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"Spiral" Episode #2.8 (2008)"Engrenages" Episode #2.8 (original title)

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Season 2: Solid improvement on the first season to be more satisfying and engaging

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
13 May 2013

I quite enjoyed the first season of this show but if I am honest I was surprised that what I saw was getting such praise from others. It seemed clumsy, a bit obvious and certainly did nothing to justify being compared to The Wire. Despite this I did still quite enjoy it and watched on into the second season. I am glad that I did because the step up in quality is evident across the board. I'm not sure how many people in France actually watch this show because my understanding is that BBC4 was key to getting a second season based on their ratings and the general success they have had with foreign police dramas. If this is the case then more than just money was put into the second season because it is a much better show all round.

The first thing you notice is what is missing. In the first season we had constant crash zooms with the camera, even over nothing we got one in an attempt to add drama; this technique is now totally gone from the show and it doesn't even happen once. Secondly the use of gore is different. In the first season it felt like the gore aspect of the crimes were being pushed to the fore for the sake of it and that the show was constantly trying to have impact with it. In the second season, while it is still present, it occurs as a result of the crimes and is not pushed so much as just being there – in other words it doesn't feel like the gore is its own reason for being there. And then of course, most obviously is the haircut. Berthaud is no longer flouncing around with her long hair and little vests but now has a proper haircut that makes her at least look like a more serious character. These changes are part of the overall movement of the show to be a much more well-rounded show that offers something much better as a drama.

In this season the main plot involves a drug related murder on an estate and the case grows from there during the 8 episodes. It isn't perfect and it does have issues but generally this thread is well done and engaging. It doesn't get detailed like The Wire but it isn't as obvious as the first season. It remains a police procedural but it is a better one, with patience and intelligence for the most part. The throwaway cases are also better, not overdone and they don't feel exploitative as they may have done before. The political and moral sides to the writing are better but still not where I'd like them to be; at times they feel specifically written rather than ingrained into the plots and characters – still better than last season but with room for improvement.

Speaking of characters, although some issues have to be just forgotten or ignored, the characters are generally better this season. Proust is not just some sexy waif but has good meat on her character; she isn't McNulty and she is isn't given much room to really grow as a character in the spaces between her lines, but generally I liked her a lot more here. Her squad are better as they do not have massive subplots hanging around their necks while Fitoussi and Duclos are better characters than before. The addition of the drug dealers is well done and, although they are more or less genre characters, they are not bad ones and they do the job well. Due to the improvements in the material perhaps, the cast are also better and have more to work with.

The main downside of the second season is that the first now looks even weaker than it did before because this season does almost everything better. It still has room to be more but generally as a police drama it is solidly engaging and satisfying – only some rushed cliffhangers and twists in the final episode seem half done. Hopefully it can maintain and maybe improve again for the third season.

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