Review: Witnesses (S1 E5&6/8), Saturday 9th December, BBC Four


After last week’s third and fourth episode – where Sandra Winkler and Catherine Keemer went rogue and formed their own crime drama version of Thelma and Louise – things are now bubbling nicely on Witnesses, although Sandra’s torturing of suspect Martin Souriau left a bitter taste in the mouth. You got the sense that these two women, who had formed an unlikely friendship and bond, were being pushed to the absolute limits: their children and personal lives had been threatened and they were willing to do anything – anything – to resolve their situations and protect their families.

Episode four really was excellent, as Sandra and Catherine continued their off-road crusade to find the perpetrator of not only the bus murders, but also find Catherine’s missing child. But we were introduced to a suspect – quite probably the killer – in episode four, which is always a tone and game changer. It’s a bold thing for a crime drama to make such a big reveal half-way through the series, and Witnesses has always been as bold as brass. In fact, series two is almost replicating series one in this respect – in that first series we were also introduced to a grim tableau, then introduced to a very bad man half-way through, only for another character’s guilt to be revealed in the very last moments. Series two is following that blueprint, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are twists in the tale towards the end.

So this man, then. We saw him take part in the police search for Antoine, then go home in what looked like his uniform. He pottered around his modern, soulless house, going into a back room, where two large freezers sat alongside all kinds of military and weapon paraphernalia.

If this wasn’t our man, he was certainly a nutcase.

Sandra and Catherine, meanwhile, had hatched a plan to extract the information from Martin Souriau without torture (phew) – they took him to a place in the woods, a sort of underground lair, caves, where his as-yet-unnamed boss had kept some of his captives. Before their little excursion, they had placed a tracker in his mobile… they knew he would try to escape and they would let him, hoping he would lead them to their man. Everything played out as they expected until He – the man in the army uniform and with a room full of freezers – coerced Martin into shooting himself in the bowels of a football stadium. Their plan had backfired and furthermore put themselves in more danger – this man, his name was revealed to be Geir, had watched on from the shadows as Sandra and Catherine had desperately tried to find Souriau. From that moment on, Sandra and Catherine were now the hunted.

And so it continued, with a lot of the action taking place at the orphanage – Sandra was convinced that she had missed something there, and the key to the mystery lay within the gloriously creepy walls of that old place sitting atop the crag of rock (it really is an amazing place – sort of Lord Of The Rings, if Lord Of The Rings had been French). Sandra had also met Justin secretly in a motorway service station, giving him what she knew – that there were 21 children in the same photo as Christiane Varéne, her brother and Martin Souriau, four of whose files were missing.

Justin got to work (he and Sandra’s relationship is touching and emotional), and he turned up another man who was a former orphan at Mount St. Michel used to call ‘Réglisse’ (liquorice in French). When they caught up with him, he was dead and cowering in the corner was their number-one suspect, Audrey Solange, scowling like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Audrey, it was revealed, had not only delivered Élise and Virginie’s children, but killed them afterwards and placed their bodies beneath the wind turbines (the Minotaur would come and collect the children). She had also attended Mount St. Michel.

So that was one part of the mystery sorted, but what about this man, Geir? Who was he? What influence did he have over Audrey? Did he attend Mount St. Michel?

Sure enough, Geir soon emerged and, in a creepy scene in a confessional booth (where Sandra had sneaked in for some moral fortification and Geir had pretended to be the priest) he had whispered to her: None of them loved you enough to have your children. Not even the father of your children. I’ll finish with him what I started with the others.

Shaken, she got to work and uncovered more details about one of the missing children from the orphanage, who had scrawled the initials GJ into a bedpost. She was close, very close to finding him. For this, she needed Christiane’s help. Catherine had gone to meet with her daughter, while Sandra had ‘borrowed’ Christiane from her care home. If Sandra and Catherine’s segments were like Thelma and Louise, Sandra and Christiane’s scenes were more like Rain Man. They were sweet, touching and different – while Sandra and Catherine were sometimes edgy, sometimes caring; Sandra and Christiane’s relationship was that of a mother and daughter.

In the end, Sandra did track down Geir – who was going under the name of Ghislain Hernault – but ended the episode as his prisoner. After two episodes that built up so much tension in such expertly made jeopardy scenes, we’re set for a bit of an edge-of-your-seat finale next week.

Paul Hirons

For our episodes one and two review go here

For our episodes three and four review go here

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Andy D says:

    Episodes 5 & 6, or Sandra & Catharine Go To The Seaside. You know something’s up when the continuity announcer makes a joke about the show in between episodes. I can’t help but think Sandra’s bizarre actions have directly led to four cops getting shotgunned to death, plus the four presumably dead ex-boyfriends, plus Martin killing himself. The fact Justin and her boss are letting her run around like a lunatic is stretching credulity.


  2. Elizabeth Macpherson says:

    I was hoping that this was a 6 part series. Unfortunately not. I have tried to get’involved’ with Witnesses, but gee, I don’t think i’ll be watching the next episodes….unless I want to annoy myself.


  3. Sara Latham says:

    After having been gripped last week, I was quite disappointed this week. It seemed to be cliche after cliche and kept reminding me of The Missing. Shame, but I’ll stick with it now. Roll on Spiral 😎


  4. MikeB says:

    Sorry, but can’t ‘like’ that review! What a nonsense this series is. It’s all over the place, atrocious acting by the two central women, infuriatingly stupid plot lines – what’s going on with the dotty old woman being carted around in the car? Too silly. I’m getting fed up with these mediocre thrillers that bare no relation to reality. Can’t we have a political drama in the slot for a change – repeat of Borgen?


  5. derekbd says:

    By the way, if admin are still reading here, the review heading says (S1 E5&6/8). It should be S2, right?
    Unless I’m really zonked after NYE!


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