Review: Spiral (S5 E11&12/12), Saturday 14th February, BBC4

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As this series comes to its climax, there are critical questions to be answered both in the double-murder case, and in the tangled relationships of the cops, the lawyers and the politicians. Although we’re most concerned with Laure Berthaud and her pregnancy, there are opportunities for disaster around every corner. 

Gang leader Karen, or ‘Oz’, is trying to build bridges with her mother; we’re never shown why Karen has turned out the way she has, as her mother seems to be a decent type, but her advances are rejected. The cops have raided Karen’s flat, and found all sorts of incriminating evidence, including photos of her with the murdered Sandrine and her children. When Kimberley comes out of her coma, she confesses that she was with Karen’s gang when they killed Sandrine after an abortive attempt to kidnap her children; the net is closing on Karen and her girl gang. Whoever described woman as the gentler sex never met this trio.

It’s a case of ‘tears on my Gilou’ as Escoffier, off suspension, still isn’t happy as he believes Berthaud has rejected him. It’s heartbreaking, of course, that while she tells him she needs him as a cop, she can’t for some reason feel the same need for him as a man. He takes consolation with Djibril’s girlfriend Cindy, and Berthaud looks on with distress.

But naturally there’s a final twist before Karen and her gang are captured. Desperate for money, they kidnap a young girl, and hide out in the sticks. Again, we have extended scenes in which the cops try to follow the gang, and manage to lose them. Three kids manage to outwit what is supposed to be a crack squad in one of the world’s major cities. The real-life chase following the Charlie Hebdo killings was a swift and well-organised, if bloody, operation. This lot never seem able to roadblock an area effectively, or to be prepared for the fact that criminals use motorbikes. Yet when the final showdown comes, the place is swarming with armed cops. Perhaps they do need more plods and fewer SWAT teams, but this is starting to become a wearing trope of the series. Maybe the Prefecture of Police of Paris is suffering austerity measures like the Met.

Slippery police boss Herville has redeemed himself, saving Gilou from charges and accepting a posting to an area he describes as being like ‘the Wild West’. He hits the bottle, and the team, now sympathetic to him, take him home and tuck him in.

But Judge Roban feels that Berthaud has betrayed him by not sharing the fact that Djibril is an informant, and as she’s his only consistent support, we feel his pain. We also see Roban in a new light as, casually dressed in a cardie, he apologises for his cold-heartedness to his touchstone Marianne, and induces her to return to work. There is a tenderness to this café scene that makes them appear like an old married couple – out of chambers, the seat of his authority, we see his true feeling rather than just fair judgement. And that feeling is mutual, especially when Marianne worries again about his sporadic nosebleeds.

It doesn’t do him much good, though, as his plan to jail rich Libyan crook Ziani is derailed by the political machinations of his superiors. Another attempt is accidentally foiled when Gilou warns Djibril that his car-theft ring is about to be raided. Will we see more of the seemingly bulletproof Ziani? He’d like Josephine Karlsson to go with him to Syria, but she’s happily ensconced at Edelman’s law firm, where her first move is to collude in having Edelman sacked. Nice! She’s also unforgivably horrible to the thwarted Robin, who has usually been in her corner throughout each series. Every time we start to warm to the ginger stick insect, she does something more ghastly. Although you’ve got to love this chic chick.

Gilou, of course, ends up in a fist-fight with Djibril over Cindy. Well, there was no way they were going to shake hands and part as mates, but we can’t see much future for the crusty cop and the tarty Cindy.

The final confrontation with Karen’s gang is more a result of luck than good policing, as Karen’s mother recognises the hideout from a ransom photo. Yet with all the armed cops in the world on the scene, we still feel icy fingers of dread as Berthaud puts down her gun, and inexplicably takes off her stab vest. When the kidnapped girl has been saved, what perverse instinct prompts Berthaud to tackle the knife-wielding Karen? While we and Gilou are heartbroken to see her in hospital, with the baby given little chance of survival, we have to ask, what motivated Berthaud to make that rush? Was she so hormonal that she saw even the monstrous Karen as someone’s little girl, who had to be saved? And Gilou, in tears, drops the bomb to the surviving putative father, crime squad boss Brémont. How will this go down with Berthaud, who has been avoiding this possibility?

It’s all too reminiscent of the end of series four, where Sami dies trying to defuse a bomb, apparently in an attempt to save some filing-cabinets.

If programme-makers are going to stick the knife in – literally, as it turns out – they should make sure that the tragedy comes as a shock, and as an inevitability. Series five’s ending seemed contrived and unlikely. We knew there were no happy endings in Spiral, but this seems like sadism. Let’s hope that series six, apparently already in production, can slacken the thumbscrews a little. Despite our misgivings about the finale, there’s no doubt that Spiral, so far, has been the crime drama of the year. 

Chris Jenkins

For our episodes one and two reviews go here

For our episodes three and four review go here

For our episodes five and six reviews go here

For our episodes seven and eight reviews go here

For our episodes nine and 10 reviews go here

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