Spin (Les Hommes de l’ombre) s1 ep 4

*Spoilers*

It’s time for the first round of the election, and Simon is hedging his bets.

Too determined for Deleuvre not to win to be all that invested in who actually does, he’s apparently contemplating working for Marjorie if La Visage doesn’t make it to round two. And why not? It’s not as if Anne is remotely inspiring. She spent episodes 1 and 2 crying and falling over, and 3 and now 4 making long touchy-feely speeches which should be heartening and inspiring but for some reason make me want to roll my eyes instead.

Maybe it’s because having the only female candidate be the one talking about love and togetherness, while the nasty male one bashes on about security and fighting and whatnot, is such a stereotype. Or maybe it’s because we’ve seen how la saucisse is made; Simon and the appalling  Valentine are writing the words and pulling the strings, and Anne, Social Welfare Minister or not, comes across as more of a vacuum than a viable leader with any solid ideas of her own, so how can I possibly buy what she’s selling, no matter how palatable her message might be?

In fairness, this week’s episode does try to give her some agency and personality of her own, I suppose. She refuses to attack the Greens, she tells Simon off for the Mali escapade (of which more later). But she’s so wishy-washy as a character that we’re under no illusions as to who’s really in charge and it’s very clearly a man in the shadows, not the woman in front wearing the skirts he’s told her to.

With Anne being as commanding as a croissant then, and Deleuvre being straight-up evil, at this point even I’m contemplating joining l’équipe Marjorie. Although I wouldn’t be stupid enough to tell Valentine that.

While Anne smiles beatifically and says “Ensemble” every twenty seconds, Valentine is weirdly confused that Ludo actually used the information she gave him, but doesn’t let it trouble her for too long; there’s an uncomfortable, but well-played scene where a particularly brutal Ludo cruelly (but not inaccurately) reminds her that he and Simon share everything, but all it takes is a few stern words and she’s back in his bed again, spilling secrets faster than a speedboat zooming up the Seine.

On one view, of course, it’s Gregory Fitoussi and he sells the hell out of that scene, so I get it. I really get it. But FFS, Valentine. How about you take Jed’s advice and maybe try for a bit of self-esteem? And maybe try not to out your secret relationship with the opposition while standing right next to your boss at a live TV debate. Idiote.

While Anne and Valentine are in thrall to the men in Paris, however, Apolline is in getting arrested in a poorly-considered stunt by l’équipe Deleuvre that involves locking her up in Mali but doing nothing to stop Jamie returning to France. This seems an odd priority for a mission designed to, er, stop Jamie returning to France, but it does means Apolline can spend a bit of time being a metaphorical martyr in French tv’s idea of a Malian police cell, Jamie can become an actual martyr back in Saint-Etienne, and Apolline can get all righteous and angry and have a practice tantrum about state falsehoods and whatnot at the airport (which no one seems to notice bar Simon – passengers? Security? Anyone?) before she goes for the jugular at a Deleuvre press conference.

Simon’s reaction to this is both hilarious and ironic. “Your mum really messed things up,” he tells daughter Juliette. “She was clumsy.” Really, dude? She’s not the one who told the MOLE he’s sleeping with about the Mali trip and the witness in the first place, is she?

Not a great episode for the ladies, then, and I’m disillusioned by the fellas as well. The utter hilarity of Simon’s friends and family giving him a car for his birthday – “You don’t need a license,” Anne says. Um…. vraiment? – and it lying outside gathering parking tickets aside, Simon has a somewhat bland week, although his finally realising the MOLE’s identity is a step in the right direction. Ludo has taken a break from being layered and complicated, in favour of wholeheartedly embracing the Dark Side of the Force. And poor Jamie is unceremoniously shunted aside in order to let the Caucasian folk bring down the conspiracy instead, which is somewhat ironic, since Ludo’s comment on how “a black guy who dies doesn’t make news” suggests Spin’s writers do want to say something about French race relations and the media, but have somewhat proved their own point.

Sigh. Maybe I’m not being fair. In 2012, all the discussion about debate positioning and tactics might have seemed fresh and interesting instead of a little obvious and patronising to a politically-aware, tv-literate audience which has spent years seeing these ideas covered more subtly elsewhere. But in 2016, too much of this episode fell some way short of making the impact it should. I enjoyed Palissy kicking Guenelon into touch, I liked Simon’s “Gotcha!” moment at the end and, after weeks wondering where the hell all the tech was, I was overjoyed to see AN ACTUAL LAPTOP at the press conference, but rather than the main men fighting by proxy through a number of less exciting intermediaries, “The Witness” needed a proper confrontation between Ludo and Simon to really get it going, and without it, it never really did.

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11 thoughts on “Spin (Les Hommes de l’ombre) s1 ep 4

  1. MooreOfThat January 23, 2016 / 9:52 pm

    It could have been my mood, but this whole episode was annoying. Like, all of it.

    1. Simon, minus his face-caressing, and his Zen tea mantra. He stirs it with a little bamboo stir stick while he tells Anne is sage advice that usually is very boring.

    2. You don’t need licenses to drive small cars in Paris? Is that it? Or is it so small, no one will notice him so he can ignore the law of needing a license.

    3. Deleuvre is still just so bored with everything. I guess evilness can be taxing but he reads speeches like he’s reading his tax bill. And then when Anne reads him her nifty speech about how much he sucks, he’s just all *zzzzz* “thank you, Madame.” *zzzz*

    4. The security guy is second place in “how bored can I be”.

    5. Simon kind of has a creepy relationship with his daughter who is always nestled into his side for talks.

    6. Valentine, ugh. I *think* I am supposed to feel bad for her. She’s the poor tortured woman who is being played by the evil Ludo and the sort of clueless Simon. But I can’t care. I just want her and her face off my screen and find myself wishing someone would just throw her out a window.

    7. I don’t like Ludo’s art or his apartment.

    8. Who ran down Jamie? The government? Because that car just backed up, busted window and all and no one seemed to care that the car just drove off.

    9. Keep the champagne away from Valentine.

    10. Mali and Bamako just seem over-played “exotic” locations for France. I get it, they used to be colonial holds, but it seems like lately if France is involved with some secret local, these are the ones used (or if you need to find a French drug dealer or an American GI Jane/McGuyver character).

    Oh and “ensemble” #drink “state falsehood” #drink

    • CJ Cregg January 23, 2016 / 10:25 pm

      I don’t think it was your mood, Moore – I was really fed up by the end of the ep as well. This show should be much better than it actually is and this ep was a particularly damp squib. I agree with nearly everything you said esp about Simon and his stupid tea stick and boring advice and creepy relationship with his daughter, and the unspeakable Valentine. I don’t feel sorry for her either, just really sick of her.

      The Jamie-killer car just driving off past about twenty police officers shrugging their shoulders was indeed bizarre.

      • MooreOfThat January 23, 2016 / 11:44 pm

        Glad it wasn’t just me, I honestly thought it was just my mood.

        The only “ah” moment was when Ludo asked if she and Simon were back together, proving that he did know of their affair before.

        Walter online really started to pimp out the show last night and I was wondering if they were over-selling or if it meant the show was starting to go to crap a bit. LOL

        • CJ Cregg January 24, 2016 / 12:09 am

          I think maybe the latter, if this ep was anything to go by… although I hope they pull it back for the next couple of eps. I love Gregory Fitoussi, I love a good French drama and I really want to love this show but it’s been making it very hard to 😕

  2. Ace Of Wands January 24, 2016 / 12:02 am

    I’ve given up on this. ALL the characters are irritating, annoying and self obsessed. Or French. Even the title annoys me, being a poor translation of the original. A pale shadow of Borgen.

    • CJ Cregg January 24, 2016 / 12:06 am

      The title drives me insane. I’ve already said this but why not trust us to cope with the original, quite exciting French title? Or at least call it “The Men of the Shadows” if you must translate it, instead of changing it to something that sounds like an exercise class.

  3. Jed Bartlet January 26, 2016 / 11:37 pm

    I’ve been enjoying this show until now, but this episode wasn’t the best. I only finished watching it a few minutes ago and I’m already struggling to say what it was actually about.

    I wasn’t sure if the death of Jamie was part of ‘Get Jamie’ or just a happy coincidence, but I assumed that the police indifference was because they’re corrupt and in the poche of Deleuvre.

    Can’t decide if I’m being all repressed and Anglo-Saxon about Simon and his daughter. But ew.

    Valentine… *shakes head*. On the bright side, that post-coital scene in which she sat, naked, hugging herself, and smoking (presumably) a Gitanes or Gauloises while Ludo lay sleeping was probably THE most French thing I have EVER seen. It was almost parodic. Short of having someone ride through the bedroom on a bike, wearing a beret and stripy sweater, with a string of onions round his neck, playing an accordion, it could not POSSIBLY have been more French.

    • CJ Cregg January 26, 2016 / 11:41 pm

      “that post-coital scene in which she sat, naked, hugging herself, and smoking (presumably) a Gitanes or Gauloises while Ludo lay sleeping was probably THE most French thing I have EVER seen. It was almost parodic. Short of having someone ride through the bedroom on a bike, wearing a beret and stripy sweater, with a string of onions round his neck, playing an accordion, it could not POSSIBLY have been more French.”

      Heh. The episode would have been much more fun if that had actually happened….

  4. Bill January 28, 2016 / 11:21 pm

    Why did everyone who knows Simon club together and buy him a car for his birthday?! Including his boss and his employees, and his daughter’s boyfriend?! Where did it even come from as an idea, as despite it being a car he doesn’t need a licence to drive, (what is up with that?), I can’t see his daughter, Valentine, or Anne Visage taking a trip to see a motor one of them spotted in the local auto trader magazine. If I was Valentine, I would have just used my skills as the best copy writer in Paris and written him a heartfelt card.

    • Jed Bartlet January 28, 2016 / 11:59 pm

      It did seem a bit much for someone who – let’s face it – had effed off to New York not so long ago. Could they not have got him a gift card or a bottle of fizzy wine? Or perhaps la Visage had had a payout on the President’s life insurance.

      • Bill January 29, 2016 / 10:13 am

        I know, bet they were grumbling as it was only a couple of months ago they had to shell out for his leaving present and go to his leaving do as well.

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