NB: I am manipulating this post into the narrow subject matter of this blog (what I think about what I read) on the basis that I watched the series in the original French with English subtitles which I had to read. OK it’s lame but whaddayagonnado?
Spiral follows the workings of a Paris-based police squad headed by Inspector Laure Berthaud, played by Caroline Proust. As well as her team there are many dealings with Judge François Roban and his Chief Prosecutor Piérre Clement (played by the delicious Grégory Fitoussi who’s on the far left of this picture).
Each season of the show has one case that threads through all the episodes as well as several shorter cases that are dealt with along the way.
Season 2’s main case starts out with a barbecue which isn’t what you think. Here it involves being put alive into the boot of a car which is then set alight while a whole swag of people watch and listen to you scream. As Police search for the person who committed this particularly nasty act it becomes clear to them that the barbecuing was all part of a larger crime: drug smuggling. The police put someone undercover in the drug gang and then try to catch the smugglers in the act.
Things I loved about this show
- Grégory Fitoussi (he’s gorgeous to look at even if he does have a series of unsuitable friends)
- The people look like real people rather than TV coppers (e.g. their hair gets mussy, their teeth are not perfect, and they do not wear unsuitable clothing and footwear for chasing criminals)
- The settings are realistic and terribly European (there’s not space age laboratory in sight and no pristine offices either)
- It gives a real sense of the frustration at bureaucratic nonsense and lack of funding that must haunt police the world over (with the exception of cops in any franchise of CSI where money never seems to be a problem)
- The characters are wonderfully developed and there’s hardly a stereotype to be found. Laure is terribly over emotional but a fiercely loyal friend and boss, Joanna Karlsson is possibly the most ruthless lawyer ever to walk the small screen (far more so in season 2) and Judge Roban is one of the most complex characters I’ve ever seen portrayed on TV
- I assume the show reflects the French justice system, the structure of which is quite different to ours here in Australia and what I have seen of the UK and US systems and it’s interesting to me to see something different on my screen.
- Grégory Fitoussi (I’ll shut up about him now)
Things I didn’t love quite so much
- The melodrama went over the top this time: towards the end of this season I was openly laughing at the plot which went from vaguely plausible to utterly stupid (I won’t give spoilers but if any police force were as incompetent as this mob were I think there’d be world wide anarchy)
- Drug smuggling as a crime bores me to tears both for political reasons (which I won’t bother you with) and dramatic ones (it almost always involves criminals killing each other which is dull because I don’t have any emotional investment in the victims)
Things I don’t know whether to love or not
- Every defence lawyer who appears in either season is utterly morally bankrupt and I can’t decide if this is a particular view of the series’ writers or a wider view in France. It’s not something I’ve seen portrayed quite so vehemently before.
Overall there were many more things to love than not and this is a top notch TV drama which I recommend it highly. Even if you are not quite so enamoured of Grégory Fitoussi as I, there are many things that make this an enjoyably unique show. I would start with Season 1 if you possibly can although it’s not essential to the understanding of season 2.
In Australia it’s available on DVD (including via Quickflix) and has been aired on SBS once so may be repeated. In the UK season 1 has aired and the rights to season 2 have been purchased so presumably it will air soon (on BBC4). In the US you’re on your own (sorry but I couldn’t find any evidence of it ever crossing your borders which my American-resident brother says is probably because it’s in a foreign language which wouldn’t be as acceptable there as it is on the rest of the planet).