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Whydunit?

Motive has rapidly become one of my favourite television shows. The program has just wrapped up its second season on CTV in Canada, with that season about to begin airing as a summer series on ABC in the US.

Motive is filmed in Vancouver and set in Vancouver—a welcome change from so many movies and TV shows filmed in Canadian cities masquerading as American cities. As well, the program stands on its own, with a unique Canadian feel, rather than being a pale imitation of American TV shows.

Motive is a detective story in the true sense—it follows a team of police detectives as they solve murders.

But it is not a whodunit. Rather, it is a whydunit. There is no mystery about who the murderer is—the victim and the murderer are identified before the opening credits. The real mystery is why the murderer would kill the victim, what the relationship is between the two seemingly unrelated people—hence the title of the show: Motive.

The show reveals the important principle that, in murder mysteries, the reason for the murder is as interesting, and as crucial to solve, as who did it.

Revealing the murderer early is not unique to Motive. The old TV show Columbo used to do that too—but the mystery there was how Columbo would be able to prove that the murderer did it, what tiny errors in his or her method would lead the murderer to be caught.

I wasn’t sure the Motive approach would work, but the more I watched, the more convinced I became. As with any mystery, interesting and believable characters and a well-written plot are what is important—and Motive has both.  

 

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