If still you’re cuddling your puppies, catching your breath and drying your tears after the Season 2 premiere of Canadian drama 19-2, you’re not alone. We just went there for the first time ever in English Canada, and there’s no going back.
As promised, the 19-2 school shooting episode contained graphic scenes unlike anything we’ve really seen on TV before, save the original French Canadian episode on which this was based. It’s almost as though director Podz and those involved in both projects had a second chance to make the same episode even better, although those who tuned in Monday night probably haven’t seen both so there’s no point in making the comparison now. Different actors, writers and the like. So let’s just tackle this episode on its own, shall we?
Thanks to the promos and various disclaimers around the web most knew what they were getting into with “School.” But thankfully, the chaos didn’t start right away. The lighter opening not only served to set up Nick and Ben’s working relationship for those new to the series (Ben plays by the books while Nick tends to be a bit looser), but it also managed to introduce Kaz (new cast member Richard Chevolleau). While we didn’t see much of the character in the opener, it’s clear that he will play a key role in the series moving forward in helping Nick come to terms with his past. If the opening scene was any indication he could also serve as a wedge between Nick and Ben should they be called back to Kaz’s ‘hood in the near future. Since this is a TV drama, here’s betting money on that happening.
“Remember your training. Do your job.”
The snake shenanigans were quickly interrupted by the real crux of the episode though, the school shooting. As Nick and Ben raced to the high school, audiences were treated to a 13-minute rolling shot that puts the one from True Detective to shame. By having the cameras roll continuously as we followed the officers into the school, we as an audience felt as though we were right there with them. From reacting to the loud gunshots and watching the squad cars race by outside the window, to witnessing bloody kids laying on the ground and not knowing where the shooter (or shooters?!) were, it was a clever camera decision that added to the overall tone. Not once during the chaos that ensued did we get a closeup of the shooter’s face, because none of the police officers had a close up of the shooter’s face. This was absolutely told from their point of view, driving home the point of the series.
What really worked in the school scenes was the fact that the death it featured never felt gratuitous. The slow-motion camera angles were reserved for moments when the officers were reacting to the most personal high-stakes situations (Bear realizing Tyler had been shot, Ben almost having his head blown off), which added to the authenticity. As anyone who has ever been in any kind of traumatizing situation could attest, you remember the more harrowing details in slow motion, as if they took forever to actually occur. You rarely remember what was actually said or the real timeline of events, because your memory is punctured by specific instances. In that way the episode was brilliant.
It was also interesting to see how the various officers reacted to the situation in his or her own right. Often in procedurals we see shootouts of that magnitude happen on an almost weekly basis. The cops are always heroes who aren’t afraid of entering, guns drawn, because in those shows, cops are never actually hit with the flying bullets. 19-2 doesn’t tell that story, because it ups the ante by making it about the people, not the cases.
J.M. buckled under pressure–a move that is going to haunt him going forward and cause him much guilt. Tyler stumbled and spent most of his time in the school coming across as stunned–a potential indicator that he was once again under the influence. Bear could also be feeling residual guilt for pushing Tyler to take that shot. Legare suddenly showcased a hero complex as he kept pushing forward alongside Nick and Ben, attempting to take down the shooter.
We came at this thing from so many points of views that by the time we got to the scene in which Legare couldn’t find the exit (and the kid had to point out the giant illuminated sign), we laughed not because it was a supremely funny moment, but because we really, really needed to exhale. That moment too was perfectly timed though, because we were thrown back into it when Nick and Ben reached the library, and the shooter point blank shot that girl who was sitting there trying to stay out of the way. It was the last straw for both the viewers and the cops; I truly think that anything beyond that would have been just too damn much to handle.
When Nick roared out from behind that pillar, antagonizing the shooter in my favourite Adrian Holmes moment of the night, it was so intense and loud that it was anticlimactic yet harrowing when Ben finally shot the guy dead–a split second decision for everyone involved. The sweat was practically dripping down our faces, too.
The way Jared Keeso played that moment, calling into base and informing them that the threat had been neutralized in an almost questioning way was equally heartbreaking. Then, sitting there with the dead body, he allowed audiences to wonder for a moment if Ben was thinking about how that kid could have been his own. So much subtext in such a small amount of time to consider–no matter how many times you watch the episode.
Looking ahead, none of the second season episodes will compare to the 19-2 school shooting, because there’s nothing more horrific the show could possibly tackle–and it tackled some pretty terrible things in the past. 19-2 could easily be a smash U.S. cable series on the likes of FX or AMC where North Americans would be talking about it for years to come, the way audiences are still raving over True Detective. Not only because of “School,” but because of the way 19-2 managed to tackle tough subjects like elderly abuse, violence against women or suicide in its first season, too.
I wish that were the case because everyone involved in making this series should stand up and take a bow. Now here’s hoping we can keep up the momentum and see how this all affects the characters throughout the rest of the season.
I didn’t love the juxtaposition of the kids at the beginning of the episode and think maybe we could have done without them–especially again around the midway point. However I understand why they did it and the point they were trying to make.
For those keeping track, we subtly learned that Ben and Catherine are still going strong, since that’s who he sent the text to before taking off towards the end of the episode.
Keeso tearing up during the locker room scene and Holmes comforting him was officially heartbreak No. 3. We often praise authority figures for taking down the bad guys, without questioning the psychological effects it has on those heroes.
Nick going back to his old stomping grounds felt like his way of questioning the path he’s taken in his life, and wondering how he would have turned out if he’d stayed. That will clearly be a theme for the character going forward.
We can’t forget that through all of this Ben is still being courted for intelligence on his partner. It will be interesting to see how that tears on his conscious while he’s dealing with everything else.
Good call by Bell Media in airing the episode without commercials. I can understand why they wouldn’t want to break what was the most powerful thing I’ve probably ever seen on scripted television … can’t you?
What did you think about the 19-2 school shooting? Are you new to the series? Will you continue to watch? Tell us in the comments below.
If you missed the episode, it repeats Tuesday night on CTV.
19-2 airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on Bravo Canada.
Have a TV question? Emailamber@thetvjunkies.comand check out Ask Amber every Monday.
Amber Dowling is a bonafide TV Junkie, critic and freelance writer who watches countless shows and lives for dramatic (fictional!) twists. She currently serves as the vice-president of the Television Critics Association and has appeared on numerous TV and radio shows across North America. An advocate for Canadian Television and a lover of the medium in general, Amber founded TheTVJunkies.com as a spot for fellow enthusiasts to connect and collaborate. She previously spent almost eight years as the EIC for TV Guide Canada.