How do you make the already engaging Motive even better? With an episode that is again superbly cast and also functions as a psuedo-Alphas reunion.
We've found what Corbin Bernsen has been up to after Psych: playing coroner Stan Matthews, who gets murdered by a construction worker named Diane Torrance for sending her innocent husband to prison. Losing someone that they worked with puts our team on the hot seat, upsets Betty (as the dead man was her mentor), and makes Cross more than a little...well, cross. These "someone close to the main cast gets in trouble or dies" episodes are pretty common in TV nowadays, but in Motive's case it works for a number of reasons.
The actors are all well served here. Lauren Holly gets more screen time than she usually does, and we get to know just a little bit more about her character's history. It's nice to see Brendan Penny's Lucas come up with something significant this episode and not solely be the slightly wide-eyed guy that plays backup.
And as we mentioned last week, one never really tires of the way Louis Ferreira plays Vega's "I don't know what's wrong with the rest of you" moments.
And there's Laura Mennell, Warren Christie's Alphas co-star, being introduced lead prosecutor Samantha Turner. Anyone who's seen Alphas knows how great of an actress she is, and that those two work well together (their characters on Alphas were briefly a couple), so she makes a perfect addition to an already engaging cast.
Motive prides itself on being a "whydunit" rather than a "whodunit," and "Deception" fits particularly well in that mold. Thanks to the script and a solid performance by Erica Cerra (Eureka), we understand how an ordinary woman could be pushed to kill - and then get to watch her struggle with trying to cover it up.
The reality is that most people who murder are not professionals and don't really know what they're doing, and this episode plays that out really well.
The reveal of Matthews having been dishonest is a nice curveball, too. It's one of those developments that feels plausible, and not like so many third-act twists that are generated for the sake of having a third-act twist. It makes our killer all the more sympathetic and adds just the slightest bit of an uncomfortable feeling as we watch Angie and Vega close in on her.
The end result is an episode that feels like a slow-motion train wreck: you can see all the pieces coming together, you feel the sense of dread, but you know how it's going to unfold.
Motive has established itself as a show with solid, unpretentious summer storytelling played out by a cast of people who all deserve more recognition than they're getting. It's actually a little bit of a bummer to realize that we're already about a third of the way through Season 2.
Motive continues next Wednesday at 10 PM ET/PT on ABC.