick’s history with Internal, the detectives didn’t want to work with Ben at all. Their advice? Take a year off patrol, work a desk, and get the stink off. Speaking of stink, Ben and Nick’s next call—trespassing—uncovered illicit goings-on at a homeless shelter being used for gambling, drinking and drugs. Gendron, smelling the opportunity to get even more support of the city behind them following J.M.’s death, ordered a public display of ousting the biker gang who’d taken up residence inside and ensuring the homeless had beds.

Dulac, who had been surprisingly quiet for most of the episode because he was internalizing everything, vented his frustrations on a mouthy ex-con who was trying to get into the shelter. The man shoved Dulac, who retaliated and broke the man’s leg; not good for public perception. Luckily, one idle threat from Tyler later and things had been smoothed over, but Dulac is acting out in a dangerous way that may jeopardize his career. That said, Dulac’s actions did have a positive outcome for Audrey. Delivering the man to the hospital personally meant she met a hunky doctor named Liam. Soooo … are things looking up for Audrey?

Nick appeared to be headed for some romance as well. He met up with Farah and a long walk ensued where the pair discussed kids, life and careers. Yes, it’s an unorthodox pairing, but both deserve happiness and it looks like they’re finding it in each other.

19-2 airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.




19-2: The squad loses one of its own

The advantage of being a television critic are many. Invites to cool events, the chance to interview folks about their latest projects and seeing episode images and screeners in advance. The disadvantage? In the case of Monday’s new episode of 19-2, seeing images minutes before watching the screener.

The result? I thought I had a pretty good idea of how J.M.’s storyline was going to end up. One image offered for me to use in my review showed Sgt. Suarez lying on the floor next to J.M. His eyes were open, so I wasn’t sure if he was conscious or not. I hoped he was because, as bad as that was, J.M. could still come back from it.  That image, and the one of J.M. looking down, shattered, was in sharp contrast to the others, with members of 19 at a cottage, shucking corn, barbecuing and consuming cold beer.

But I was totally wrong about J.M.

Monday’s “Labour Day,” written by Lynne Kamm, began with Ben haunted—literally—by the ghosts of the men dying amid the mob war in Montreal. After getting up to close his opened front door, Ben returned to see the body of the drug dealer in his seat, plastic bag fastened over his head. Ben didn’t even flinch … he just walked over to the chair and sat down again.

J.M. wasn’t flinching either, at least not on the outside. He walked the gamut of hospital staffers on the way to leaving, thanking them for the sponge baths—and in some cases smirking “You’re welcome!”—before walking out on to the street into the rain. Alone.

After mentioning Montreal’s traffic in last week’s review, it played into a dramatic setting when Audrey and Roxanne came free of bottlenecked construction-affected traffic to find an unmarked car had pulled over a vehicle. Problem was, unmarked cars aren’t used for officers. Audrey and Roxanne knew something was wrong. It was a guy impersonating a cop and brandishing a pellet gun. According to Rozanne, more than one had been collared in the last couple of years … and had been released after being given fines. If you can’t trust the police, who can you trust? It’s a recurring theme this season on 19-2.

The squad converged at Suarez’s rental cottage (all but J.M., that was), ready to let off some steam and relax for two days. It was so good to see the team out of uniform, laughing, Tyler taking over the kitchen and ordering everyone around, the sun dappling on the lake and the tension of their jobs left behind in the strangling city. We also learned, over some serious corn-shucking, that Bear and Roxanne’s date was a success until Bear chickened out at the end of it. Her plan? To unleash the dragon (tattoo) during the weekend. Ben’s trip to the store to get some fresh buns landed him a straddling from Audrey on the way, breaking the tension within them for at least a few hours.

Kamm’s script included a stunning scene couple of scenes involving Dulac. The first between Ben and Dulac had the former defending Tyler and his loyalty when the latter disparaged him as “a fuckup waiting to happen.” (I audibly cheered when Tyler opted to pour, rather than consume, the booze he was doling out.) Then, minutes later, Dulac and Suarez recalled their childhoods, with Suarez explaining how his father had hoped he’d become an engineer, but marks meant a police career. Dulac confided his father’s expectation was his son would be a cop.

“Then you haven’t disappointed him,” Suarez said.

“Not yet,” was Dulac’s reply. Those two words had so much meaning. Did Dulac’s reply mean he would inevitably disappoint his father? Was he hinting being a cop wasn’t what he’d wanted to do with his life?

A raw—and overdue—discussion about J.M. followed, with Audrey tearing into the team for not visiting once during his three-week stay.

“He tried to kill himself, and he’s going to try again,” she advised. “What the hell is wrong with you people?! You’re a bunch of cowards. I hope no one visits you.” She had a point, but I understood everyone else’s stance too. J.M. had been such a thorn in their sides over the years it was easier to cut him off than deal with him. As Ben said, he and Nick had pulled J.M. off his wife; if they hadn’t he’d have killed her.

Then it was back to work. J.M. returned to 19—gluten cookies in hand—to make friends. Ben told him no one wanted him there; Audrey told him that wasn’t true. But instead of J.M. turning his gun on Suarez, it was the impersonator Audrey and Roxanne arrested that did, arriving at 19 in his fake uniform. He opened fire inside, shooting Suarez and the more officers. J.M. stood up and took several shots at the man before he himself was gunned down. J.M. looked relieved as the bullets entered his body … this was his way out, decided by someone else. A hero. The perp killed himself before Tyler, Dulac, Ben and Nick could do it themselves.

J.M. was a remarkable character and congratulations to Dan Petronijevic for playing him in such a memorable way. He was alternately funny and frustrating, a fiercely loyal officer who believed in fairness for his fellow men and ladies in blue. He had his flaws, but I’m going to miss him as the rest of this final season rolls out.

What did you think of this week’s episode of 19-2? Were you glad J.M. was a hero in the end? Let me know in the comments below.

19-2 airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.




19-2: J.M. reaches the end of his rope

One scene from last week’s episode of 19-2 stuck with me for days. It was a shot of J.M. standing alone in 19’s hallway. Already cast out from the team for the assaults on his wife, he’d sat in his car rather than chase down the shooters at the picnic. He’d been totally cut out from the rest of the squad and stood there, in the growing murk, by himself. So much can be said without any words and 19-2 does that consistently every week.

The same was certainly true of Monday’s new episode “Fishbowl,” which followed up on Ben’s decision to take drugs and guns from the men he was surveilling. Nick wondered what had happened to the straight-laced rookie he used to know, and I did too. Was there any way to pull Ben back from the brink? How dangerous could he make things for himself and others? That, and what would happen to J.M., haunted me going into Monday’s instalment.

The “previously on,” footage featured a ton of J.M. footage, meaning his storyline would figure prominently in the episode written by Nikolijne Troubetzkoy and directed by Sturla Gunnarsson. It did just that, catching up with the troubled cop as he, drunk, screamed at an unknown woman to leave his apartment. Reeling around the room, he drank deeply from a bottle and enraged, swept items off a dresser and, even more scary, brandished his gun. J.M. may have told Audrey two weeks ago that the job is just that, but it’s more than a job to J.M. despite his statements. Being a cop is all he is, and taking that away from him is taking a chunk of him.

And with that, J.M. did exactly what I was hoping he wouldn’t, pulling the trigger in an attempt to end his own life. He missed a bit—was that by accident or did part of him rebel at wanting to die—and the bullet went up through his jaw and exited his cheek rather than plowing straight up into his brain. He survived but told the Sarge his gun went off while he was cleaning it while drunk. Of course, that didn’t wash with Sgt. Suarez and J.M. confessed he needed help—was getting help—and wanted back on the job ASAP. The Sarge’s update on J.M. rocked the squad, and kudos to Troubetzkoy’s script for the impassioned speech by Suarez and for the touching, emotional scene between J.M. and Audrey. J.M. telling Audrey that shooting himself would make him a better cop was a stunning admission and cut right through her. These two are from the same cloth, not like the others.

Meanwhile, the city’s police force was on high alert. On instruction from Gendron, 19 was to get “up in everyone’s face” and show strength against the organized crime wars. Nick and Ben traded a look—how much has Ben helped with that escalation?—and new station member Roxanne (Aiza Ntibarikure) was introduced. Tyler and Dulac both had eyes for her and the latter made his move. It’s not pretty to watch but does provide some much-needed levity considering the scenes with J.M.

Dulac and Tyler’s seemingly easy collection of a father for parole violations turned serious when they dropped his children off at their mother’s and she was clearly not happy to see them. Tyler’s concern for their safety was justified when they were called back minutes later after an assault call to find the younger daughter beaten.

Ben and Nick found a short moment of relative boredom shattered by screams and broke into an apartment to find a young man being raped. That brought the pair to a crisis centre where they reported to social worker Farah Miller (Sagine Sémajuste), the mother of the boy Audrey ran down and Ben took the blame for. To say she was still smarting from her son’s death and the fact the police dismissed him as a drug user—a wasted life—was an understatement. Amazingly, she stayed professional, even after Ben apologized for his and the force’s actions. She stated the man who assaulted the prostitute would be set free and she was right, showing yet another instance where the police has let its citizens down. In a rare glimmer of hope, Ben and Nick’s persistence frequenting the rapist’s business paid off, as an order to search his clothing shop uncovered money and a bag full of pills.

(Quick aside: I love the fact 19-2 has worked the endless construction plaguing Montreal into its storylines. Rather than film around the roadwork, they use it. Of course, there is so much work going on they might have had to film in Laval to escape it.)

By the end of the episode, Nick was trying to prove to Farah the police could do good, Audrey and J.M. were bonding over booze and YouTube videos, and Bear and Roxanne were headed out for a drink together. A rare trio of happy moments in a series fraught with drama and danger.

19-2 airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on CTV.



19-2: Nightmares haunt Ben, Nick, Audrey and J.M.

It’s no secret to 19-2 fans that anything can happen to the fine men and ladies who patrol Montreal’s streets.

That was certainly the case in last Monday’s Season 4 return when a bombing connected to the city’s underworld ripped through a restaurant. That set off a chain of events—the suspected bomber drove through the streets to escape with Audrey and Ben in pursuit—that led to Audrey running over a university student and killing him. Cue an investigation and Ben taking blame for Audrey, literally saving her job while putting his in jeopardy. Would Ben lose his job in Episode 2?

During Monday’s newest “Driveby,” in a story by Greg Nelson, teleplay by Lynne Kamm and directed by Sturla Gunnarsson, that storyline did advance while others from last season were revisited. Nightmares seemed to be the theme of the instalment as our favourite characters dealt with them while asleep or awake.

Audrey, who was viciously assaulted in Season 1 and has been dealing with the PTSD and anger issues that emerged from the awful experience, is awakened by the nightmare of running over the 19-year-old. She’s desperate to shake the awful feeling and move on, but how can she? Killing someone, no matter if it’s an accident or not, changes you forever.

For Nick and Ben, the nightmare continued regarding Elise Roberge. She got off on the murder charges and turned state witness, reopening the wound involving Amelie’s death. Ben, who believes in fairness, was shattered by the information a drunk Nick gave him.

Ben was reeling following the news he’ll be cleared of any wrongdoing in the deadly accident. Turns out there were some drugs in the kid’s system, so the police dismissed it as a bad kid who made a wrong step. Trouble is, Ben and Nick know he was an honour student who never got into scrapes with the authorities. As much as I was happy to see Ben get off—remember, he was covering for Audrey—the decision to cover it up was wrong. His decision? Overtime surveillance on the mob where he took mental notes of everything going on. But not before he voiced his disgust at police services and told Nick, “We’re supposed to be better than this.” Ben’s flailing, trying to get his groove back, but things haven’t been right since Amelie’s death. And probably never will be.

Suffering from severe lack of sleep, Ben was visited by Amelie during his stakeout, admonishing him for just sitting there rather than taking photos. His question to her? How she was able to keep her experiences as a social worker from dragging her down. Her answer? It did, but she chose to focus on little victories rather than the big picture. I’m hoping Ben is able to do that. He’s a good cop and it would be a shame if the gig consumed him. But for now, Ben took action and broke into the car owned by the target and scooped a bag full of cocaine and weapons from the trunk. Ben should never have shown Audrey the guns and drugs he stole, even if it was to prove he doesn’t always have it together. She’s already confessed to J.M. that Ben wasn’t driving the car; I can’t help but think she’ll blab about this too. As for that quick, frenzied sex? Ill-advised. They may have agreed it was just an outlet, but it’s going to stay in the back of Ben’s mind. Thank goodness Ben dumped the drugs and guns off the bridge. (Did anyone catch Ben saying, “Hard no,” the classic response uttered by Jared Keeso’s Letterkenny alter ego, Wayne? I wonder if that was an Easter egg for fans of both shows?)

J.M., meanwhile, faced the nightmare of being shut out by his fellow police. The physical assaults against his wife, Justine, resulted in a suspension. Now, his usual spot at the 19 table is gone and he’s feeling left out. He and Nick traded jabs at the bar until Nick delivered a verbal uppercut: Justine has a new man in her life. You could see a veil drop down over J.M.’s eyes as he walked away from that comment.

I was waiting for “Driveby,” to live up to its episode title; that came in the closing minutes, as Tyler, Dulac, Bear and Audrey came under fire when a car bristling with bullets cruised by the mob picnic the four cops were watching. While everyone was assessing the situation or chasing the baddies, J.M. did the unthinkable: he turned off his radio and shut down. Ben and Nick saw him sitting in his car just before they collared a suspect; the ensuing verbal showdown at 19 completed J.M.’s fall. He may have been an a-hole for three seasons, but you could count on J.M. to have your back in the field.

Now they can’t count on that.

19-2 airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on CTV.

What did you think of “Driveby”? Will J.M. turn things around? Will Audrey keep Ben’s secret? Let me know in the comments below!




CTV’s 19-2 returns for emotionally gripping final season

Have you heard of the children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? It’s about a boy who wakes up, and from the moment he does, everything goes wrong. I can’t help but think of that book—written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz—every time I watch an episode of 19-2. Every time something goes right for that Montreal police squad, it seems like 20 don’t.

Returning for its fourth—and final—season on Monday at 10 p.m. ET/PT, 19-2 makes the jump from Bravo to CTV, a well-deserved move that will give more Canadians the opportunity to catch this exceedingly well-written, expertly acted cop drama. (CraveTV subscribers get to see episodes a day early, on Sundays.) Adapted from the Radio Canada series of the same name, showrunner Bruce Smith and his writers have not only managed to set the English version of 19-2 apart from the French but has outlasted it by one season. It’s also gathered a pile of awards—Canadian Screen Awards for leads Jared Keeso, Adrian Holmes as well as Best Drama—and critical acclaim in the U.S.

Now it all comes to an end beginning on Monday with the episode entitled “Swimming.” Season 3 ended in a flurry of violence and emotion. Officers Nick Barron (Holmes, above) and Ben Chartier (Keeso) were determined to hunt down Inspector Elise Roberge (Krista Bridges) to avenge the brutal death of Nick’s sister and Ben’s lover, Amelie (Tattiawna Jones). Escalating mob violence in the city has an impact on the 19-2 squad directly, leading to Ben and Audrey (Laurence  Leboeuf) involved in a deadly car accident.

When we first met Nick and Ben we asked, ‘Can these two guys be partners?’ And, after Houle [Conrad Pla] shot himself, and fell into the lake, and the two of them are driving back into the city … the message we were sending to the audience is they’re partners now.

Back for Season 4 of 19-2 are Dan Petronijevic J.M., who saw his marriage crumble because of his rage issues; Benz Antoine as Tyler, on the mend from alcohol abuse; Mylène Dinh-Robic as Béatrice, who is seeking redemption after losing her stripes; Bruce Ramsay as manipulative District Commander Marcel Gendron; and Alexander De Jordy as young cop Richard Dulac. Maxim Roy returns to guest star as Nick’s ex-wife, Det. Isabelle Latendresse. New cast includes Aiza Ntibarikure as Roxanne, a new young female cop; and Sagine Sémajuste as Farah, a social worker.

Last November, TV, Eh was part of a press junket to Montreal that included a stop at the set of 19-2, where we chatted with Smith, Keeso and Holmes about Season 4, and the series overall.

Where do we pick up in Season 4?
Bruce Smith: Season 4 picks up exactly where Season 3 left off, not just in terms of plot, but emotionally and in intensity. These are characters in extremis from the beginning. We’re really excited about the way Season 4 starts. It starts with more plot going on than is normal for us—it’s not always about plot with our show, it’s about emotion. And really what we felt is that we spent so much time building up the emotional intensity, particularly for Nick and Ben, that we felt we could keep that intensity going rather than having to build it again. And, really, this final season is really the second of two two-part movies.

When we first met Nick and Ben we asked, ‘Can these two guys be partners?’ And, after Houle [Conrad Pla] shot himself, and fell into the lake, and the two of them are driving back into the city … the message we were sending to the audience is they’re partners now. They have been through the school shooting, through Houle … whatever they feel about each other, they are inseparable. Season 3 and four has been an exploration of that partnership under extremis. The real extremis was the losing of a common loved one between them. It really was like a marriage and the loss of a child causing a marriage to break up. We tracked them almost breaking up last season, and then they came together and move forward into Season 4. They’re not together when we start Season 4.

(l-r) Jared Keeso and Laurence Leboeuf

Can you say why?
One of the first things they experience is the weirdness of not being together for a very emotional moment. That’s for both the characters and the audience. There are a series of events that happen and they are physically separated. When they do come back together, it’s strange because they haven’t experienced it together. One of the focuses for us in the writer’s room in Season 4 was to show how much is undone. There are very prominent characters, our core characters, who never really had arcs together before. There are a couple of new pairings and new relationship arcs between core characters in Season 4.

Jared and Adrian, what were your reactions to Amelie’s death last season?
Adrian Holmes: It was a huge shock to me. Tattiawna was so great and when you lose an actor it’s hard because it’s like a family we’ve created here. So to not have her around was hard. And for the characters, it’s a huge blow and it’s something that adds a lot of tension and friction. The characters have to rise above that and find a way to still keep the marriage together. It was a big shock, but these are the things that make 19-2 so unique and special. You just don’t know what’s going to happen. The shock value is very high on our show and we take a lot of pride in it.

Once you do an episode about a school shooting, the second episode really needs to be about what that feels like. That’s it. It’s very challenging to write and very challenging to act, but if you can do it, you get rewarded for facing those challenges.

Jared Keeso: I think it was the first time that I read the script, and I texted Smitty and said, ‘This is a great opportunity for us as actors to play something like this.’ I’ve certainly never played anything that heavy before. The good thing about our show is it’s earned. It’s all about the writing on our show. It builds and builds and builds, and then boom. All the context is there and that’s a huge advantage for us as actors as well.

I always watch 19-2 cringing because no one is safe. That’s by design, correct?
Bruce Smith: From the beginning of the show and certainly by Season 3 we saw, from the reaction of the audience, that we had done our jobs. We want to train the audience to be afraid. When you have happiness, be a bit nervous but also cherish it. With the cast that we built up and the writers and directors we’ve had, we felt early on what we were really good at. We were really good at provoking intense emotion in the audience and in the characters. It’s a show about first responders. It’s not a show about abstraction and putting things together and solving something. It’s about being stuck in awful or exhilarating or wonderful moments and then dealing with the aftermath of just that moment.

Once you do an episode about a school shooting, the second episode really needs to be about what that feels like. That’s it. It’s very challenging to write and very challenging to act, but if you can do it, you get rewarded for facing those challenges. In Season 4, we’re coming in hot and there is intense feeling from the top and you’re on an emotional roller coaster with these characters.

Do you think fans will be happy with the series finale episode?
Bruce Smith: I sure hope so.

19-2 airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.