USA Network’s crime thriller Motive is not like other police procedurals. Starring Kristin Lehman as Det. Angie Flynn and Louis Ferreira as her partner Det. Oscar Vega, Motive reveals who the killer is in the opening moments of the episode.
“Modern crime dramas hide the killer to create a mental game of whodunnit; I prefer an emotional game of whydunnit,” says Motive creator Daniel Cerone (The Mentalist, Dexter). “In TV, there seems to be this belief that viewers can never be ahead of the hero, or the hero looks stupid. But I wonder which is more exciting… watching cops interview a teenage suspect who may or may not be guilty, or watching cops interview a teenage suspect who we know is a killer because we revealed that in our teaser?”
Shaking up the form of the procedural presents a challenge to the Motive writers, who don’t have the luxury of dangling the carrot of an unsolved murder in front of the viewers’ noses. Instead, the plot develops around the characters of the murderer and the victim; the mystery comes from understanding their relationship. To do that, Motive shifts between the post-murder moves of the culprit and flashbacks of the victim. The motivation, then, is the episode's ultimate the revelation.
Showrunner James Thorpe believes that the fun for the viewer is following Angie’s investigation to see how she will uncover the crime. “Angie’s path through the maze is more byzantine than the one the audience takes,” Thorpe explains, “but there’s always a surprising reveal for the audience in Act Five -- something they couldn’t have seen coming that speaks to the crux of the killer’s motive.”
For Cerone, the idea came out of his own fascination with real-life, high-profile murder cases, including O.J. Simpson, Scott Peterson, and Casey Anthony.
“What fascinates me most is how enthralled we become as a society over the fate of those alleged killers,” Cerone observed. “And I'm the worst of all. What did Scott Peterson and his wife fight about on Christmas Eve, one of the most joyful days of the year, that resulted in murder? Her cause of death was undetermined so how did he kill her? Did he know she was pregnant? How did her hair end up in a pair of pliers on his boat? These cases are endlessly addicting to us -- and it's not because we don't know who did it. We know precisely who did it, and that's why we're so addicted.”
New episodes of Motive air every Friday night at 10 pm/9c on USA Network!