Well, at least Valentine’s gone.
For this first ep, anyway. But those of you worried you’ll miss your weekly fix of tragic female characters plagued by mental health issues, trying to dull the pain of their miserable relationships with sex, fear not! Elisabeth Marjorie, wife of the new Président – yes, Alain won, au revoir Anne, don’t let la porte hit you on the way out – is here for you and, one year on from her husband’s victory, she’s not wasting any more time being a good little
Stepford politician’s wife, oh, non. Instead of dutifully hanging out with hubby and his frenemies at some dreary trade function, she’s driving at top speed through the countryside, hair looking amazing, besotted lover at her side and… crashing the car and killing him.
All before the opening credits.
Le Prés is obviously not too chuffed about any of this, but he’s both used to and fed up with Mrs M getting into bother, so he gets long-time buddy, Interior Minister and David Walliams-lookalike Benoît Hussan to cover up Lis’s latest. Benny-boy does a little too good a job on that front, though, by getting himself involved in a scandal of his own; in theory, of course, starting his own media frenzy is a tremendously effective way to divert attention from La Première dame’s problems, but also creates a whole bunch of different ones for both Ben and his boss. Which are then compounded by Lis herself forgetting she’s supposed to be lying low and wading into the very public fray instead.
What’s Le Prés to do? Get the best PR man in France on the job, bien sûr! And, luckily for Alain, Simon Kapita just happens to have popped over from New York to try and a) string out the world’s slowest divorce some more and b) have the creepiest “reunion with a daughter” scene of all time. Mon Dieu. I know we talked about this before, but WTF is this show playing at? This week’s prolonged, stomach-churning sight of Simon and Daughter Dearest, locked in each other’s arms, gazing adoringly at each other for about a trillion minutes, their faces centimetres apart – Euggggggggh.
Thankfully, however, since Al’s Secretary-General
Ban-Ki Moon Gabrielle won’t take non for an answer, Simon has to put his weird familial arrangements on hold for a bit and head to L’Élysée to play hard to get. “I lead the campaign against you and lost!” he points out. “Never mind that, we need a reason to get you back for season 2 and this is it, bud” says the Prés. Or words to that effect. “So how’s about it?”
No match for the combination of this unassailable logic and the jolie Gabrielle sulking in pencil skirts, then, Kapita capitulates and sets about tackling the triple threat of Madame Marj, Benny
and the Jets Hussan’s dodgy dealings, and Deleuvre’s scheme to bring the government down for spite.
Simon’s plans for the first two at least are pretty similar, essentially involving keeping them both locked away and under control: Lis, glass of wine now semi-permanently attached to her hand, is to be surrounded at all times by “a doctor, nurse, psychologist and security guards” (a sort of 21st century Village People, I suppose). Ben
Hur Hus, meanwhile, and his somewhat frazzled wife are to move in to the flat I swear Deleuvre’s boyfriend lived in last season. Somewhat oddly, that part of the scheme begins with the Hussans being picked up by Simon and Gabrielle in full view of a scrum of paparazzi; sending his two top media folk to act as a Joe le taxi service doesn’t seem like the best way to keep Le Prés’s continued involvement secret to me, but whatevs. The only part of it that actually matters for now is that isolating Mr and Mrs H like this makes it easier for old enemy Ludovic to knobble them both.
Oui, mes amis, Ludo is back too, Deleuvre having recruited him once again (for all their grudges against everyone else, Spin’s politicians seem weirdly forgiving of the PR guys who didn’t actually get them elected), this time to help destroy Marjorie’s government for various waffly reasons that, if you really look inside yourself, Del-boy, pretty much boil down to “it shoulda been me.”
But how are things with Ludo, one year on? Well, he’s still got that massive office with next to no staff in it, but he now also has a computer with a fancy new logo, an iPad and an assistant who doesn’t cry and scream at him all the time, so things seem to be looking up. Despite having entered the 21st century, though, he’s still the same old Ludo; his spin on the Ben and
Jerry Lis relationship is nasty, but it’s effective, and the only surprising thing about it is Deleuvre’s initially squeamish reaction to the idea. Where was all this reluctance to use people’s private lives for political gain when you and Ludo outed La Visage as the President’s mistress last season, Monsieur?
Of course, Deleuvre doesn’t take that much persuading in the end, and this season’s battle of the sharp black suits begins in earnest. Will it be better than last season’s, though? Too early to tell. Deleuvre and Palissy working together might make both of them more interesting and less caricature-like, but Alain seems as wishy-washy as Anne was. Elisabeth is a much more sympathetic character than Valentine for now, but I have a horrible feeling ignominy and a suicide attempt can’t be far off for her, either. Gabrielle might conceivably be the new Apolline except that the old Apolline is back too (with a fringe). The awful Daughter is still awful. And most, importantly, Simon and Ludo didn’t share a single scene, which means that the show sidelined its most, perhaps only, compelling relationship and gave us an oddly muted opener as a result. If this season’s going to work for me, I’m going to need a lot more Gregory Fitoussi than that.