[Contains incriminating irons and SPOILERS!!!]
I was (figuratively) wetting myself with excitement when I saw the first two episodes of the fifth season of Spiral (aka: Engrenages) (2014) listed in my TV guide… but the weight of expectation rather sunk my enjoyment of what turned out to be a comparatively silly and lacklustre season.
There were some pretty major character changes/deaths this time around, and on balance none of them really worked for me, though they often provided great acting opportunities for the cast in individual scenes. First up was ‘Laure’s (Caroline Proust) belated discovery that she was pregnant… and I know that there are plenty women in real life who don’t realise they’ve “got a bun in the oven”, until it pops out, fully-baked… but it doesn’t say much for Laure’s detective skills, if she can’t even solve the mystery of her own missing periods until it’s too late! As I say, it gave Proust a whole new side of her character to play, as she became increasingly broody across the course of the season, but I never really felt that invested in the fate of the foetus itself, because… well, it’s like she decided to go to work with a heavy book balanced precariously on her head… it’s bound to fall off eventually, so why should I even worry about it? I mean, it’s not like she made the slightest effort to protect herself, rushing headlong after crooks and getting into fights with random thugs… and when she took off her stab-proof vest to approach a known killer holding a sharp knife… well, you didn’t have to be psychic to see how that was going to play out! Tch! I can’t say I care who the father is, either… though I did think the way “Gilou” (Thierry Godard) kept trying to step-up as a co-parent was very sweet. Bless him.
This season also saw the (slightly ludicrous) death of series mainstay ‘Pierre’ (Grégory Fitoussi), who was shot by a trigger-happy guard after fighting free from an aggrieved client who’d taken him hostage! Weirdly for a show centring around cops, lawyers, and judges, there didn’t seem to be any legal repercussions following his demise. If the guard was investigated and/or punished for this reckless shooting, then it happened off-screen, and was never referenced by any of his friends! And when the hostage-taking client was proven innocent of the season’s main murder, everyone seemed perfectly happy to forgive/forget the whole holding-a-knife-against-Pierre’s-throat-and-inadvertantly-getting-him-killed incident! Tch! Still, we did get to see Laure and ‘Joséphine’ (Audrey Fleurot) finding common ground in their mutual grief, and forming a two-woman “widows” support group… with Proust and Fleurot delivering fantastic, heart-breaking performances throughout. Sadly, the softer and kinder Joséphine we were served this season was a disappointing shadow of the spiky and weirdly self-destructive character we’d grown to love/hate in previous years. Hell, she even ended up defending a copper (Gilou) who was under investigation by internal affairs, despite her long-established distrust and dislike for the police! Obviously in real life the younger, brasher Joséphine would have been an absolute nightmare to know, and you’d be constantly worrying for her safety/sanity, so it would be an enormous relief to see her mature and mellow with age… but as a fictional character, she’s become a little boring now that she’s seemingly settled down and taken a cushy corporate gig (where the clients still treat her counsel with mocking contempt, but have yet to physically or verbally assault her!)
As for the supporting characters… I was a little concerned by the way that the girl-gang responsible for the main murder was depicted, in the sense that the most vindictive and violent members all had dark skin and hair, while the two more meek and remorseful members were both white-skinned blondes! Tsk, tsk. Apparently Shirley Souagnon, who played the gang’s butch bullying leader “Oz”, is better known in France as a stand-up comedian, but you wouldn’t guess it from the deadly serious and layered performance she delivered here. It was hard not to feel a little sympathy for Oz at various points along her journey, as we glimpsed the sad and broken soul behind the stone-cold facade… but ultimately she was a child-killer, so I’m glad she went to a watery grave. Meanwhile, her former accomplice/girlfriend ‘Laetitia’ (Emilie de Preissac) received quite a battering in the finale, but the girl I felt sorriest for was poor ‘Kimberly’ (Daisy Broom), who was randomly raped by a sleazy truck-depot supervisor while trying to spy their delivery schedule, and then savaged by a pair of vicious dogs set on her by Oz, when she tried to run to the cops! Even then, when she was nice enough to provide Laure (and us viewers) with a full exposition of how and why the main murder went down, lying in her hospital bed with a torn-up face, she got no sympathy from our heroine. I was really hoping her rapist would get caught and punished in the course of the investigation… but no! The shit-head got way scot-free. Feh!
On the other side of the legal fence, a headstrong young judge named ‘Carole Mendy’ (Fatou N’diaye) was introduced to work alongside ‘Roban’ (Philippe Duclos), so at least her presence helped to offset the slightly racist casting of the girl-gang… though Mendy’s stable family life and lack of workaholism makes me wonder how interesting she’d be as a permanent addition to the series. Where’s the long-term story potential in someone who’s happy to shrug off a loss and go home early to play with their kids?
Oh, I also have to give a shout-out to Fanny Valette, who played ‘Cindy’ the unappreciated (and abused) girlfriend of Gilou’s dodgy new grass… she was also treated pretty roughly, but came across as very cute and charismatic in her happier scenes. Also, IMDB tells me Valette was in Molière back in the day, so yay for her! [Disclaimer: Technically this photo is from a film called A NY Thing (aka “Une Aventure New-Yorkaise”) (2009), but it was the best I could come up with…]
According to my sources, the sixth season is already being written, so I wish everyone working on the show godspeed, and hope that this season’s weaker moments were just a minor anomaly in an otherwise sterling series, rather than a warning of what’s to come…