Having spent many nights gripped by series like The Killing (the Scandinavian version) and The Bridge (another Danish export) I was delighted to find a new European crime series to keep me up at nights
Engrenages, otherwise known by its English title ‘Spiral’, is a French detective series currently available to stream on Netflix (which is fast becoming my main destination for TV viewing rather than cable.)
It’s sort of cross between ‘The Wire’ and ‘Law & Order’ and features a fine cast of characters, from the deeply flawed detective Laure Berthaud to the deeply moral and deeply handsome prosecutor Pierre Clement to my own personal favorite, stunning Josephine Karlsson, a lawyer with only a passing acquaintance with concept of doing the right thing.
The first two series are perfectly serviceable and entertaining pieces of crime drama but it’s the third series really ups the anti by doing what all great series do. It sticks to a theme that it explores in several different plot lines. In this case we might say that theme was the difficulty of doing the right thing in a world that is profoundly wrong.
Each person’s attempts to stay honest is challenged and ultimately comprised to the extent that all the main characters be they cops, lawyers or judges end up being only marginally less corrupt than many of the criminals they attempt to convict.
The idea of cops and criminals being similar to one another is a theme that’s been explored in many crime dramas but the adept way its handled in Spiral constantly surprises and challenges us by playing with our own perceptions of whether a character is ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
In this way it parts company with ‘Law & Order’ in that it is more than happy to reveal our favorite characters are a little less perfect than we had been led to believe.
Perhaps more than anything it’s this willingness to go beyond good and evil that makes the series thoroughly European as opposed to American.
It exposes the characters moral failings without feeling the need to condemn them. These are after all just human beings just like us who are trying to get by in a world hell bent on making it as hard for them as possible.