Spiral (Engrenages) s5: Double Murder eps 11 & 12

*SPOILERS*

“I got over Pierre’s death by staying true to my principles. And so, it seems, did you.”

Ouch. Roban and Josephine’s brief détente appears to be over, with the skin-crawlingly smarmy Ziani slithering between them, much to Monsieur le Juge’s disgust. “We played and we lost, together,” says the level-headed, kind Juge Mendy, with her charming daughter and loving husband and healthy work-life balance. “Don’t get involved with Ziani again. Forget him.” Oh, Carole. You forget who you’re talking to.

Still, at least the lonely Roban has had the sense to realise he can change one thing about his solitary existence, winning back the magnificent Marianne with a simple, broken “I’m useless without you.” Aw.

No such human comfort for Josephine, however, as she buries her pain in yet another Faustian pact, this time betraying Edelman for a seat on the board of the firm. It seems a slightly surprising deal for her to make; not because of the money or the betrayal (Josephine only ever sacrificed her own interests for Pierre, nobody else) but because Maître Karlsson has always struck me as happiest working for herself, answering to nobody. I would have thought the corporate environment would be stifling for her, but then with the sudden, aching loneliness at home, maybe she just can’t bear more solitude at work as well.

Solitude is not a problem for Gilou, though. He returns to work after a little bonding with outgoing boss Herville (an entirely different character from the Herville we first met, so fond of and loyal to his team is he) but cannot go cinq minutes without receiving a call from Stalker Cindy. Her white knight complex may be understandable, but it’s also tremendously annoying when the rest of the squad are trying to solve two murders and a kidnapping. Oh, and when Gilou’s all huffy with Laure because she laughed at his attempt at a white knight act with her, instead of jumping into bed with him à la Cindy.

Gilou as tortured romantic lead is of course a relatively new, post-Pierre development for the show so I don’t think we can blame Laure for being confused. After all, she has plenty of other things to worry about – her pregnancy, her dead lover, her dead friend, and the small matter of a homicide investigation. Who did kill Sandrine and Lucie? The answer turns out to be profoundly grim and depressing, and ends up putting another two young girls in danger as the unspeakable Karen and her feral friends turn their attentions to Laetitia and her employer’s daughter.

The show is infinitely kinder than I am to Karen, by the by, trying as it does to give us a reason, if not an excuse, for the way she is and the things she’s done, but her “Maman issues” don’t elicit any forgiveness from me, even if they seem to have a profound effect on mother-to-be Laure. Likewise, I’m unmoved by the reunion of Jaulin and his son. I appreciate he did not kill his wife and child, but he did hold a blade to his lawyer’s neck, drag him out of a judge’s office and get him killed. I know I’ve been shouting into the Internet void for weeks about this, but is nobody going to prosecute him for that?

Sigh. We end the season, however, with more immediate worries than Jaulin. Laure, driven more by plot than sense, inexplicably throws herself and her poor, beleaguered baby in the path of disaster yet again, and it appears that the little one’s nine lives may finally be on the point of running out. A tearful Gilou, fresh from destroying Laure’s bond with Roban (and for what, exactly? A car thief who beats up women? For shame, Escoffier. For shame.) decides she needs a better man than him and calls the sturdy, thoroughly decent Bremont to the fray – an understandable decision in light of the doctor’s words, but a peculiar one given Laure’s absolute refusal to involve her ex at any other point. I don’t know what or whom Laure wants, but I don’t think that it’s waking up in a hospital bed staring up into Bremont’s face. That would be too sensible an option for her, I would have thought. But I suppose, come saison 6, we shall see.

No word on when that will reach UK shores but showrunner Anne Landois has confirmed she’s in the middle of writing it, so at least, one way or another, we will find out what happens to Laure and her baby, what on earth Roban’s nosebleeds are all about and exactly how expensive Edelman can be. I don’t mind loose ends – everything in life, after all, is very rarely neatly tied up – but I would like to find out the answers to those questions at least.

This has been a difficult season; it started fantastically well, but the killing of Pierre has left a terrible, gaping hole in the show that it’s tried to paper over without any real success as yet. Maybe a bigger role for Bremont will help, maybe someone new will come along, but either way, the loss of Gregory Fitoussi is a huge one for Spiral and, on the strength of the past few episodes, one I wasn’t sure it was going to recover from. Add to that the show’s increasingly troubling reliance on using villains from ethnic minorities and the complete turnabout in certain characters’ personalities this year…. like I said, it’s been a difficult season. Having said that, though, this final double-bill was taut, exciting, and genuinely affecting, so maybe Spiral and I have more of a future together than I thought. Au revoir for now, though, Laure et al. À bientôt.

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Spiral (Engrenages) s5: Double Murder eps 9 & 10

How quickly they forget.

Pauvre Pierre doesn’t even make it into the “précédemments en Engrenages…” this week, and Jaulin is back in Roban’s office, again without cuffs (are you kidding me?), the only indication that someone – anyone – remembers what happened last time being Roban’s new clerk swiftly hiding the scissors, just in case. I smiled, ruefully, but it was too soon, mes amis. Too soon.

Jaulin continues to sulk, like he did last week, as if he didn’t cause Pierre’s death, and everyone continues to let him, which continues to annoy me but, once again, just like last week, there’s way too much story to get through to dwell on it; it may be that I was just too tired when I sat down to watch it last night, but I found episode 9 endless. Gilou in cuffs, the robbery sting storyline I only half-understand – if they think Bensimon’s going to meet Zach, why not just FOLLOW Bensimon instead of waiting for him to actually hi-jack the truck? – and a bizarrely gratuitous, unnecessary rape scene that we’ll probably never hear of again, casually thrown in there for what, filler? Mon Dieu.

Episode 10 is much, much better, though, with its “solidarity among widows” (Aww) as the fantastic Josephine goes to bat for Gilou at Laure’s request, outmanoeuvring everybody in pursuit of, I suppose, “good?” Or at least likeable. Much as I enjoy him, let’s not forget Gilou is stupendously shady. A friend said to me during the week that she thought the writers were trying to buff him up as the new Pierre now there’s… gulp… a “vacancy”, and I was both amused and unconvinced, but now I wonder: Laure calls him “someone who matters a lot to me,” Merini’s girlfriend jumps into bed with him….. Hm. Seems like the show is determined to prove it doesn’t miss Gregory Fitoussi or Pierre one little bit.

Except it does. Episode 10 is très bien, oui, but, in general, these two episodes are far more plot-driven than character-based. Which is fine for a basic crime procedural, but I always thought Spiral was more than that. Then again, maybe it is and maybe the plot-burning pace is less to do with the loss of Pierre and more to do with us reaching that point in the season where we need to be wrapping everything up, story-wise but, if time constraints are the problem, did we really have to circle back to square one in the murder case? As Herville – who does a complete volte-face this week by sacrificing his own career advancement for Gilou’s sake; is he trying to be the new Pierre too? – points out, “the guy we spent weeks looking for is now dead and whoops, we were wrong?”

Weeks, mes amis. WEEKS.

“And he had to die before we found this out?”

Just to give us yet another murky murder investigation – who is the White-Haired Man?! – to add to the one we’ve got, on the off-chance Sandrine, Lucie and the Ziani story with its international political and financial ramifications(!) aren’t enough to keep everybody exhausted.

On a related note, incidentally, I’ve been finding Roban’s tricks a lot less cute than usual this year, but the twinkly-eyed game currently being played out between him and Maître Karlsson is thankfully much more fun than the Jaulin misery, even if I’m slightly baffled as to why she’s involved in the Ziani case at all. Since Edelman was originally introduced to us as some sort of hotshot super-lawyer who barely broke a sweat beating her in court, his desperation to have Josephine on board is a bit strange. Unless, I suppose, he wants to be the new Pierre as well.

Spiral (Engrenages) s5: Double Murder eps 7 & 8

Sigh.

After last week’s tragedy, Spiral’s viewers can still try to console themselves with a Gregory Fitoussi fix from Mr Selfridge, but poor Josephine and Laure don’t have the same option. A quick, brutal visit to the morgue to see Pierre laid out on a slab is the last chance the two women in his life have to see that handsome face, looking “like he didn’t belong there, like he might wake up” (if only, Laure, if only!), till Pierre’s parents arrive and he’s lost to them forever.

(Pierre’s mother is quite startlingly beautiful, by the way, and, kudos to the casting director, very like her son – it’s obviously in the fictional genes.)

The broken-hearted Josephine can’t get out of there fast enough, of course, eschewing Maman et Papa Clement in favour of grieving alone and in secret in Pierre’s apartment. At least she is actually grieving for him, though, since everybody else seems to just carry on regardless. For all Roban talks about how cut up he is (Marianne seems more upset) and Laure gazes sadly at Pierre’s name on her phone, the show seems desperate to move on as quickly as possible and (literally) only takes seconds to mop up Pierre’s still-fresh blood before jumping right back into the police investigation part of the plot instead.

It’s not that Spiral ignores Pierre’s death, not at all. It’s just that any time we get a chance to actually feel the impact of it, the programme can’t seem to skip past it fast enough. Josephine sobbing in Pierre’s shirt, obsessively replaying Pierre’s last voicemail, putting a lock of hair in his funeral suit…. all incredibly sad, beautiful moments and Audrey Fleurot is heartbreaking in them, but each scene is cut almost indecently short, barely even giving us a chance to tear up, let alone properly process the depth of her loss (and ours). And for what? Laure and co failing to catch Zach three times in one episode? Make it twice and give us a few minutes to have a proper cry instead, would you? Economy of storytelling is all very well, but Pierre was a huge part of Spiral for 5 years – the aftermath of his death deserved more than second billing to the usual procedural shenanigans.

Still, the memorial service is nice, and the deeply moving scenes shared by Fleurot and Caroline Proust at the end of episode 7 finally give us some of the catharsis we need; Josephine and Laure weren’t the only ones crying in those few minutes. “If Pierre could see us now…..” Sob.

Those scenes are so poignant, and Laure and Josephine’s newly developing bond so lovely, that more of them together would have been exactly what I needed from episode 8. But no, episode 8 has the show moving on at an even faster pace. Josephine, struggling to return to work, is essentially told to get over it by getting on with it by Roban and if that does give us the unfettered joy of Maître Karlsson (channelling Pierre?) making mincemeat of Judge Mendy, her immediate return to fabulousness is a little quick. Not to mention her return right back down the Faustian path we’ve seen her on too many times before. Josephine talking about her and Laure needing each other warms my heart. Edelman talking about him and Josephine needing each other scares me senseless.

As does this Karen character who turns out to have a finger in every croissant in the story: Laetitia, Zach, Sandrine, Sandrine’s parents, the robberies…. While the twists in the double murder tale this week are both grim and completely plausible, Engrenages has never seemed a more apt title, given all the threads in every storyline suddenly interconnecting. Even Josephine’s new client is connected to Merini who’s far too closely connected to Gilou who’s now in deep trouble thanks to…. yes, the plot, has not only shifted into high gear, but has also taken some of the shine off the New Gilou. The trick he pulled on Merini’s battered girlfriend was very much in the Old Gilou style, for a start and, as for the Alfonso issue, well, I fear the gentlemen of the Disciplinary Committee are not going to let that one go any time soon. Good job Laure and Tintin have made up; he can step in to help buy that pram Gilou mentioned while the man himself is otherwise incarcerated.

The first après-Pierre double bill ends then, with life going on in Spiral’s usual murky way. Yet another police op is about to go wrong, Gilou is once again on the cusp of “not getting away with it this time” and Roban is telling Jaulin to get another lawyer and he’ll get out of prison. He’ll get out of prison?! After what he did?! I didn’t need subtitles for the sub-text in that: Pierre’s gone and Spiral’s moving on, whether I’m ready for it or not.

Spiral (Engrenages) s5: Double Murder eps 5 and 6

*SOBS AND SPOILERS*

There may be programmes where everything coming together for a character leads to nothing more than happy endings and smiles all round.

Spiral isn’t one of those programmes.

To think just yesterday, I wrote about Fitoussi Watch triple shifts with a wink and a grin and now I have to try and write about…

I don’t even know what to say. I can’t believe he’s gone. But he is. In the most shocking, startling way, and right at the end of two fantastic episodes throughout which everybody but him seemed to be in terrible trouble.

The double bill began with a spider (ewww) and a suicide attempt and the pressure continued throughout. The increasingly obsessed Roban looked to be in imminent danger of life-threatening collapse – a nosebleed is *never* just a nosebleed on tv; the beleaguered and unhappy Tintin’s marriage and friendship with Gilou both took potentially fatal blows; Josephine’s happiness and new-found purpose in life seemed like they might not survive survive Pierre’s election to the Bar Council and all the women lining up to “congratulate” him; and that poor ATM maintenance worker’s fate depended on the availability of homeless accommodation for a young parolee and how much play-doh looks like plastic explosive.

Mon Dieu.

In this highly stressful, completely gripping couple of hours, the most obvious potential disaster turned out to be the most comical one. The venal Herville agreeing to the Commissioner and the press attending the Papa Columbus Raid could not have been more of a red flag, with the only question being how badly could it go wrong. And the answer being…. er, not that badly. Because the true disaster was about to happen elsewhere.

Pierre’s triumph in the Bar Council elections; Laure telling him there was hope for his client in the murder case yet; his adorable, irresistible voicemail for Josephine (yes, twist the knife, now, go on) – everything was working out beautifully, with the one thorn in the garden the growing rift between him and Roban. Fitting then, I suppose, that it was Roban’s implacability in pursuit of his agenda against Jaulin which led to….

I can’t say it. I love Spiral, but right now, just at this moment, I hate it too. Gregory Fitoussi has been a joy to watch, I’ve been in love with handsome, headstrong, ambitious, kind, darling Pierre since episode 1 season 1; I can’t believe that’s all over now. And I really can’t believe we’ve lost him and REDACTED within months of each other and in such strikingly similar fashion. Even the voicemails….. Sigh. My heart had only just started to mend after that loss, yet here it is breaking again along with Laure’s and Josephine’s in that hospital corridor. Sob! Adieu, Pierre. You’ll be missed.

Spiral (Engrenages) s5: Double Murder eps 3 & 4

Beaucoup de choses going on this week, bringing with them beaucoup de questions.

Herville, brown-nosing with the best of them, volunteers the team to investigate a series of ram-raid robberies and, in the process, manages to fumble a stake-out, sign off on some somewhat illegal surveillance and accidentally lead Laure and co to a new clue in the murder investigation. Oh yeah, and bring Bremont back into everybody’s orbit, which is bien with me – Bremont’s a good guy – but not with Laure, who seems to have forgotten that it was she who treated him appallingly last season and not the other way around.

Since Laure – because she is a CHILD – flatly refuses to face her ex, then, Ambassador Gilou tries to resume diplomatic relations with Bremont himself, but Bremont’s not biting (and why should he?), so, rather than getting over herself, Laure – shouting and slamming doors like a sulky teenager instead of a grown woman in charge of a squad of police officers – barrels into a jurisdictional turf war that can only end in tears. Or yet more blood and vomit, I suppose – I mean, this is Spiral.

Poor Ambassador Gilou has even less luck with his other peacemaking mission, meanwhile, as Laure’s relationship with Tintin continues to deteriorate. Does she blame him for Sami’s death? Is there something else going on? I don’t know, but both Tintin and I are fed up with her attitude. And Ambassador Gilou’s sick of being piggy in the middle too. Buck up your ideas, Laure. Nice hair will only take you so far.

Talking of which…. Josephine’s hair is better than last week’s, but still not at its glorious best. Josephine herself, however, is firing on all cylinders, manipulating Roban, the Bar Council chairman, a reluctant witness and his entire posse of pals into doing what she wants. And all in those spectacular heels. Unfortunately, her run of impressing people ends with the magistrates in the involuntary manslaughter case, possibly because her shoes are hidden by the court furniture. After an entertainingly vicious but bizarrely truncated hearing (I don’t know much about French courtroom procedure, but I very much doubt this was an accurate example of it), the cops who ran over their colleague walk free and the widow is devastated. Josephine is nothing if not tenacious, though; if I were Edelman, I’d be watching my expensive-suit-covered back from now on.

On the Fitoussi Watch side of things, meanwhile, Gregory’s hair is (like the rest of him) as fetching as ever, but Pierre himself has a challenging week. Jaulin isn’t the easiest of clients, the custody dispute isn’t the simplest of cases and Roban isn’t the friendliest of judges. What is eating Monsieur le Juge? As I said last week, he’s suddenly much keener on former pariah Josephine than he is on former buddy Pierre, and his attitude to Monsieur Clement this week is so openly hostile that even Pierre wonders aloud what his problem is. It’s not just Pierre, either. Roban’s behaviour towards the judge in charge of the ram-raiding case is appalling and I wondered, at first, if it was born out of a new-found arrogance: his career was almost destroyed by season 3 but, after season 4, he emerged triumphant and more powerful than before. Has victory made him cocky?

But then, his bitter “Only parents seem capable of sacrificing their dearest” to Laure hints at the past having a entirely different effect on the wily Juge. On one view, Roban sacrificed a child himself and that child, according to certain theories, may well have turned out to be his own. Is his single-minded pursuit of Jaulin, a man Roban thinks sacrificed his own child too, an attempt to atone for his own sins?

Whatever the reason, he should really stop taking it out on my beloved Pierre. The fellow has more than enough to deal with (even if he does so with aplomb) as does everybody else now that the murder investigation suddenly has several new dimensions. Robberies, amateur porn companies, botched stakeouts, dodgy tracking devices…. with a dollop of black humour to ease things along, this was another double-bill that flew by. Line of the night belonged to Gilou, I think, for his version of “You have the right to remain silent” – “Shut your mouth! I’m warning you, I’ll smack you!” But there were plenty of other little nuggets to enjoy amongst the excitement, intrigue and general excellence of the whole thing. Magnifique stuff: I loved it.

Spiral (Engrenages) s5: Double Murder eps 1 & 2

We begin with Laure, even more of a mess than usual after REDACTED’s death: boozing, picking up random men, bleeding from the… wait, what?!

It being a legal requirement for every series with a female lead, I suppose even Spiral had to get round to this particular type of storyline, but being Spiral, it handles Capt. Berthaud’s REDACTED in an unapologetically graphic and unsentimental way that’s very different from your common or garden procedural. Blood, vomit and tears seep through both episodes as the frustrated and agitated Laure, absolutely clear that she doesn’t want a child of her own, weeps for the dead child found tied to her murdered mother in a Paris canal; Gilou blames the hormones, but Juge Roban points out that even years of experience can’t prepare you for some things. Especially not the – EW EW EW EW – cockroach incident in episode 2, but the less said about that, the better I’ll sleep.

REDACTED’s death, however, seems to have had the opposite effect on Gilou; he’s stopped drinking, started exercising and spends the entire opening double bill being efficient and sensible. GILOU?!

Had it not been for the scene where he offers to move in with Laure and help REDACTED her REDACTED, I might have wondered who this homme was and what they had done with Lt Escoffier, but since his long-term love for La Berthaud remains undiminished, it looks like our man’s still in there somewhere. Which begs the question: should we start shipping him and Laure now? I’ve resisted the idea for years, but Pierre has found love elsewhere, Bremont and Sami are gone, and the one enduring, consistent relationship in Laure’s life seems to be with her right-hand man, so…. Hm. Watch this space.

Speaking of Pierre – my favourite pastime – his personal and professional lives are going très bien, merci beaucoup; our first sighting of Grégory Fitoussi has him in a long, long lip lock with Audrey Fleurot’s Josephine, as they carry out “inventory.” Or, y’know, “kissing” as other people might call it.

Happily, Josephine’s new didn’t-have-time-to-dry-it hair (why did they mess with it? It was so beautiful before!) doesn’t seem to have dampened Pierre’s ardour, anyway, nor does their professional separation – their firm is breaking up, but they’re very much together. Maintenant, anyway – I mean, this is Spiral, so nobody should get too comfy. For the moment, however, Josephine is calmer and happier than she’s ever been (she’s snogging Pierre, mind you, so this is hardly a surprise), if just as sneaky as ever, stealing as she does a client in a manner as sleek, beautiful and effortless as her white satin pyjama pants. Which I would really like for my very own, s’il vous plaît. Along with her super-handsome boyfriend.

It seems inevitable that the ripples of their respective ambitions will pull them apart further down the line, however. As well as representing the prime suspect in the double murder Laure and Roban are investigating (giving us more Pierre and Laure shared screentime in these two eps than we had all of last season. Hurrah!), Pierre is being groomed for election to the Bar Council – or not, according to a surprisingly dismissive and unenthusiastic Roban – who, I’m guessing, aren’t all that keen on his gorgeous troublemaker girlfriend.

Said gorgeous troublemaker girlfriend, meanwhile, enlists Roban in her mission to resurrect her career, wangling her way with ease into the other main plotline, the investigation of the killing of a police officer. At first, Monsieur Le Juge is reluctant, but by episode 2, he seems keener on Josephine than he is on his formerly good ami Pierre, to the considerable bemusement and suspicion of both the majestic Marianne and the slightly bewildered moi.

All the characters and their relationships seem to have changed significantly then, but plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose; the important things about Spiral are still the same. The main plot is still grim and unsettling, the characters are still deeply flawed but completely mesmerising, the writing is uncompromising yet occasionally bleakly funny and the acting – from Fitoussi, Fleurot, Caroline Proust and everybody else – is still superb. Roll on eps 3 and 4, Engrenages is back, bébés, and it’s brilliant.

Public Service Announcement 4 of 2015: Spiral (Engrenages)

It feels a little bit wrong to be getting excited about a French crime drama given the horrific events in France of the past couple of days, but tv is escapism as much as it is entertainment so I’m giving myself a pass for looking forward to the return of Spiral (Engrenages).

With its mix of dodgy cops, dodgy lawyers and dodgier criminals, Season 4 was a masterclass in dark, daring, often difficult drama, but while I’d like to pretend I loved it purely for its hard-hitting look at les issues, the searing chemistry between star-crossed lawyers Pierre and Josephine probably had a lot more to do with it. Are Gregory Fitoussi and Audrey Fleurot the two most beautiful people on tv? Discutez.

Anyhoo, season 5 (“Double Murder”) promises more from les angsty avocats, as well as the return of wily Juge Roban and the usual “unorthodox” police work from Capt Laure and co. Despite unpopcult’s tireless campaign against the tyranny of double bills, OF COURSE that’s what we’re getting again, with the first two episodes of season 5 kicking off at 9pm on BBC 4 tomorrow (Saturday). So be it. I’ll be watching and reviewing as soon as I can, and likely getting very excited in the process.