Due South: s02 e18 – Flashback

Due South

From the brief summary on imdb that I couldn’t avoid seeing, I was pre-disposed to dislike the final eisode of Due South‘s second season. Now that I’ve seen it, my feelings towards are slightly less hostile, and I’m a little more sympathetic towards the position the makers of the series were in at the time, but I still don’t like it.

The episode, as indicated by its title, is largely made up of clips from previous episodes, overwhelmingly from the first season. The farming story is slight: Bennie and Ray try to intervene in a jewellery store robbery, ostensibly by Muslim women, in which the manager is taken hostage, Bennie jumps on the van to try to stop them but is thrown off and loses all his memory, including the licence plate number. Ray tries to restore his memory by retelling loads of their former cases.

It’s slight. It’s an excuse for a cheap episode. I won’t say that it’s a tradition in American television but they do have a record for ekeing out the season’s budget by re-using footage in one episode that only requires minimal new performances.

Granted, the episode makes more of an effort with the framing story than these episodes usually require, with this story having a good twenty minutes of new footage, though given the subject it does leave you wondering why they bothered. One the one hand, the kidnappers turn out to be four gorgeous women, the wife and three mistresses of Clifford the manager – short, dumpy, whiney, unattractive, in real life wouldn’t score one of them, let alone all four – who’ve got together to wreak their anger on him and get the account number of his secret back account containing over $15,000,000 embezzled from the business.

Then there’s the way the non-Bennie Bennie is presented. It’s not enough to have him remember nothing at all but the script delves into metafiction by having the amnesiac version undermine everything that the character is set up to be by pointing out his utter implausibility and characterising him as stupid for acting like the parfit gentil knight he is, and running a meta-commentary upon the flashback clips that undermines the essential suspension of disbelief Due South functions upon.

But this episode isn’t just a case of doing things on the cheap. Due South was a Canadian series and, despite claiming to be set in Chicago, was actually filmed in Toronto. It never caught on in America, where CBS broadcast it. They cancelled it after the first season, but the show’s popularity in Canada and Britain enabled the production company to raise enough funding from those sources for a thirteen episode second season. CBS took it again as a mid-season replacement for one of a number of failed shows, and even ordered an additional five episodes, one of which they didn’t broadcast, but didn’t renew it.

So as far as the series wvas concerned, this was the last show. The flashbacks were not just budget-spreading, they were the series’ tribute to its own history, a farewell to arms. Hence the construction around the mythology of the impossibly upright super-Mountie whilst simultaneously deconstructing him as wholly unreal. And a bloopers’ reel over the credits, focussed mainly on David Marciano as Ray Vecchio. Over and out.

But the show was still very popular in Canada and in Britain…


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