DVI isn't as overtly violent or graphic as U.S. police procedurals. It doesn't do on screen reconstructions like CSI. Since season one, there's been little or no on screen sex. Yet, the world DVI portrays is harsher than any U.S. TV show (or possibly even a Brit TV show) would allow, while remaining one of the most compassionate entries in the genre. If there's a dead body in the story, you're going to see a dead body. If a hooker or a rent boy is working the streets, you'll see that, too. But you won't see it hyped, glamorized or otherwise jazzed up for Joe Q. Public. What you see is what you get.
Story lines can go on for years, meandering on and offscreen. Characters drink a whole lot of coffee in this show. Cases may or may not get solved, at about the same rate as in real life. Which is to say, not all that often. This could get frustrating, if DVI were not such a character-oriented show. One of the most compelling story lines on at the moment, for example, shows one homicide detective's long, dark night of the soul as he battles PTSD and psychotic depression. Another shows, with zero sentimentality, a young junkie hooker with more brass than brains playing two cops against each other as one tries to take the other one down for murder and corruption. Still another began last season with the title character, Dominic Da Vinci, running for police chief. This season, it's morphing into a 21st century version of a '70s dystopic conspiracy thriller, as Da Vinci finds himself and his friends increasingly harried by shadowy enemies.
You find yourself rooting for the good guys even though they're usually more screwed up than the bad guys. Da Vinci, himself, is a not-so-recovering alcoholic Vancouver city coroner with a big mouth. Nick Campbell inhabits the role so well that he effortlessly charms the audience into Da Vinci's manic daily routine. It's not hard to see why Da Vinci can be such a git and a player at times, yet have so many friends. He has some truly hilarious interactions with his secretary, Helen (the wonderful Sarah Strange), and colleagues/opponents like Zack, the irascible traffic cop, and Carmine, the uniformed officer who repeats everything everybody else says. In recent interviews, Campbell has hinted that Da Vinci may be heading for the mayor's office. That should be a fun ride.
I'm not normally into political thrillers, but I'll buy that ticket. Second-billed Ian Tracey plays Da Vinci's main police ally, Mick Leary. Leary, a smart, quiet, ultra-competent homicide detective with a temper like Mt. St. Helens and a head full of hallucinogenic Catholic guilt, redefines the term "loose cannon". Ever since a police-shooting-gone-bad nearly three seasons ago, Leary hears voices and sees dead people on the streets of Vancouver. Yet this guy still carries a badge and a gun. It's anybody's guess what he'll do next or what his superiors will do once they twig to his problems. His solution was to give away his possessions and go live on the beach in his truck. Tracey plays Leary deadpan funny, but with a subtle wrongness these days that could explode into violence at the worst possible moment. If he doesn't get a Gemini for this storyline, it'll be a sin.
Veteran Donnely Rhodes plays Leary's ex-partner, Leo Shannon, a cop who's "seen it all and done most of it". Shannon is being pushed into early retirement while trying to care for his Alzheimer's-suffering wife. He's also as big a player as Da Vinci, down in the blue trenches. Throwing in his vote for Da Vinci last season might have been a mistake he'll live to regret.
The superlative Venus Terzo plays Angela Kosmo, Leary's obsessive, maverick current partner, who once spent three years solving, mostly by herself, a fictional parallel to the real-life mystery of Vancouver's missing prostitutes. A cool-headed lioness who hunts where angels fear to tread, Kosmo's been doggedly tracking Brian Curtis (Colin Cunningham), a dirty Vice cop with a nasty habit of offing his informants, for the past two years. Caught between them is amoral teenage hooker, Sue, played with no wrong notes at all by Emily Perkins from Ginger Snaps. Perkins and Cunningham are both great in their roles, but they do the shallowness of their characters almost too well. It's a relief to get back to the depths of the good guys, screwed up as they are.
And the good guys are easy enough to spot. They have compassion, loyalty and courage. That's probably the best thing about this show. The good guys are as unpredictable as the bad guys, and probably more flawed. But even when it all gets ugly, they keep throwing themselves into the fray. They never stop trying to do the right thing, even when they don't have a clue what that is.
By God, it's a crusade. Maybe that's why DVI is such a great story.
It's a hero's journey for the 21st century. In this dirty world, that's no bad thing.