If you’re looking for a show to tide you over before summer TV properly kicks in, Showcase has been unspooling Endgame since mid-spring and it’s a gem of a series that’s worth a look. One programming glitch, though – it has already been given the hook by the network once the season finale airs on Monday, but you can still catch the entire season online at Showcase.ca, and I highly recommend that you do.
Endgame is single-setting show where 90 percent of the action takes place inside Vancouver’s fictitious Huxley Hotel, the current home of a grand master chess champion rendered agoraphobic (and broke) by the death of his fiancée in front of the hotel. Shawn Doyle, rocking a thick Russian accent and seeming to have a ball doing so, stars as the chess master, Arkady Balagan. Balagan is a plague on the hotel’s staff because he’s sequestered himself in the hotel, wandering around shoeless or in a bathrobe (or both) and handing out orders as if the hotel’s staff serve only him, and embargoed the rental of his suite to other guests because he won’t vacate – despite being sketchy about keeping the bill paid.
He aggravates Hugo, the ex-cop head of security (a perfectly annoyed Patrick Gallagher), but has befriended the bartender, Danni (Katharine Isabelle) and one of the maids, Alcina (Carmen Aguirre), as well as a chess protégé, Sam (Torrance Coombs). Balagan is whiling away his agoraphobia teaching chess (for not much money) when Danni draws him into a missing child investigation, and with the help of Alcina and Sam, he solves it.
This kickstarts a new career of sorts where he’s a PI for hire, but the catch is that Danni, Alcina, and Sam do all of his legwork because he can’t leave the hotel. He sends them off, they report back, he solves the crime, takes a check (or an exchange of favors), and whittles down his bill so he can stay on at the hotel. A neat device in each episode is that we see (a still shoeless) Balagan inserted into the scenarios of what he thinks transpired, or having telltale conversations with the victims.
The cases have ranged from poker game heists to amnesia to a cold case to a particularly creepy outing where a serial killer masqueraded as a psychiatrist intent on solving Balagan’s agoraphobia but was actually baiting him to solve his latest murder. In addition to the crime of the week, there’s the unsolved murder of his fiancée, which her sister, Pippa (Melanie Pappalia) is hanging onto, and she drops into every episode pleading that he pick up that case instead of the cases of strangers.
The really perfect (all Canadian) core cast has been assisted by an awesome guest cast roster that includes Michael Shanks, Steve Bacic, Sarah Strange, Wendy Crewson, Michelle Harrison, Peter Wingfield, and Sebastian Spence, to name a few. It’s a shame the show didn’t catch on, because it really is very charming, and very well written – and would have been right at home on USA if it had been shopped in the States. I like the hook that Balagan’s able to piece the details together through the information that’s gathered and supplied to him vs. going out and getting it himself. It starts out as a lark for Balagan but soon becomes his purpose.
Shawn Doyle has been a favorite of mine since he stepped into the Joanne Kilbourn TV movies several years ago. I’m glad he finally had the chance to headline a show. Hopefully he’ll be doing it again soon. The Endgame series finale airs Monday, June 13th at 10 pm ET on Showcase.
Photo Courtesy of Showcase