Review: Witnesses (S1 E4/6), Wednesday 12th August, Channel 4

Thierry Lhermitte

After the tumult in series finales like True Detective and Jordskott this week, it’d be easy to despair at the great, big crime drama-shaped holes these two series are leaving. So thank goodness for Witnesses, Channel 4’s excellent Normandy-set crime drama, which is the best of the lot. It has been full of twists, turns and short, sharp action that has kept us on the edge of our seats, and tonight there were more twists and turns. Sorry… True what? Jords… what?

We rejoined the action in the home of Kaz Gorbier’s ex-wife and son, and the escaped rapist and murderer was busy putting the next stage of his plan into action. First, he took a golf club and battered his ex-wife’s new partner to death with it. Then he kidnapped his ex-wife and son. All this from under the noses of a police guard. It seems a clown’s disguise can get you anywhere these days.

Sandra Winckler and Paul Maisonneuve were rightly angry at this latest development, and they quickly realised that Gorbier was trying, once again, to recreate the perfect family, which just happened to comprise (living) members of his own family. The two coppers went back to the show home district, trying to figure out which of the houses Gorbier would pick for his next recreation. While they were pondering this (Justin had come out with the portentous line: “Living in a house like this would be like living in a coffin”) a young boy cycled up to them and gave them a pay-as-you-go mobile phone someone called Kaz had told him to give to Maisonneuve.

Hours passed, and as they were waiting for Gorbier to telephone Maisonneuve, the veteran detective and Justin were hanging out at the office, chatting about parenthood and joking about asking out a woman who worked at the bowling alley. Justin let out a wolf’s howl. This immediately made me suspect Justin of something – the wolf motif (opening credits, Serano’s tattoo etc) has been generally associated with bad things in this show – but I wasn’t sure what. Could he have been part of the Gorbier conspiracy?

Elsewhere, Winckler was again up late taking another look at the three men who had died, two of them dug up by Gorbier to display in show homes. She found a connection – Muse, Laplace and Weber were known tennis players and had taken part in a tournament in 1992. She found their smiling faces in a newspaper article, alongside another man: Yvan Kremer.

As the early morning mist descended onto the ferry terminal in Le Tréport, the police swooped on Kremer at work. A chase ensued, which ended with Kremer getting a bullet in his head.

Maisonneuve took time out for a chat with Winckler, handily recapping the story for us: a killer had bumped off these four men. Why? They weren’t sure yet. Two of these four men had been dug up by Gorbier for his own warped purposes. One them had taken his own life, the other had just been killed on a ferry platform.

It was a nice breather, and a welcome reminder that Winckler and Maisonneuve were not only up against Gorbier’s personal crusade for vengeance, but also a murderer.

Later Gorbier did indeed telephone Maisonneuve, but only after he had kidnapped Justin who was also involved in his son’s interrogation. Maisonneuve was asked to go alone to the place where he had had his car ‘accident’. Once he got there Gorbier dumped a battered Justin and exchanged him for Maisonneuve. Justin did not survive his injuries, Gorbier later told Maisonneuve. Gorbier also told his new hostage that it wasn’t he who had been digging up the bodies.

Woah… ok. So.. huh? Gorbier hadn’t been the one digging up the bodies. But he had been arranging them into fantasy families? There must be an accomplice (or two) out there. Surely.

Winckler, who earlier in the episode had had THAT conversation with her cheating partner and was entering into full obsessive, Sarah Lund mode, was still acting on a hunch that Kremer’s body would be dug up like his tennis chums Weber and Muse. It was hammering down with rain as she staked out the cemetery, and as she entered the graveyard a wolf/dog sidled up to her and started growling menacingly. The very same wolf/dog in the opening credits. Hearing the noise in the distance were two people who were indeed digging up Kremer’s freshly buried body. One of them turned around to find out what the dog was growling at. It was (at least I’m pretty sure it was, it was dark and rainy)… Laura, the young waitress who Maisonneuve had developed a curious relationship with. He often visited her, as he did in this episode, to have a coffee and a conversation with her in the café she worked in. It felt like this café and this young woman who reminded him of characters from his past, was a sanctuary. That sanctuary has now been blown apart.

So now we have Winckler out to try and find Maisonneuve as well as the killer of the four tennis-playing men. Knowing Witnesses things will be tied up and move on quickly, which means we just cannot take our eyes off this. For instance, the tennis connection was hinted at in the last episode when Winckler went to interview Laplace’s boss – there, pride of place in one of the cabinets was the trophy won by Laplace in that 1992 tennis tournament.

The way this series drops in characters and bits of evidence that seem entirely inconsequential at first, only for them to become key pieces of the plot in subsequent episodes is first-rate, making it a police procedural out of the top drawer.

Paul Hirons

For all out Witnesses news and reviews, go here



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