wed 13/11/2019

Spiral, Series 7, BBC Four review - hard-hitting return of our favourite French cop show | reviews, news & interviews

Spiral, Series 7, BBC Four review - hard-hitting return of our favourite French cop show

Spiral, Series 7, BBC Four review - hard-hitting return of our favourite French cop show

Crime, slime and real-life issues in a de-glamourised Paris

Ali Amrani (Tewfik Jallab), Laure Berthaud (Caroline Proust) and Gilou Escoffier (Thierry Godard)

And welcome back to our favourite French cop show – perhaps our favourite cop show from anywhere, in fact – which has raced into its seventh series (on BBC Four) with some typically grimy storylines about death and lowlife in a very de-romanticised Paris. If you catch a glimpse of landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, it’s only in the far distance across drab expanses of rain-soaked rooftops. The action in Spiral is frequently shot with pavement-level actualité, as if it’s been hastily assembled from home-made documentary footage found in a discarded fast-food container.

Last week’s opening episode kicked off with the brutal slaying of Chief Inspector Herville in a Chinese restaurant, along with the owner of the establishment, and early suspicions that this was a robbery gone wrong always looked wide of the mark. Now Gilou Escoffier (Thierry Godard) is in charge of the 2nd DPJ unit, and his crew of ruffians are beginning to unravel some of the tangled threads. The real opposition is turning out to be not the kids from the projects, Rayan Khelfa and Jimmy Meyer, who do a bit of burglary and drug dealing, but a high-level joint operation by major drug dealers and some Chinese businesses in insalubrious Aubervilliers. Our heroes’ rather prissy boss Beckriche – who used to be in the fraud squad – explained, with much theatrical arm-waving, how the money flowed out to Chinese banks and was then redistributed into hard-to-trace foreign accounts. It seems Herville had got wind of this, and Wang, the dead restaurateur, was his informant.

But besides all that, the team have their ongoing tortuous personal issues to grapple with. The unit’s former boss Laure Berthaud (Caroline Proust) is still incapable of getting to grips with being the mother of baby Romy, and has prematurely signed herself out of rehab to rejoin her police comrades. However, this has rubbed her ex-lover Gilou up the wrong way, not least because Berthaud keeps spotting clues Gilou has missed.

Over in the parallel universe of the law, the tempestuous but unscrupulous Joséphine Karlsson (Audrey Fleurot, pictured above with Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) has been incarcerated in a women’s prison after running over her rapist in Series 6, and is struggling to survive in the jungle of drug-dealing, corrupt warders and overcrowding. Having engineered a transfer from sharing a cell with a junkie in withdrawal, she’s now shacked up with the prison’s top dealer Lola, who seems to think Joséphine has potential in all kinds of ways. Whether she can ever get her legal career back remains to be seen, but her former boss Edelman is frantically pulling strings and devising legal stratagems to get her out of jail. Though probably not for free.

Spiral doesn’t do silver linings, but there could be a little glimmer of one in the case of Judge Roban (the reliably splendid Philippe Duclos). He has recovered from his brain operation, only to learn to his horror that he’s going to be forced into retirement in a few months’ time. His contemptuous attitude towards the entrenched legal hierarchy clearly hasn’t enhanced his career prospects. But he’s taken a shine to one of his defendants, Catherine Micallef, and his efforts to get her off a charge of medical misconduct is not motivated by entirely professional considerations. Micallef’s case is also throwing light on shortages of money and staff in the French health service, typical of the way Spiral’s ripped-from-the-headlines stories are also devices for spotlighting crises in treatment of young offenders or racism inside the police force. All of human life is there, and it’s not a pretty sight.

 

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