Spin (Les Hommes de l’ombre) s1 ep 6


It’s election time, but Team Visage is feeling a lot less “ensemble” than they need to be: Simon’s minions, led by his (jealous? Ugh) daughter blame him for Valentine’s suicide attempt last week, having taken deux and deux out of the fact he had an affair with her and fired her, and made cinq.

Valentine’s hitherto very well-hidden closeness to anyone but the men she’s worked for – “You fire a girl we loved and you have nothing to say?” spits Daughter Dearest, who’s never even spoken to her on screen, as far as I can remember – isn’t the only surprise, either. “The truth is, one night Valentine poured her heart out to me,” says Anne. “Really?” the entire audience wonders, “Did we miss an episode?” before getting distracted by her taking a leaf out of the Kapita playbook and stroking his face instead of vice versa.

It seems to be contagious.

Simon tries to be all saintly about things – visiting Valentine repeatedly in hospital where she returns to the world the same way she tried to leave it, crying – but can’t put up with anyone thinking the soleil doesn’t shine out of his derrière for very long so he calls a team meeting to tell them their friend’s leaking secrets to her lover. Dun dun….. de rien. Bizarrely, news of their bestie’s betrayal elicits nothing more than blank expressions from anyone (except Daughter, who is delighted), she’s back in the fold by the end of the ep and everyone’s “ensemble” again.

If I gave a flying vol-au-vent about Valentine, I might have been interested in all this, but the only point of her existence has always been to give Ludo and Simon another reason to fight so I’m not. Even while lying silently in a hospital room, though, she can still make that happen: her two exes bump into each other at the hospital, argue and Simon threatens Team Deleuvre into keeping schtum about the bug, because, although the PM and Ludo making a deal with Marjorie is “disgusting!”, recording and using it for blackmail is apparently not that bad.

And neither are “dirty politics.” While everyone enjoys themselves moralising about how awful Ludo and the PM’s sneaky politicking is, Simon suggests – without a trace of irony – that they use the recording to turn Guenelon, Anne and Palissy are all for it, and lo! Guenelon and the letter proving the “state falsehood” are in Visage hands, to be used for what? To help launch a proper investigation into the cover-up? To tell the world what really happened and ease some of the racial tension Deleuvre has helped stoke up? To exonerate Apolline and honour Jamie’s memory?

Pfft. It’s to get the increasingly pathetic, defeated Deleuvre up out of bed and smack him around till he endorses Anne whether he wants to or not. “Why do you hate me so much?” wonders Deleuvre, plaintively. “I know how low people will stoop,” declares the righteous Simon, as he blackmails the PM for the second time in the same episode. “I hate you because you’re capable of lying to an entire nation.” Which you’re about to collude in by burying the letter for political gain instead of advising the lied-to nation of its contents, Simon. But don’t let a little hypocrisy distract you from your moralising, will you now?

The least-convincing endorsement in history – Deleuvre, looking like he’s being held at gunpoint, telling people to vote Visage as she stands next to him, grimacing – astonishes and enrages Ludo, sitting alone in his massive office with its many chairs on mini putting greens. In what seems an odd directorial choice, though, this final defeat causes him to go full panto and stare directly and pointedly into the camera, which is both incongruous and makes me want to laugh, although I don’t think that’s the desired effect.

It’s not the only unintentionally funny moment amongst all the high drama. Other highlights include the resolutely licence-less Simon actually driving (!) his new car and parking it in the most incompetent fashion I have ever seen, directly in front of a police car. FFS, Simon. And in the midst of outlining some completely incomprehensible utterly dull plan to hire Deleuvre as a lobbyist/lawyer for his non-existent clients, Ludo announcing that “Any MP can become a lawyer in three weeks. You just have to take an oath.” Vraiment?

Comedy moments aside, the episode and the season ends with the serious business of everyone waiting nervously, about to find out who the next President will be. Everyone except the audience, that is. If I’d watched this when it was first shown in France and had to wait ages for season 2, I would have been somewhat annoyed at the cliffhanger. I’m watching it years later on More 4, however, and not only are they launching straight into season 2 next week, but I stumbled onto a spoiler about who wins the election weeks ago.

Not that I care all that much either way. Season 1 has been a real let-down; instead of the smart, sharp, exciting show I expected, Spin has turned out to be old-fashioned, unsubtle and stuffed with stereotypes and anvils. As we’ve said before, the female characters are incredibly disappointingly-drawn, with Valentine a particular nadir. As far as the male characters are concerned, Simon, the hero, seems to have principles but this just means he gets to have his choux bun and eat it: he’s forever complaining about how terrible other people’s tactics are, before sorrowfully pulling out some trick or other himself. If he’d just come down off his high cheval and own up to enjoying all the scheming, I’d probably enjoy him a lot more too. Ludo, the villain, is more interesting and less annoying, because he’s unapologetically, unabashedly amoral and ruthless instead of pretending to be otherwise, and (let’s be honest) because he’s hot, but if he wasn’t played by Gregory Fitoussi, I might well have given up by episode 4. The writing is mediocre, the subtitling makes it even worse and by then I’d just have been watching for the suits. Having said that, I’ve come this far, so I’ll stick around and see what season 2 brings. For now, at least.


13 thoughts on “Spin (Les Hommes de l’ombre) s1 ep 6

  1. MooreOfThat February 7, 2016 / 3:46 am

    Well, here I am and you know me.

    I of course agree with everything you said. Including Ludo’s office chairs sitting fashionably on putting greens.

    Let’s start with Valentine. For a brief moment, I thought it might be possible that Ludo actually did have some sort of deeper emotion for her than an occasional bed buddy since he turned up at the hospital looking all nice and then saw Simon and got angry. When he and Simon got into it, Ludo did seem a tad upset about “losing” Valentine. All with his “Did you hire her so she’d leave me?” But then I don’t know. Maybe his “she loves me! She’s in love with me!” was just his point to rub it into Simon that he has his company, a better car and his ex-girlfriend. By the time Ludo got to hear the recording he didn’t seem to care about Valentine so much anymore.

    Okay, I get it, Ludo is the “scumbag” as Anne coins him. I think either I am an extremely jaded person so bad guys are more appealing or maybe it’s because the show has never really bothered to show the badness that Ludo is capable of and every character is grossed out by. So I see Ludo take on a new client (as does Simon). Okay, so Ludo goes and covers up a “state falsehood” (later Simon bugs people and does a score of dirty tricks this episode including the empty folder trick). Okay, so Ludo sleeps around (maybe?) or picks neurotic girlfriends who have a thing for crying, popping Prozac and being clingers (and Simon cheats on his wife with the same woman). Okay, so Ludo walks around and tells Mr. D this and that and side-eyes various people (and so does Simon). The closest thing they finally came to showing Ludo being “scumbagy” was his deal with Mr. D. And like you, I was all “three weeks and a correspondants course and you’re a lawyer in France?” Magnifique! It was more amusing that Mr. D, PM of the country didn’t even seem to know this law existed.

    And would Simon even care about this state falsehood if it wasn’t the fact that Pierre was his bestie? Does he care about the state or his friend?

    Other honorable mentions:

    Alexandra visiting Simon and mentioning the table (it must be five feet! *gets out tape measure*) and suddenly this turning into a “who invited Ludo to the meeting?” moment. I liked how Simon picked up her briefcase and held it disdainfully with one finger as if Ludo was actually inside the briefcase whispering about table lengths.

    All the people side-eyeing Simon for the affair with Valentine. His daughter seemed more upset that he fired a woman they all liked instead of this woman being the homewrecker to her parents marriage. And why would random office people care? How “ensemble” are they all? Simon’s meeting to set the record straight was all sorts of weird “You’re all pouting! Boo! You all lack courage to ask me about this! How dare you ask me about this! Don’t worry I am keeping her on the pay-list even though SHE SOLD US OUT!” At first I thought he actually thought she tried to kill herself because of their doomed affair not because of Ludo since Anne was all “did you have an affair with her?” and all “it’s not your fault”.

    Simon does what at the UN? PR work? They seem to be permanently on hold for him to come back. His random shout out “I hate Ludo!” was entertaining and I now think the only reason he hates Ludo is because since he was the teacher and Ludo the student, Ludo can get into his head and under his skin making him a worse opponent and also a personal one (hence his five foot table meeting disaster).

    At least Gregory knows how to stare into a camera.

    That being said, I will stick with this because if nothing else it’s fun to mock LOL. I have season 2 on DVD so I need to watch it and then catch the English subtitle version. Here’s hoping for another pathetic clingy girlfriend for Simon and Ludo to share, Simon getting those parking skills in order, Simon’s daughter moving to NYC so we don’t have to see her again and Mr. D. waking up while he defends Ludo’s Russian clients with his cereal box law degree and not falling asleep.

    And that Ludo gets better furniture and gets rid of that horrible palm tree photo (art?) on his wall.

    Most entertaining moment was Paillsy having the best and oddest insult for Ludo by calling him “a shower of bastards.”

    I don’t know if that was meant to be funny, but I laughed. New insult for my collection.

    • CJ Cregg February 7, 2016 / 2:24 pm

      HEE. Moore, I enjoyed your comment way more than the ep. Been giggling away to myself at too many things you said to quote them all but I’m particularly loving the idea of a tiny Ludo in the briefcase whispering about table lengths (that whole five feet thing came across like some form of OCD) and your vision for s2 🙂

      You and I are at one on Ludo – I agree the show failed to make him look as bad as they meant to, and failed to make Simon look like much more than a hypocrite, so I ended up liking Ludo more too, for all his bad behaviour. (And the state falsehood thing.) At least Ludo OWNED his dirty tricks. And Gregory does indeed know how to stare into a camera 😉

      I do think Ludo probably liked Valentine a lot (before she became a weepy, clingy nightmare), but she was always going to come in a distant third to his career and himself. He wasn’t ever going to be in love with her and her loving him beyond reason was not something he planned on or wanted. (Nor was the face-licking, obv. Ew.) He isn’t irredeemable – he did care about her enough to go to the Hospital, as you said, but even then, his career and his ego took precedence when Simon started to rile him. Although I wonder if there was some guilt in there, too. He was initially prepared to be civil, and just mildly asked Simon how Valentine was, but only got very angry and switched to fight mode when Simon started to accuse him of causing her suicide attempt.

      • MooreOfThat February 7, 2016 / 8:00 pm

        Well I watched the bulk of season 2. Oh boy LOL.

        I already have already assigned pet names for the next round of annoying characters.

        • CJ Cregg February 7, 2016 / 10:35 pm

          Ah. I was hoping the annoying characters were just first season teething troubles….

          • MooreOfThat February 8, 2016 / 7:34 am

            Unfortunately the creepy daughter has not moved to NYC.

            And get ready to meet one I have coined “Xerox Girl”

            • CJ Cregg February 8, 2016 / 11:24 pm

              Oh well. If that’s the price for more Gregory…. 😉

              • MooreOfThat February 9, 2016 / 7:28 pm

                So true. Plus, I am delighted I get to hang in all this witty company for another six weeks! They need to hurry with Season 3 so we can sit here some more.

                • CJ Cregg February 9, 2016 / 9:20 pm

                  Yay! It’s a date 🙂

  2. Jed Bartlet February 7, 2016 / 8:39 am

    I was also quite surprised to discover that if you’re a candidate to be President of one of the most important countries in the world, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, you need to take time out of your campaign to listen to the romantic misfortunes of one of the girls in the office. Anne must have been wondering if being President was worth having to listen to Valentine (“And then I betrayed the confidence of one, licked the face of the other…”).

    Overall, though, and slightly to my surprise for a Fitoussi show, I think I ended up enjoying this quite a bit more than you did, although I’d venture to suggest that it’s because I was never conflicted about Ludo. Simon isn’t perfect by any means, but there really isn’t any moral equivalence between the two of them. (And he was quite right to tell his appallingly pouty staff that their trainwreck colleague had been sacked for trying to torpedo their campaign.) But we’ve covered this before.

    What the show got wrong in its English iteration was the subtitles, of course, which weren’t sufficiently idiomatic; and – I’m guessing – an assumed familiarity with French politics and practices which couldn’t be picked up in the subtitles without looking clunky. For example, as you rightly say, the convo between Ludo and Deleuvre. So you swear an oath, become a lawyer, then represent Ludo’s clients before Parliament, for which you’ll get paid, except because it’s at arms’ length there isn’t a problem…? Or something. I kind of felt that a freeze-frame and a one-minute primer on the French system would have been useful at that point.

    • CJ Cregg February 7, 2016 / 2:43 pm

      We’ll have to agree to disagree about Simon and Ludo’s respective failings, but FWIW I think they’d both be terrible boyfriends and I wouldn’t like to work for either of them.

      We’re all agreed the subtitles were awful and made things a lot worse and I agree that familiarity with French political practice would have helped, but, as I said in my post, I don’t think the original French writing can have been that good in the first place. The subtitles didn’t create the unspeakably wretched Valentine or her storyline, for instance. Or have Simon recycle the “do this/ don’t do this or I’ll show the world this” trick twice in one ep, having already used it with the photos a couple of weeks ago. And I know I’ve said it before, but the entire show more or less ignoring how important the internet is in spin and the news cycle was just really weird. It’s almost like it was originally conceived in the early 90s and sat around in a drawer till someone decided to tart it up a bit and shoot it in 2011.

      Sigh. Maybe my high expectations going in didn’t help, mind you. If I’d been less invested in it being awesome, I might have been less irritated by some of its failings.

  3. Bill February 9, 2016 / 3:34 pm

    The costume department were working overtime in this episode. We finally see Anne change out of that awful wrinkled cream skirt and into a slightly more commanding charcoal skirt suit. Then, at the debate, she is actually wearing trousers, prohibited by Simon in an earlier episode! Was this supposed to show Anne finally make some decisions, I was getting excited that she might even reveal the “state falsehood”. But no, it was just that she set aside the envelope marked “recordings”?! I can’t be sure however if that was because she didn’t want to resort to dirty tricks, or whether it was because Marjorie’s “recordings” folder looked a lot more snazzy, and like it might actually contain something more juicy than her own entirely empty folder. The dramatic pause of the ten second countdown was overkill, particularly as there has been nothing at all dramatic about this show. I am voting Marjorie for President. That said, I will watch the second season, only because I am enjoying these reviews/comments, and of course CJ’s French, merci beaucoup CJ!

    • MooreOfThat February 9, 2016 / 7:26 pm

      That was the world’s slowest countdown. Seconds travel slower in France it seems.

    • CJ Cregg February 9, 2016 / 9:39 pm

      Aw thanks, Bill – *blushes* – am v glad you like’em, and that you and Moore are sticking around to chip in with the chat 🙂 The comments are better than the show!

      I was taken aback by the trousers, too. I’m hoping Anne finally told Simon her legs were her business and she’d wear whatever she chose. But I have a suspicion she probably just spilled her coffee on the cream skirt and finally had to take it to the dry cleaners…..

      OMG, the obviously empty “recordings” folder was incredibly naff, wasn’t it? Who did Simon think he was fooling? I laughed when Marjorie produced his and raised a wry eyebrow at her, all “Did you really think you’d rattle ME with that? Amateur.”

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