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Florence Loiret Caille,
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A French village and its inhabitants go through the ups and (mainly) downs of the occupation by the German army from 1940 to 1945. The village doctor is assigned as mayor, and confronted ... See full summary »
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Magnifique! - gritty French police procedural buried on BBC4, each episode enmeshing you in a darker and darker world of crime, pain, and - as everywhere - a convoluted legal system that is best summed up by a brief exchange mid-series: "It's cruel." "It's only justice." With great performances and a coldly verité mise en scene, this holds its own among the best US & UK police/legal dramas. Oh, and need I say how refreshing it is to see a non-US drama on British screens? A large cast perform excellent dialogue, an engrossing single theme backed up by numerous sub plots, each one driving the characters forward as all the best drama should. The lead characters are attractive/repellent as required, but always interesting, without looking like an advert for a shampoo. In fact there's none of that slippery high-gloss (where every 'goodie' is always right, and never makes a mistake) that has marred some US series. Spiral attracted a good deal of support on BBC comment pages and is already being replayed on BBC4, with series two on the way. If it doesn't get a showing here there may be a riot.
Now season two is over - all too quickly - I'm left actually gasping for more. It's the kind of show that makes the rash of 'CSI' type programmes looking plastic and rather basic. Is it because I'm so cynical that this show suits my way of thinking about the world so well? That dark, messy, morally ambivalent universe they live in is recognisable even past the cultural differences, such as the astonishing blurring of the boundary between investigative police work and judgement – it's not so much uniquely French as uniquely modern. I recognise this world: you could find desperate council estates and desperate police departments just like it all over the less photogenic parts of London and the UK. And as for the relationships – they're as fleeting, unresolved and problematic as everybody's are.
I wasn't sure if they could top the tour-de-force complexity and classy storytelling of season one; and I'm not sure they did; but it doesn't matter - the quality is still so high, and the series-long story arc so engrossing, that you don't waste too much time comparing them. Some familiar faces, and some new characters, keep things ticking along nicely. My only criticism really is that the 'villains' (as if it were really possible to separate them from anybody else!) of season one were so nasty, so venal, so atrociously amoral, that it was always going to be difficult to find new villains that didn't make you wonder where the bad stuff was happening. This lot were kind of old school. The final episode did leave me slightly confused and was I think underwritten in the haste to get to the end. Isn't the crucial difficulty of policing - everywhere - precisely that no one ever does really have that last minute change of heart, so that les flics must tread their dirty path alone?
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