Thanks to Spiral and Witnesses (and a whole bunch of stuff on Walter Presents), France is now up there as one of the key and most prolific producers of tight, grimy, edgy urban procedurals. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that the country’s output now rivals Scandinavia and the Nordic countries in terms of quality of output. If there’s one series that helped to kick off this interest in French crime drama it’s Spiral, and the good news is that the sixth series is on its way.
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.
Last week’s episode of Spiral really left us on a knife-edge. This series we’ve been much more invested in the emotional stories of the characters, and that investment usually means that something bad is about to happen to them, and so it proved. We clung to the hope that lovely Pierre Clément (Gregory Fitoussi) might survive the shooting caused by Stéphane Jaulin’s escape attempt, but no; he died on the operating table, and we, like Berthaud and Karlsson, will have to cope with our grief.
Although this series of Spiral hasn’t attempted to tackle Big Issues such as immigration or terrorism (although they’re always on the fringes), it has still full of twists and shocks, and has ramped up the personal pressure on the protagonists to an almost painful degree. If you have tears, prepare to shed them now – episode six, in particular, was an extraordinary rollercoaster ride, elevating Spiral right up into dramasphere. It was one of those game-changing weeks that will send crime drama fans into meltdown.
Watching Spiral is like being at an intimate dinner party where the starters and main course have been so sublime that you beg off the dessert, telling your host that you have had an elegant sufficiency – then he brings in a sumptuous-looking pavlova that you just can’t resist. The first of last week’s episodes started out with a sad but seemingly pedestrian open-and-shut case of family murder of Sandrine and Lucie Jaulin, a mother and young daughter who have been beaten to death and tossed in a canal, probably by husband and father Stéphane Jaulin, because of a custody row. Small beer for a squad that is used to dealing with terrorists, drug cartels and international people trafficking. Going into episode two, a possible case of police corruption landed on their desks. Two officers in a car pursuit accuse hapless civilian Kevin Leseuer of running down and killing their colleague – but is Leseuer being set up as the fall guy for bent cops? Photos taken of the damaged vehicles seem to support Leseuer’s story – but his car has been sent to the crusher. Two plotlines? So far so CSI.
In a cruel twist of fate and timing, the acclaimed French cop series Spiral returned for a fifth outing in a week when the series’ real-life counterparts of Captain Laure Berthaud (Caroline Proust) and her squad were rocked by the Charlie Hebdo outrage. Series four (back in March 2013) had gone out on a cliffhanger following a terrorist attack on the police HQ, killing off several characters including, it transpires, Berthaud’s beloved colleague Sami. In terms of timing, this return to a storyline that had a police death caused by the hand of terrorists was a tough watch. But this was the world of fiction, and there was no way our handsome hero was going to survive trying to defuse that great big lump of Semtex before it decimated the building…
As we all know, BBC4 has become the de facto place to get all your foreign-language crime drama nourishment. Over the years the channel has broadcast such dark delights as The Killing, The Bridge, Wallander, Inspector Montalbano, Salamander et al. Another channel hit is gritty French crime drama, Spiral (or Engrenages in its native tongue). The good news is that the series is back fro a new season and it’s just around the corner. Details after the jump. Or Le Saut, if you will.