Review: Witnesses (S1 E5/6), Wednesday 19th August, Channel 4

Laurent Lucas as Kaz Gorbier

If there’s one thing we know about this excellent French procedural is that it doesn’t muck about. Let’s face it, with only six episodes in the series it hasn’t got time to muck about, but still. Last week we were plunged into a scenario where Paul Maisonneuve – that flinty old detective with more skeletons in his closet than an orthopedic specialist – had been taken captive by his nemesis, Kaz Gorbier, who had brought his ex-wife and son along for the family recreating ride. Maisonneuve’s partner, Sandra Winckler, faced a race against time to find them… or rely on the captives themselves to find a solution to their predicament.

With the series reaching its conclusion there felt much more space in this episode, mostly because the pursuit of Gorbier and Maisonneuve was the main thrust of this week’s story.

The scenes within the show house, with Gorbier at the controls, were sometimes excruciatingly tense and well written and directed. Gorbier, of course, had planned all this to the letter, and like any good psychopath his attention to detail and his feelings of exultancy in planning what he saw was the perfect plan overshadowed fault lines – he might have been the architect of the recreation of his family, but his family (and Maisonneuve) weren’t compliant. This was brilliantly demonstrated in a scene where Gorbier pulled up his ex-wife for a dance, the melodramatic orchestral music wafting through the rest of the semi-deserted house like an old pristine shanty town.

When Maisonneuve wouldn’t look at Gorbier’s deliberate, forced display – mocking, ‘look what I’ve created’ – of family unity, he lost the plot, shouting at the detective to watch. Hell hath no fury like a psychopath scorned.

From then on, through the house’s rooms and walkways, tension began to build as Gorbier’s son Jérémie and Maisonneuve formed an unlikely bond. In an other extraordinary scene earlier in the episode, we saw Gorbier go down to Maisonneuve’s basement prison and give him a shave. It was an attempt to show Maisonneuve, with blade in his hand, that he was in full control of not only the situation but also his life. One slip of the blade and this intimate act could have been fatal, but Gorbier wanted to toy with him for a little while longer.

The full extent of his father’s madness – and threats to kill his mother (Gorbier’s fatal flaw in his plan was to reveal this to his son, his arrogance in his master plan not allowing for that age-old mother-son bond) – started to play on Jérémie. In the end, as Gorbier was painting his face and initiating the endgame to his plan and drowning his drugged ex-wife in the bath tub, Jérémie crept up behind him and plunged a knife into his back.

Elsewhere, Sandra was rinsing out every single lead she could to try and find her partner and erstwhile (and formerly hated) mentor. She was unable to follow the grave diggers due to (what looked like) stomach cramps, but managed to find the show house where they had dumped Kremer’s body. There she found a key, but knew not what it opened.

From then on she retraced her steps, knowing that it was only a matter of time before Gorbier killed Maisonneuve and his family. She went back to the Gorbier family home and, in an amazing physical re-enactment of the killer’s murder of his ex-wife’s new boyfriend she had a eureka moment – he was killed with a golf club. This led her to show houses around a golf complex, where she finally found Maisonneuve, pointing a gun at the badly wounded Gorbier’s face. She managed to talk him down. Gorbier was taken away.

So that was Gorbier’s side of the story tied up. It was now time to focus on the gravedigger murderers, one of which we now know is café waitress Laura. In a few scenes in this episode we got a glimpse of Laura’s madness – in her home we saw a poster for the movie Laura . It was an interesting prop. The film – released in 1944 – starred Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews and tells the story of a detective who falls in love with the murdered woman he’s investigating. While we watched the Le Tréport version of Laura smash her apartment up in a fit of rage – dolls and all (yes, dolls, which tallies with the way she has been arranging the bodies in the show homes) – events at the end of the episode suggested that there are links between the plot of Laura the movie and Laura the young woman.

Maisonneuve and Sandra managed to find out what the key opened – the post box outside of the first house they had left bodies in. There they found some newspaper clippings, telling the story of a young woman who had hanged herself in a bunker in 1996. Maisonneuve worked the case.

“Did you know her?” asked Sandra.

“She was the first woman I ever loved,” replied Maisonneuve, grimly, the realisation that more ghosts from his past are coming back to haunt him washing over his face like a mud slide.

Curioser and curioser, and brilliantly engrossing as ever. The finale is next week.

Paul Hirons

For all our Witnesses news and reviews, go here



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