Spiral (Engrenages) s7 eps 9 & 10


Encore une fois. Repetition is very much the theme of the week; if we hear the money laundering scheme explained once, we hear it explained trois or quatre times, which doesn’t help me much as I still don’t entirely follow it, but no matter. Laure, Gilou et al seem to understand it no problème, which apparently gives our two “heroes” carte blanche to do whatever they veux. “Our boss is dead!” says Laure, while beating up a witness/suspect, threatening him and stealing dirty money. “We’ll stop at nothing!” “Not like you stopped at anything when your boss was alive, either,” mutters at least one viewer.

But the back-to-being-lovers Laure et Gilou – Lilou? – are a law unto themselves, as the long-suffering, hitherto silent foot soldier Tom points out to the increasingly frustrated Ali, which is interesting because Tom hasn’t really ever been allowed a point of view on what it’s like working with these reprobates before. Perhaps un jour JP and Nico will get to chip in too. Quand même. The gruesome deuxsome go all out this week, with extortion, witness tampering, evidence tampering, possibly theft (depending on what they do with that argent), and potentially getting yet another homme killed with their incessant poking of the money-laundering network bear. I mean, things are not looking bien for Oury Mazouz, are they? The usual purported justifications apply: if Roban is taken off the investigation, we’ll never know who killed Herville; Homicide are too slow, we need to be back on the case; we have to do what we have to do…. to listen to them, it’s a wonder any crime gets solved in France at all, if the only people who can manage it are Laure, Gilou and their pet Juge. Meh. Beckriche and Szoicic are just the latest to believe the excuses. The rest of us, however, have heard it all many, many times before.

All bonnes (and not so bonnes) choses must come to an end, though: Lilou push Solignac too far, and Joséphine sets Internal Affairs on them. IA must be short-staffed since they put their suspects’ ex-ami Tintin Fromentin on the case – Tintin’s new boss seems very nice, but just acknowledging that it might not be the best idée for “Luc” to investigate his former buddies doesn’t actually remove the massive conflict of interest problème. Tintin does try to be as even-handed as possible to everyone, bless him, but new boss has the measure of Berthaud and Escoffier when he points out “these two played with fire and it’s blown up in their faces”, and we end up with the pair of them under arrest. Not before time, but if it sticks I’ll be astonished.

In other news, meanwhile, Joséphine is desperate to save Lola because Joséphine couldn’t save herself, if you know what I mean – the parallels between their stories are a little clunky, but well-acted, and the odd relationship with Edelman continues to intrigue. It looks like Cann is the network kingpin, although, like I said, I‘m not entirely following that part of it, so I could be way off. And Rayan seems to have turned a corner; his scene with Roban is warm, empathetic and far and away the best of the week – and probably would’ve helped solve the whole thing without the need for Laure et Gilou going all Bonnie et Clyde yet again but there we go. Encore une fois.

Spiral (Engrenages) eps 7&8


Cette semaine, the plot has started moving plus rapide, so everyone is at their worst in terms of behaviour, which is also their best in terms of results – or at least their most effective. Laure and Gilou’s relationships with Beckriche and with each other are very strained (Beckriche is a lot nicer to them after last week’s antics than they deserve, while they continue to sulk and do what they want anyway), till Laure, more on a hunch than anything, drags the gruesome deuxsome to Le Havre and eventually uncovers evidence that Lebrion, the fraud squad boss may be a bad’un. The rest of the team, meanwhile, led by the likeable, dependable Ali, are trying to stop a pair of fraudsters – Ken et Barbie – conning old people, but Laure’s too important for all that, so she and Gilou abandon them in the middle of the takedown to pursue their own enquiry further. DIEU. It works out fine in the end, but how Ali, Tom and co can continue to work with this pair when they can’t be relied upon to do anything but exactly what they want, no matter what, is beyond moi. And not only that, but people are bafflingly keen to do all sorts of illegal things for them too: Szoicic, breaking into your boss’s locker AND phone for these flics you’ve known for une minute, je te regarde. Et, Beckriche forgives them again as well, because for all they’re constantly doing wrong, it’s also right – best and worst, like I said – and joins forces with them. This is a relief, though, if only because everyone being at odds is extremely wearing. Allons travailler together instead, and everything will work out much less painfully!

While les flics are hot on Lebrion’s trail, though, Joséphine, having been unwittingly tipped off by Laure (in an uncharacteristically dim moment on Capt. Berthaud’s part) about Cann’s involvement, and having no qualms about using that despite Laure’s kindness to her, is doing her best to cut Roban off at the genoux. It involves some elaborate plan about compromising M le Juge that doesn’t make a grande amount of sense to moi, but everyone else on Team Edelman is delighted with it. Until they’re not; Joséphine having realised Edelman is sabotaging her reinstatement to keep her with him, then leaks the investigation to the press, which is très mal for Roban but apparently even more mal for Cann. Je pense. They kind of lost me at that part, but the important takeaways seem to be that Edelman is really into Joséphine but is really not someone she cantrust, Solignac is also really into Joséphine, and prison hasn’t really changed Joséphine at all. She’s still a terrible person, but absolutely brilliant at it: at her best, when she’s at her worst, encore. Dieu merci then for Ali and Brèmont, for showing that it is in fact possible, even on Engrenages, to be a fundamentally decent, reliable person and très bien at your job, AT THE SAME TIME. Otherwise this week’s episodes, well-plotted and pacy though they were, would have been a little cynical for my blood. Laure et al, take note.

Spiral (Engrenages) s7 eps 5 & 6


A busy couple of episodes these, with Roban’s love life the light relief for la semaine, while les flics and les avocats handle the heavier stuff, of which there is plenty. Never mind how exactly the money laundering scam works – Gilou might have understood his glamorous new pal Szoicic’s explanation but I didn’t – the real mystery of Spiral might be how on la terre Laure has not only avoided being fired before now, but ever got herself promoted in the first place. For all she’s supposed to be this merveilluex detective and leader, her conduct at work has always been objectionable, oftentimes illegal and this week downright infuriating. Mon DIEU. Her ridiculous attitude at the meeting with the fraud squad would have been mortifying if she’d been Beckriche’s toddler, let alone an adult police officer, and as for her “block the delivery” idea? Wow. Actively sabotage fraud’s investigation because nobody puts Berthaud in a corner? Well, sure, it works, but WTF? And also: tell that to poor dead Fouad.

Je sais she’s been having a tough time with her mental health issues since Remy’s birth but the truth is that, even at full fitness, Laure’s behaviour has always been selfish, blinkered, utterly reckless and maddeningly stubborn. We’ve sat through nearly sept saisons of it, and just like Brèmont, Beckriche, Roban, and now, finally, Gilou, I’m completely fed up with her.

While Laure’s obsession with her work is her downfall, though, Joséphine’s might just be her salvation. Thanks to some deeply dubious assistance from Edelman which will no doubt catch up with him bientôt, Maître Karlsson is finally released from prison. Her farewell to Lola and welcome from Edelman are both genuinely touching and poignant but, even after release, she is still far from free. Everything that made her who she was – her work, her flat, her unshakeable confidence – is gone. Alors, at her nadir, she seeks help from her old frenemy Berthaud and there’s a superbe scene where the two women mirror each other: on either side of Laure’s kitchen counter, drink in hand, hair down, and general air of bone-deep sadness, they’re so similar inside and out, in so many more ways than either of them realise, that their tentative friendship is the best part of the double bill.

Laure’s kindness to Joséphine this semaine turns out to be her one redeeming feature, then, although it may not be around for us to enjoy very long, since the double bill ends with a swap of sorts in that Laure hits rock bottom and Joséphine finally starts to climb back up in a way that’s not going to endear her to any of the squad, least of all Berthaud. Accepting Edelman’s offer to work with him, La Karlsson, back in her old clothes and her old attitude, is almost immediately, visibly revitalised, which is magnifique, but the first client he involves her with is the central player in the money laundering operation. Surprise! I’d been wondering how Joséphine’s and les flics’ strands of this saison were going to intersect, and now we know. Shame then that it means her burgeoning friendship with La Capitaine seems likely to hit the skids almost immediately.

Spiral (Engrenages) s7 eps 3 & 4


Who came up with this deux episodes a semaine malarkey? I’ve been ploughing my way through Spiral on my train journey to work this week and I feel like it’s taken me a couple of years to watch a couple of episodes. Of course, it hasn’t been helped by the fact that this particular couple of episodes are slow, laborious and, if not exactly grim, at the very least somewhat downbeat, with the most positive scenes actually taking place at Herville’s funeral. Beckriche’s speech is surprisingly lovely and – oh, regarde! C’est Tintin!

Everything else is hard going, though. While Berthaud’s police work gets better and better, her parenting gets worse and worse – she continues to avoid treatment, her child and the Brèmonts some more, which almost leads to disaster when Romy falls ill again, but instead leads to Laure formally and legally giving up her parental rights and Brèmont finally losing his (hitherto almost preternatural) patience with her utter refusal to engage. It’s been a long time coming. Edelman comes very close to getting Joséphine released, only for her to end up in solitary confinement thanks to that shifty guard she’s been tangling with. That particular feud isn’t going to make la vie any less miserable for Joséphine – and now she seems to have confessed to Lola, and anyone else who might have been listening, which doesn’t seem like une bonne ideé either.

Talking of bonne ideés, meanwhile, Gilou and Ali recruit Kader as an informant, and both do exceptionally daft things in the process. Ali’s misdeed in particular is breathtakingly stupid, although, in fairness, Gilou and Laure have done far worse countless times so maybe their brand of idiocy has just rubbed off on him. Let’s hope not. On the plus side, though, the squad do make considerable, if clumsy, progress in the Herville enquiry, leading them to a big money laundering business in the Chinese community in Aubervilliers, along with some curiously ham-fisted scenes involving the police higher-ups wanting to tread softly which initially made me think they were in on it. On reflection though, I don’t think it’s that at all. Those scenes, the equally ham-fisted scenes between Gilou and Ali about the latter’s heritage, and the fact that suddenly, after years of virtually rien, the show has given Nico something important to do (and some actual lines!) solely on the basis that he’s Chinese, makes me think Spiral is finally trying to acknowledge racial issues and prejudice in a slightly more positive way than it has done in the past. I’ve been uncomfortable with the show’s attitude to race for a while now – a very high percentage of its villains seem to be people of colour for a start, and virtually all of its main characters are white – and if it’s going to try to be a bit more aware of that going forward, that’s no bad thing, although it really needs to do it with significantly more finesse than this.

Public Service Announcement 63 of 2019: Watchmen, Daybreak

Unpopcult’s fantasy department (ie me) is intrigued by but not sure it can face two interesting new shows this week. First up is Damon Lindelof’s take on Watchmen (for HBO) which – wisely – is a brand new, sort-of-sequel to the seminal graphic novel rather than a straightforward (not that anything about Watchmen is straightforward) adaptation. I have a huge amount of time for Lindelof – I don’t care what anybody says, I thought the Lost finale was brilliant, and The Leftovers astonishing – and word is that this is a genuinely daring, insightful and challenging look at racial division, politics, policing and violence in a superhero/vigilante/alternate history context. The cast is tremendous too, led by the peerless Regina King and including Louis Gossett Jr, Jean Smart and Jeremy Irons, amongst others. This version of Watchmen looks smart, dark, genuinely unsettling and unlike anything else on tv, but it also looks like it completely fails the “will it make me feel happy or good?” test I‘ve been applying to my viewing recently in order to try and stay sane, so it’s maybe not for me right now. If you’re looking to check it out though, it’s on Monday nights (the day after it’s shown in the US) on Sky Atlantic – episode 1 is currently on Sky Go, with episode 2 coming next week.

At the other end of the fantasy scale, meanwhile, is Daybreak, a post-apocalyptic high school zombie comedy drama with Matthew Broderick – Ferris Bueller himself! – of all people as the headmaster. The only reason I’m interested in this is that one of the episodes was written by Ira Madison III of Keep It podcast fame, and I absolutely love Keep It. Having watched the trailer, though, I think I may be a bit too old to love Daybreak. If you’re not, the first season now available for streaming on Netflix. And Keep It is available online if you fancy a listen – new episodes on Wednesdays, archive of old ones all right there for you too.

Spiral (Engrenages) s7 eps 1&2


Eh bien. REDACTED est mort, which would have been considerably more shocking had it not been spoiled by advance publicity and my EPG but we are where we are. Our characters, however, need to be moved into place and, as usual, won’t let anything like rules, common sense or their own welfare stop them. Gilou, now heading up the squad and apparently a model detective and supervisor as opposed to the walking disaster he was for years, insists on taking the case on even though the personal, visceral connection means there’s no way it should be his to take – perhaps he’s not changed that much after all. Because Beckriche is weak, Bremont is impossibly nice and it would be a short series otherwise, he gets what he wants. Laure, exactly where she should be, in rehab for her terrible depression and anxiety, does exactly what you think she will, which is, as usual, the worst thing for her. Not so much persuading as completely ignoring her doctor, she strong-arms her way back onto the team, never mind that Gilou is in charge now instead of her, and neither of them really understands how to work with each other if she’s not the boss and he’s not worshipping at her feet. And Roban, now back at work after his illness and treatment tries to manipulate his way onto the case (in less crude but no less determined fashion than the other two), gets immeasurably and somewhat hypocritically annoyed when the powers that be manipulate him right back off it, then manipulates his way right back on again anyway. Fond as I am of Roban, I fear I may be getting a little fed up with his constant gaming of the system. There’s still compulsory retirement to stave off, and you might think even he can’t stop the inexorable march of time and bureaucracy but I wouldn’t bet on it.

While les cops and M le Juge are on the outside, however, chasing down the gang of feral teens, weapons and whoever/whatever else might be connected with REDACTED’s décès, Joséphine is still on the inside: on remand for attempted murder and in no danger of getting out any time soon, despite Edelman’s efforts, if the justice system doesn’t move it along a bit. No Juge Roban schemes for her. Normally, in Spiral monde, her story should eventually intersect with the main plot but it’s not entirely clear how at the moment, unless…. No sooner does the governor mention the prison drug ring to her, than she’s infiltrated it, got herself framed, got herself unframed, then finds herself back in their clutches and worse off when she was before. So peut être les teens and l’argent and whatnot are connected to the prison drug smuggling? We’ll see. Meantime, this was a decent enough start to the series – well-plotted, reasonably fast-moving and as well-acted as ever. There are, however, a couple of buts. Firstly, like I said, we’ve been here before with Roban and his wangling, and, fantastic character though he is, ennui with his M.O and his endless tangles with his bosses is creeping in for me, at least. The dèja vu is such that he even has the hint of a complicated/forbidden love interest again, which is the same kind of love interest Roban has just about every season. Change the record, mes amis. Which brings me to the second “but”; possibly in a bid to avoid ennui with everyone else and their M.Os, the writers have very clearly changed the dynamics this year so that Laure and Joséphine, both previously calling the shots in their professional lives to the detriment of their personal ones, are now very much struggling with the loss of those positions of authority in addition to all the rest of their problems. I understand why they’ve done it and it’s maybe a bit much for me to complain about them doing something different with these characters when I was just saying I was bored with them not doing something different with another. But in a show which has been largely defined by these two deeply flawed, steel-spined women unapologetically dominating everyone else for years, I don’t think I really like it.



Oh, guys. Know your audience. And finish your stories accordingly.

Sanditon and I have been on something of a journey. I love Jane Austen, and I turned my nose up at this version when it first started on the basis that it very clearly wasn’t Jane Austen: the daft, uninspiring first episode was very much in the ITV period drama house style in that there was no subtlety, no nuance and no trust in the audience to understand anything unless you spoonfed it to them. Every character was drawn in crayon, every plot point battered home with a sledgehammer and every interview or article about it determined to tell us how sexed up the whole thing was going to be. None of that changed as the series progressed, but either something else about the show did or something about me did: as the season strode on, across beaches and cliff tops, with nude scenes and anachronistic hairstyles, angry glowering and knockabout farce, it still wasn’t Jane Austen but it also, somehow, was in that Andrew Davies and co gleefully plundered plot points and character archetypes from every one of her books (and many more books besides) shoved them all in to a big pot, substituted a lot of modern attitudes and sensibilities for the period ones that these books were actually about, and, cackling loudly, turned the volume and the heat all the way up to 11 just to see what would happen. And oh, the sheer, ridiculous joy of the result!

The peak of this glorious nonsense was episode 6, the ITV Regency equivalent of the Fast and the Furious where our very angry hero Sidney Parker (Theo James) and our sparky, plucky heroine Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williamson) bickered their way around seedy London falling in love/ looking for Sidney’s kidnapped ward Georgiana (Crystal Clarke), culminating in a high-speed carriage chase on the road to Gretna Green and a jump from one carriage to another that Vin Diesel would have been proud of. Sidney’s top hat may not have moved an inch but, if I’d been wearing one, I’d have thrown it in the air in delight.

Other sub-plots and characters of varying degrees of silliness and stereotype abounded, as well as a surprisingly poignant Gothic melodrama about the tormented, icy-but-not-really Esther Denham (Charlotte Spencer) freeing herself from the manipulative, sleazeball step-brother she fancied herself in love with, and finding happiness with woke king Lord Babbington (Mark Stanley) a nineteenth-century man so patient, kind, feminist and understanding of the dynamics of coercive control in destructive relationships, that he should teach courses to twenty-first century ones. I could go on, but the short(ish) version is that as Sanditon got into its stride, both it and I began to enjoy ourselves immensely because turning one’s nose up isn’t nearly as much fun as shipping one’s brains out, is it? Which makes last night’s ending even worse.

Undeniably dashing though he was, this version of Sidney Parker was something of a problematic fave from the start, with his propensity to berate our heroine loudly and brutally in the early episodes making me wonder, initially anyway, if maybe poor Charlotte might be better off with someone (like that nice Mr Stringer) whose default mode wasn’t to keep giving her a row. Or if, at the very least, said problematic fave should be taking lessons on how to be a feminist ally from good pal Babbers. I mean, I know Sidney’s ex broke his heart and all but a) that was years ago and b) it’s hardly Charlotte’s fault. Or anyone else’s.

Since I’m a sucker for a handsome, brooding face with a tortured past, though, Sidney worked his way out of the “Danger! High Voltage!” zone and into both my heart and Charlotte’s pretty easily, earning our forgiveness with some smouldering looks, some lovely smiles and some very pretty apologies. And lo! I was sold on Sidlotte and settled in for my Charlotte’s happily ever after, because that is how these stories are supposed to work. Bit of arguing and misunderstanding, some obstacles and shenanigans that get in the way in middle, then a big romantic finish. That’s what I want, that’s what the audience for this type of thing wants and that’s what the format of this show promised. Only that’s not what we got, is it? Nope, instead, we got the drama equivalent of a cold shower followed by a kick in the gut as Sidney sold himself to his mean girl ex to save his idiot brother (played by Britain’s equivalent to Jim Carrey, Kris Marshall) and had the audacity not only to beg Charlotte for absolution, but to stop her carriage in the last few seconds of the series (giving us all a moment of false hope so thanks for that) and do it a second time. FFS, MAN. First of all, Charlotte may not think badly of you but I certainly do, and second of all, what kind of ending is THAT?!

Of course, the answer is it’s the kind of ending you might write if you really want a second season and don’t care how your audience feel about the end of your first. No word yet as to whether there will be another run, though, so instead said audience has been left uncertain, unsatisfied and very upset. I know it’s just tv, but it’s tv we invested in with a very specific goal, and for what? I went to bed on Sunday night so disgruntled I dreamed my own Sanditon epilogue (it wasn’t my best work), and just woke up feeling even more annoyed. Know your audience and finish your stories, guys. I don’t mean that every loose end has to be tied up or every question has to be answered, but every story has an ending that fits the material and this sure as hell wasn’t it. Like last week’s The Capture, and plenty of other series recently, Sanditon’s writers put the prospect of a second outing over a decent, satisfying end for the first one and have spoiled it for me and plenty of other people as a result. If you’re going to adapt Jane Austen at all, maybe ask yourselves what she would do next time, because this ending? This? Jane Austen would never.