sat 20/07/2024

Spiral, Series 8 Finale, BBC Four review - justice is done in stormy climactic episodes | reviews, news & interviews

Spiral, Series 8 Finale, BBC Four review - justice is done in stormy climactic episodes

Spiral, Series 8 Finale, BBC Four review - justice is done in stormy climactic episodes

Epic French cop show rides off into the sunset

End of an era: Joséphine Karlsson (Audrey Fleurot) and Laure Berthaud (Caroline Proust)

If this had to be the end of Spiral, the final episodes of Series 8 (BBC Four) at least ensured that justice was done.

We saw evidence that on occasion lawyers may be human after all, and there was even the somewhat disorientating semblance of a happy ending (or at least not the bloodbath that had threatened to erupt).

A series of Spiral often takes a few episodes to crank up a full head of steam, as this one did, but once character, situation and plot start to knit together, it has been as tense and addictive as anything on TV. The story of Moroccan teenager Amin, whose murdered body got the investigatory ball rolling in the opening episode, lit a fuse that fizzed through a knotty narrative which asked probing questions about police and legal procedure, the porous boundaries between personal and professional behaviour, and the lengths to which law enforcement agents should be permitted to go in pursuit of the bad and the ugly. The depiction of a Paris teeming with squalid people-smugglers and gangs of racketeers and drug-runners was handled with a sense of world-weary resignation. The judiciary’s headquarters in an ugly ultra-modern skyscraper near La Défense seemed to exist in a separate hermetically-sealed dimension to the fetid Parisian backstreets.

All of this was adroitly used to illuminate the characters we’ve come to know and, to greater or lesser degrees, love. Incredibly, the show made its debut on BBC Four back in 2006. While it’s lost a few favourites along the way (including Juge Roban, Grégory Fitoussi’s prosecutor Pierre Clement and Fred Bianconi’s Tintin to name but three), the core cast have grown together over the years. Laure Berthaud (Caroline Proust), Joséphine Karlsson (Audrey Fleurot) and the increasingly battered Gilou (Thierry Godard) have been slugging it out in the trenches from day one, while later arrivals such as Valentin Merlet’s Bekriche (pictured below) and Louis-Do de Lencquesaing’s guileful lawyer Éric Edelman have made themselves part of the scenery.

All of them have cut corners, compromised and flat-out lied, but there was some redemption on offer. Karlsson, whose brilliant legal gifts haven’t saved her from veering off the straight and narrow too many times, finally found a purpose in life in trying to save another immigrant boy, Souleymane, managing to overlook that fact that he was a vicious criminal brat crying out for a good slapping. Not content with wresting him from the grip of the law, she seemed to be almost on the brink of adopting him – she even made a mercy dash to Spain to rescue his little brother from people traffickers – when he suddenly turned up dead.

Her former mentor Edelman, who lured Karlsson to the dark side in previous series, now put on his own display of good-citizenship, not only helping Joséphine cope with the drug-addicted Souleymane, but giving a bravura performance in court to keep Gilou from incarceration. The fact that he did this by playing on the ingrained male chauvinism of the presiding judge added a dash of astringent black comedy.

It wasn’t explained how Laure Berthaud had managed to conquer her crippling phobia of motherhood and become an almost-satisfactory mother to her daughter Romy, but this helped set the trajectory for a finale which found her reunited with Gilou, still standing after several near-death experiences incurred while he infiltrated Cisco’s sordid squad of bandits. Even the ambitious and ambiguous Superintendent Bekriche seemed to have been on the hot line to his better angels, proving himself a dead shot in a crisis and leaving the door ajar for Gilou.

The ending was as close to sentimental as Spiral has ever come, but I think we can forgive them that. Bon voyage, and thanks for all the priceless educational tips on French slang.

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