Spiral: Season 5 DVD Review: French Crime Drama Continues to Thrill

Police Captain Laure Berthaud (Caroline Proust) is drinking alone in a bar. She eyes a handsome lad across the way and smiles. He smiles back. Cut to the two of them going at in Berthaud’s car. Hot and heavy are the words. Clothes are removed. Her pants are pulled down. There’s blood. Lots of it. On her panties and thighs. She freaks, he hasn’t noticed. She kicks him out of the car and speeds away.

We cut to the next morning where Berthaud is called to the marina where a woman’s corpse has been found tied up and entangled in a boat. Divers cut her free, pull her to land, and we find that the woman is not alone – her young daughter is roped around her torso.

Man, I love this show.

When we last saw our heroes they were…well I don’t know what they were doing for I’ve only seen Season 2 of this French crime drama (you can read my review here). I’m a few seasons behind, and I never did get around to watching Season 1. I truly do love this show and its been sitting in my Netflix queue for months. There’s just too much good TV vying for my attention and dark, brooding, violent shows get pushed to the back burner to when my family is asleep and there just isn’t enough time in that limited schedule to see everything.

I can assure you though, after refreshing myself on how good this series is, I’ll be starting it at the beginning.

Having missed so many previous seasons jumping into this one was a little disconcerting at first. I remember shadow versions of these characters, but their details are long gone. There might be some of them missing, and perhaps some new ones have joined the fray, but my foggy brain cells cannot piece all that together. I gather Season 4 ended with a bang as they keep talking about an explosion that took out the old police stations and at least one of their officers. This tragedy casts a dark shadow over all the characters through Season 5.

Much like Law & Order, Spiral focuses on the cops, lawyers, and judges in the criminal justice system, although in the French system the judges are much more hands-on, working directly with the cops in the investigation. They are more like prosecutors than judges overseeing the court trial. I’m sure there are lots of intricacies I miss out on not being familiar with how all of that works, but it certainly doesn’t lessen my enjoyment of the show.

Our main crime, which is solved over the course of the season, focuses on that dead woman and her child. Immediately, the police suspect the woman’s husband, Léo Jaulin (Jean-Baptiste Blanc), who has a record and appears to be on the run. But as this is Spiral, and not Law & Order, things get much more complicated and layered. The husband is associated with any number of criminal elements and the dead wife isn’t exactly clean either. There are numerous side stories and stray threads that appear as each episode plays all of which slowly get tied together in a giant ball of entanglement.

At times, this becomes a little annoying as whenever some seemingly random event happens or a new character appears, we know that they will eventually become important to our main plot line. Mostly, the show does an amazing job of stringing the various layers together, creating a wonderfully intricate story.

The blood in Berthaud’s pants comes from a pregnancy she didn’t know about. She wants to terminate it but she’s too far along for the French doctors to do it. Appointments are made to the more lax Netherlands hospitals, but the case keeps getting in the way. All the while, everyone who finds out about the child urges her to keep it.

Suave defense layer Pierre Clément (Grégory Fitoussi) prepares to make a run for some sort of judiciary association while his attorney/love interest Joséphine Karlsson (Audrey Fleurot) continues to scrap her way into a career. Of course, they each get involved in our main case as does Judge Roban (Phillippe Duclos) who is as obstinate as ever.

All of the main characters, as well as some of the more minor ones, get full backstories and development as the investigation moves forward.

Spiral is such a rich, in-depth drama that one really needs multiple viewings of it to grasp everything that’s going on. And I mean that in the best possible way. The crime story intermingles with the character drama while the show takes hard looks at larger social questions, such as how the justice system makes it very difficult for criminals to ever make a clean break, and how bureaucracy pushes the police to bend the rules if they are to keep up with the arrest records their bosses so desperately need.

Watching Season 5 this week, I’ve praised Spiral from the heavens. I’ve shouted it from the Facebook rooftops, and badgered poor clerks at the copy place I frequent about giving it a shot. It is a great show, and this season is no different.

Go watch it. Now.

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Mat Brewster

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