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.