Review: Witnesses (S1 E3/6), Wednesday 5th August, Channel 4



We’re hitting the half way stage of this excellent French drama and already the villains have been unmasked. A long way to being caught, yes, but unmasked and identified nonetheless. This a brave way to go for any series, and Witnesses has changed quickly from a whodunit to a cat-and-mouse game, with Kaz Gorbier (and Greg Serano) on the loose and taunting Maisonneuve for reasons I’m sure we’ll soon find out. The taunting continued tonight, with the escaped rapist and murderer once again turning a show home into a grotesque family scene. With some new, crucial revelations, we also found out why Gorbier had gone to so much trouble to taunt the taciturn, saturnine detective.

Yes, there were more dead bodies arranged into family poses at another show home, but this time, the ‘message’ left for Maisonneuve was a drawing pinned to the wall, made by his son when he was young boy. There was another difference: Gorbier (or at least someone on his behalf) had left an urn containing the ashes of Richard Laplace, a suspect who was ruthlessly interviewed by Maisonneuve in episode two and subsequently took his own life.

There was no doubt that Gorbier was after Maisonneuve, the only question lingering was why. And the fact there was a drawing made by his now estranged son meant that he may be in danger.

The next act was all about the personal life of Sandra Winckler. After finding an alien lipstick in her car last week and seeing her husband with another woman, she was keen to know more. But first it was a trip to the hospital to have a check-up after her car had been rammed by Gorbier’s truck at the end of episode two. Subsequent tests revealed no permanent damage, but the fact she was pregnant. A brief conversation with the doctor revealed the source of her OCD: he had asked Winckler if she had ever been pregnant before, and she told him that yes, eight years ago she had had an abortion, triggered by stress. In that instant, that almost throwaway conversation, Winckler revealed the trauma that led to her OCD. Minimum exposition, maximum impact.

After her visit to the hospital Winckler conducted her own mini-investigation into the woman her husband had been spending time with. Everything pointed to an affair and she confronted Eric at home. During their powwow this line really hit home: “I thought the perfect family didn’t exist…”

And then it all clicked. This show is all about family, which seems like an obvious thing to say when the initial crime involved arranging dead bodies in a traditional scene. But link everything together and this is surely a treatise on the state of the family in the 21st century. There’s Maisonneuve’s fractured family (his wife dead and his son estranged); Winckler’s family (a relationship in crisis and another child on the way); and those gruesome, artificial families Gorbier had tried to recreate.

It has all been about the idea of the perfect family – people having it, then losing it, then desperate to recreate it again.

So why was Gorbier trying to recreate the perfect family? We were soon to find out. Winckler did some digging into Gorbier’s case files and found the DVD containing Maisonneuve’s interrogation of the rapist and murderer. During the interview, Gorbier told Maisonneuve that he would one day do to his family what he had done to his. “My son… what you did to him to find me. I promise you one day you’ll regret it. One day you’ll be crying. What you did to my son…” Gorbier’s threat was curtailed when Maisonneuve grabbed and covered the mic, but Winckler’s curiosity was piqued. From a combination of the skills of a lip reader and an interview with Gorbier’s teenage son Jérémie, she found out that Maisonneuve had taken the then eight-year-old son to a secret location, told him what his father did to his victims in shocking detail and even showed him gruesome photographs to boot. Way to create a monster, Maisonneuve.

The episode ended when Maisonneuve’s now grown up son Thomas, who had been under armed guard, disappeared from his hotel room, deciding to go to his mother’s grave on the second anniversary of her death. There to greet him with a shotgun was Serano, but thankfully Winckler had figured it all out and got there just in time. Gorbier, meanwhile, had smeared on his scary clown make-up and crept into his son Jérémie’s room…

Another great episode, one that once again managed to pack a lot in without making it feel as though it was too rushed.

One thing we need to look out for is the line of enquiry that Maisonneuve and, in this episode, Winckler, are insisting on persevering with – the three dead men (Weber, Muse and Laplace) all worked in the same industry, but did not know each other. They were known to have received regular envelopes of cash from a mystery person, and on the day they received one of those payments they all met – separately and at different times of the day – at a certain bistro in Le Tréport. Could the property magnate Henri Norbert or one of his cronies be involved in Gorbier’s plot?

Who knows, but this is going at such a pace that we’re bound to find out very soon.

Paul Hirons

For all our Witnesses news and reviews, go here


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