TORONTO - Canada's cross-border cop smash "Flashpoint" is about to go out with a bang with an explosive two-part finale sending the elite team of Toronto officers racing to stop a serial bomber from taking the entire city hostage.
"Flashpoint" star Enrico Colantoni said it's a thrilling end to the made-in-Canada procedural, which airs Part 1 of a tense finale on Thursday. Part 2 airs Dec. 13.
Expectations are big for the conclusion, with Colantoni admitting that even he wondered how writers could adequately wrap up one of the country's top cop shows. Its nail-biting life-or-death crises have been a weekly tradition for five seasons.
"The expectation was always: How are they going to close it? How are they going to end it? And when you're used to doing a show that's operating at nine (out of 10) and 10 out of 10, you wonder what they will do. And they did (it)," Colantoni said from the set last June, where hallways were filled with "for sale" items including discarded wardrobe and a mishmash of props.
"For the first time my character really has to go outside of his comfort zone.... There's no room for peace in these last two episodes, there's no room for calm, there's no room for stepping back. There's only being ahead of the situation and really living in the solution of it and (thinking) 'How are we going do this?' Because it's so outrageous and so crazy."
The two-part finale begins with the team discovering a sophisticated bomb hidden amid the computer servers of a 911 communications centre. From there, they learn more explosives have been stashed in other public buildings and that a deranged bomber is intent on inflicting widespread carnage.
In order to contain the threat, Team 1 joins forces with firefighters, paramedics and the military, resulting in a high-octane tribute to all emergency responders, said writer and co-creator Stephanie Morgenstern.
"I think we've managed to balance the sense of crisis and tragedy that we were looking for because the stakes are big," said Morgenstern, who launched the series with writer and co-creator Mark Ellis in July 2008.
"But at the same time, (there's) a sense of life-affirming forward motion of the future of Team 1, that things are not completely coming to an end now, that there is a sense of a legacy for the team as well."
She said pains were taken to address ongoing storylines for Colantoni's team leader Sgt. Greg Parker, Hugh Dillon's sharp-shooter Ed Lane, Amy Jo Johnson's negotiator Jules Callaghan, David Paetkau's sniper Sam Braddock and Sergio Di Zio's explosives expert Spike Scarlatti.
"We knew where we wanted to take Sam and Jules and I think that's going to be satisfying for Sam and Jules fans," she said.
"We knew where we wanted take Parker and Ed and the others. I think (it was about satisfying) our own sense of: 'What gift can we give them to send them off into the future?' I think it was more of that rather than, 'Let's make sure we deal with this and then this and then this.'"
There's no question that "Flashpoint" has made its mark on the Canadian TV industry, proving to skeptics that homegrown fare could be populist, acclaimed and internationally successful all at the same time.
The slick show debuted four years ago on CTV and CBS, drawing 1.13 million viewers in Canada and 8.72 million viewers in the United States.
It was the first Canadian series since "Due South" to air in network prime time on both sides of the border, paving the way for a wave of other Canadian series to also strike U.S. deals.
Although CBS eventually dropped "Flashpoint'" (it was subsequently picked up by the U.S. specialty channel ION Television) the show found a home in more than 100 territories worldwide, including Germany, France and the Netherlands.
"As creators and writers it's been fantastic that the show has gone beyond its borders and was in the States and the rest of the world but for us the biggest brass ring was always to get Canadians to watch a Canadian show," said Ellis.
"Of course we've watched them over the years but I feel that we were embraced in a way that was really beyond our dreams."
The show was still riding high in Canada when executive producers Anne Marie La Traverse and Bill Mustos announced earlier this year they were calling it quits. Mustos said they wanted to end the series on a high, adding later that he believed the show had reached its "apex."
Colantoni said it was the right time to end things. Nevertheless, he choked back tears as he discussed his final days on set.
"It's been such a rewarding ride because I get to honour real heroes," said Colantoni, his voice cracking with emotion.
"The real guys who do this don't get half the credit they deserve, they're vilified way too much."
As for what's next, Morgenstern and Ellis said they "have a passion project" in the works but would reveal no details, other than the fact it's an "adventure drama series" based in Canada — and it's not about police officers.
"We definitely have some irons in the fire and some stories that we're burning to tell and we've been very slow and methodical in terms of coming to what that story might be," said Ellis.
"'Flashpoint' happened because we were very passionate about this one thing — we've never been people that are flinging ideas at a wall and seeing what sticks. We need to be driven by a very specific subject matter and so we're hoping that our next passion project is passionate for other people, too."
Colantoni, whose past credits include the sitcom "Just Shoot Me!" said the teen sleuthing series "Veronica Mars," said he's ready for a change and was eager to return to comedy.
That could include another collaboration with his pal Dillon.
The duo teamed up to make a short film called "Issues," which they brought to the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011. During last June's interview, Colantoni said they were working on expanding it to a feature-length buddy comedy.
"He's like a vortex of creative ideas," Colantoni said of Dillon, who first found fame as a musician in the '90s with the hard-rocking band the Headstones.
"He just can't sit still and we've discovered that I can translate for him pretty well. He'll just vomit it out and I go, 'Oh, this is what you're saying.' He goes, 'Yeah, that's what I'm saying.'"
Dillon and Colantoni will be among a swath of cast and crew expected to attend a special fan screening of the "Flashpoint" finale Dec. 13 in Toronto.
The event is among several "Flashpoint" extras being put together to help viewers bid farewell to the series, which will have aired 75 episodes when all is said and done.
Thursday's episode will be complemented by a live online special at CTV.ca featuring Johnson, Paetkau, Di Zio, Ellis and Morgenstern at 11 p.m. ET. Viewers can submit questions at CTV.ca/LiveChat starting at 10 p.m. ET.
CTV will also air a tribute special, "Flashpoint: The Final Salute," Dec. 13.
Colantoni said "Flashpoint" was exceptional for being so uniquely Canadian.
"This one is so special because it comes from this country with this country's sensibility. That's why the rest of the world digs it so much. That's what we have to offer as a culture," said Colantoni.
"There's a lot I love and am going to miss about this world — as an actor, as a human being."
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