Public Service Announcement 20 of 2012: Hart of Dixie, Braquo

One new show, one returning. The new show is The CW’s Hart of Dixie, with big-city doctor Zoe Hart practising medicine in smalltown Alabama. I’m guessing that there might be a culture clash along the way. Reviews have been no better than moderate, although it seems to have a small-but-dedicated fanbase comprised of the sort of people who like this sort of thing, among whom I might number myself were it not for the present glut of TV. The O.C.’s Rachel Bilson is your star, with support from, among others, Scott Porter from Friday Night Lights (and season 2 of The Good Wife). As yet no decision has been made public on renewal for a second season, and viewing figures would suggest that the show is very much on the bubble (tonight, Really, 8pm).

And the returner is subtitled bad-boy policier Braquo, back for its second season not long after the end of its first. We reviewed season 1 here, but Unpopcult’s view – which seems to be shared – is that Braquo’s no Engrenages, so we won’t be bothering this time round (Last night, actually, but lots of repeats, FX).

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Braquo ep 8

Fittingly, for characters marked more by their troughs than their triumphs, the season finale of Braquo had everyone finish up in a big disastrous fankle.

Turned out, there was some over-arching conspiracy at the root of IA’s interest in the squad; silly me thinking it was just their demented insistence on using homicide, robbery and kidnapping as preferred methods of investigation.  Shows what I know.

Anyway, Caplan and co made a last-ditch attempt to save themselves from ruin by springing Lemoine from jail, but that was always going to end badly and end badly it did.  The getting there wasn’t two impressive either.  Just like she does every episode, Helene turned up to tell Eddy she was going to leave.   Again.  (Just. Bloody. Go. Woman.)  Eddy handed in his notice.  Handsome Marceau tried to talk him into the 21st century.  Bordier tried to intercede for him.  All to no avail, it’s true, but then this show was always meant to be a tragedy, so fair play to the writers for not wimping out, even though the results over the season were mixed to say the least.

In particular, this last episode wasn’t good; it was far messier than the rest, the conspiracy angle didn’t work, and it all descended into ridiculously depressing farce by the end.  Where will season 2 take it?  Meh.  I don’t care any more.  I’ve stuck with Braquo thus far, but it’s become too much of a chore to carry on with it.  Now season one is done, so I.

Braquo ep 7

I’m getting weary of this now.

I really wasn’t looking forward to another does of Braquo this week; I had to force myself to sit and watch it, secure in the knowledge that it was going to be about as much fun as repeatedly punching myself in the stomach.  Yes, after the inanity of the X Factor finale, anything would have been challenging viewing but Braquo really is increasingly hard going and for what?  After last week’s brief moment of slightly less misery, we were back to wall-to-wall despair this time around.

The squad were called in to investigate a new murder case, pretending to work with Fargette, but preferring to work with some gangster pal of Eddy’s instead.  For no reason other than to shock, this involved amputated fingers and all sorts of general shadiness.  It’s like these people don’t actually remember how to do normal police work, even when it would be perfectly simple to do so, so I was glad Fargette and his dogged reliance on legitimate methods triumphed instead.  In your face, Eddy and Theo!

That was all bad enough, but our anti-heroes were also trying to locate murderer Lemoine on the side and get him out of the way, lest he incriminate them for, ooh, everything else they’ve done.  This involved tracking down a nude exotic dancer who for some reason flatly refused to cover up during the interview, because answering police questions naked is completely normal behaviour and not in any way gratuitous and stupid at all.  Sigh.

And “sigh” at Helene too, who I thought had left last week in a huff but came back specifically to do her usual “Eddy, you are a terrible human being, until I decide to let you help me with money/sex/whatever” routine.  What is the point of Helene exactly?  And how many women is Eddy helping with the “money/sex/whatever” routine?  The hooker, Helene, and maybe Roxane soon, although a quick snog with Eddy has lost her her home and her (admittedly crap) boyfriend: I shudder to think what going any further would do.  Save yourself, Roxane!  Resist the lure of the Caplan ‘tache!

Amongst it all, though, one bright shining gem that’ll bring me back for next week’s finale suddenly wandered into view.  Hello, Captain Marceau! Clean-shaven, polite, crisp white shirt, nice hair – all contrasting beautifully with the dour, aggressive, black-shirted, under-coiffed Eddy and co.  And he seems like he might actually be a good cop, too, but that might just be the white shirt and the handsomeness clouding my judgement.  Anyway, I may love him.  We’ll see next week.

Braquo ep 6

An almost cheery episode, this, with things starting to go to plan for the Organised Crime Squad for a change.  As much as they can in one of the bleakest shows on tv, that is.

Bordier’s mission (and Walter’s captors) are executed with military-style efficiency, Theo sneakily and cheekily intercepts some damning evidence before it can get anyone into trouble (except the new boss), and he and Roxane manage to save the baby of a murder victim from a horrific fate and simultaneously bring down an international human trafficking ring, almost by accident.  No wonder everybody ends up uncharacteristically smiley and celebrating.

But it’s Braquo, so the cost of these moments is high.  Theo is finally beginning to understand what he’s done to the rest of the squad by shooting Benaissa.  Roxane’s ill-advised smooch with Eddy pulls her already fragile relationship apart.  And while Bordier and Caplan outwitting Internal Affairs was quite funny, it’s only going to make IA more determined to get them, isn’t it?  Objectively, obviously, IA are right, but their two principal goons are so unlikeable, I can’t bring myself to root for them – nor do the writers want me to, I don’t think – so I’m really not looking forward to the inevitable reckoning when it comes.  Till then, though, murders, guilt and sadness aside, this was a lighter episode than usual, even if it was still perfectly serviceably grim.

Braquo ep 5

“I don’t think anything.  I’m waiting for the next problem to hit.”

I understand where Eddy’s coming from: it never rains in Braquo, but boy does it pour.

No sooner did Roxane help – elegantly and electrifyingly, but also a little too easily – extricate him and Theo from last week’s cliffhanger, than the other “challenges” began to pile up.  Because they couldn’t come up with 200,000 Euros to save Walter, the price has now gone up to 300,000 or Walter starts losing fingers.  Because Walter’s not home to stop it, his sick wife’s effectively been sectioned (or something as close to it as makes no odds) and his kids, the neighbour/nanny and Max’s widow are all going nuts.  Because the bigwigs are so suspicious of the squad, their new boss is by-the-book and the opposite of their old one in every way possible: while Bordier’s busy mounting his own (sensible and thus far quite fruitful – unlike Eddy and his reprobates’ efforts) secret operation to locate Walter, the new lady’s busy hanging out with IA and reading Caplan the Riot Act about Lornach’s disappearance.  And because 70’s pop video throwback Vogel is so determined to catch these seemingly untouchable cops who keep getting away with actual, literal murder, as well as everything else, he turns his attentions to Roxane’s dad, with awful if predictable results.

There were some great moments in this episode – the scene where Roxane locked eyes with Eddy at the ATM heist was beautifully done, for instance – but the despair and degradation is palpable.  I want to get to the end of the season, but I’m not looking forward to watching the episodes necessary to get there.

Even the one attempt at humour this week was thoroughly nasty: Theo goes for a drug test which he’s clearly about to fail, the nurse knows him, fancies him, grinningly produces a urine sample of her own for him instead (as he watches, chuckling) and then takes him up on it immediately when he suggests a little horizontal payback for her generosity.  Right there in the exam room.  Classy.  And Eddy and Theo huh-huh-ing about it later in Gallic Beavis and Butthead fashion was even more so.  Ugh.  For some reason, those scenes depressed me even more than the rest of it, and the rest of it was black as night.  Good acting, solid writing but another real downer of an episode.

Braquo ep 4

More an endurance test than a TV series, if you thought Braquo couldn’t really get much grimmer, you were wrong.

This week, Eddy has barely survived last week’s explosion when he has to drag himself from his hospital bed to deal with a new problem: Walter’s been kidnapped as revenge for the killing of the Hoffmans and the kidnappers want a lot of money to stop beating him up.  So, obviously,because they’re not in enough trouble already, Eddy and Theo are going to try and get the money in the most illegal and stupid way possible.  Sigh.

Their increasing isolation of Roxane, the member of the team most troubled by their increasing lawlessness, only strains the relationship with her further, and it also means that she might well be the one to bring them down, albeit, ironically, not in the way they’re worried about. Far more likely that she’ll legitimately and unintentionally catch them in the act because she doesn’t know what they’re up to, than deliberately rat them out to Internal Affairs because she does.

Another thoroughly bleak episode then as the consequences of these people’s behaviour begin to catch up with them.  I was a bit concerned as to the point of Braquo at the beginning of the season as it teetered dangerously close to becoming a manifesto for the lazy assertion that due process and rules of evidence are simply an obstacle to justice and should be violated at every turn, but it’s now clearly developing into a modern morality tale; the more the protagonists break the rules, the further their lives descend into chaos, violence and misery.  From the bloody torture meted out to Walter to the strain on Eddy’s face (a mesmerising performance from Jean-Hugues Anglade) as he hauls his battered body around, digging himself deeper and deeper into trouble, the toll on these people is obvious, and as a result, weirdly, the programme, while becoming much more difficult to watch and still not entirely my cup of tea, is also becoming a much more coherent piece of crime drama.

Braquo ep 3

“A case has got out of hand. Procedure’s out the window.”

And the prize for understatement goes to this week’s episode of Braquo.  Good GRIEF, what are these people on?

Thus far, “the best cops we have” (I shudder to think what the rest get up to) have now racked up – roughly, I mean I’m ballparking it here – four false alibis, three murders, two destructions of a crime scene by arson and one general, over-arching conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by any means they fancy. Not to mention the police chases (that’s police chasing other police), the evidence-tampering, the unlawful firearms, the blackmail, the armed kidnapping, the drug supply, the dog-threatening, the vandalism, and the regular assaults and whatnot, just to keep things flowing.

Watching it, I feel like I should be phoning Crimestoppers or something. 

Sigh.  Maybe I just need to change how I view Braquo.  If I’m going to make it though the season, I need to stop seeing these characters as police officers.  If I think of them as career criminals who just do a bit of charitable law enforcement work on the side, suddenly, it all seems a bit less bonkers. Otherwise, this episode – where Roxane starts off essentially having to investigate a series of armed ATM robberies by herself because the rest of the unit are too busy running around covering up their own crimes instead – and indeed this series, take on an even more farcical hue than last week’s shenanigans.  Especially when you add the spectacularly seedy Internal Affairs guy (dude, the bleached blond hair and black leather look does nothing for you) who is so determined to bring down corrupt cops that he thinks assaulting, stripping, and blackmailing a call girl to do it is a legitimate evidence-gathering technique.  These folk are all as bad as each other.  Which is pretty darn bad.

Having said that, I do want to know what happens to Eddy and co, but I’m struggling to work out why.  There is an abundance of more compelling European drama with better-drawn characters out there and this was another episode where everyone’s behaviour was utterly repellent and unforgivable.  But I suppose Eddy’s careworn visage – mournful moustache and all – and Walter’s big world-weary face and guilt about his poor sad family makes them seem a bit more sympathetic, and poor, angry Roxane seems genuinely conflicted as to what is the right thing to do. Theo however continues to be a raging idiot, and looks likely to be the weak link that eventually brings them all down.  Oddly, though, I can’t bring myself to hope for that yet, but another couple of weeks of piling on the bad behaviour and I may well.