If you’ve not heard of this series and love a good and gripping down to earth crime series, then you will enjoy Spiral /Engrenages. Based in the seedier outskirts of Paris, we follow the CID team of Laure Berthaud, Gilou Escoffier, and TinTin. They are the good cops, (each with their flaws) as we follow their dilemmas in pursuing the baddies. Judge Roban, and barrister Joséphine Karlsson are regulars who have also been in the series since the beginning, when their paths coincide. If you are learning French, then don’t use all the words you hear, as there is a lot of swearing, and bad language that your French teacher wouldn’t approve of. I know mine certainly wouldn’t have, and this isn’t the French you find in textbooks or teach yourself books! I’m halfway through the season, and this is what has happened so far…
A brief character list
Laure Berthaud ~ A gritty, tough and inquisitive detective that never stops like a Duracell bunny. Her love life is more about sex rather than relationships, but she’s a dedicated cop that chases every lead and is fearless, and has earned the respect of her male colleagues.
Frédéric “Tintin” Fromentin ~ The sensible cop, but one that has neglected his family as his wife leaves him taking his children. He doesn’t know how to be a good father (yet) or how to balance his life as a cop, and wants to do everything by the book which means sometimes his team don’t tell him everything. In this series we see his character fall apart as he comes to terms with the loss of his family.
Gilles “Gilou” Escoffier ~ A rough around the edges cop who doesn’t beat about the bush with anyone be it his superiors, a witness or a suspect. He and Laure often cover one another when they cross the line on a case. He’s a good cop who blends in easily and knows how to get answers from suspects, and has off the cuff hunches that pan out.
Judge François Roban ~ He is a strict judge who has justice in mind, but forgets his humanity and is lonely because of this. He likes to be in control and when he isn’t he retreats and takes it out on others. It’s likely he has a terminal illness, but is stubborn and refuses treatment, although he is afraid if he can’t work that his life will be over.
Joséphine Karlsson ~ She is a ferocious criminal lawyer, who through the series have seen her grow from a lawyer of dubious means to being a partner in a firm. Deep down she is insecure, and takes shortcuts to get what she needs and wants. In this series she no longer has the financial worries she had before, but she still has a bad reputation and is alone because of it. She trusts no one and is still trying to find herself.
The last season ended with a pregnant Laure falling after chasing and apprehending the suspect, leaving us to wonder whether the baby would survive or not. She wasn’t sure whether she wanted to keep the baby as her former lover who was the father had gone back to his ex and they were no longer on speaking terms, so did she get what she wanted or is that what she wanted?
The baby was premature, but Laure being the restless gritty cop she is doesn’t want to be on maternity leave and when she sees her office full of gifts and cards, all she wants to do is get back out to work.
The plot revolves around a torso found in a bag thrown out with some junk left outside by some scavengers. There is a new boss for the team, and one who is looking to get promoted and doesn’t want cases that will take too long to solve on his record and he tries to get the case reassigned as soon as he can. Laure decides to come back to work, and to fight to keep the case.
Through some clever plots and turns they discover whom the torso belongs to, and it’s one of their own and it becomes personal. Eventually they uncover links to the Roma community, prostitution, and corruption. In between, Laure has to visit the hospital each day to express breast milk and to see her daughter in an incubator. Here, you see her vulnerable side as she is a mother, but isn’t really either and she uses her work to mask her responsibility.
Meanwhile Gilou who is a direct cop and also a bit tubby (so when he chases people you wonder if he’s going to pass out and there are a few close calls) has a complicated love life. Having hooked up with the ex-girlfriend of a criminal who wants to move in with him, he discovers she has been lying to him, but only after he risks his career for her. I watched him take the gold ingot from a crime scene, then he put it back, and then he took it again. Why? He obviously can’t sleep and wants to return it, and suggests a search of the property to do it only to find the stash has been moved. Eventually he confesses all to Laure and offers his resignation as another team are searching for the stolen gold, but she helps him. The two have been through a lot together and you can see their bond even though they are two rough cops, who know each other’s secrets.
The duo often leave TinTin out of things because they don’t want him to get into trouble if they get caught, but he likes to prove himself and goes off to follow leads. You feel for him as he is doing a good job, but his impending divorce throws him off his normally rational game. He wants to be a good father but doesn’t know how, and that’s why his wife has left. When his son comes to visit he forgets to book any leave and then doesn’t know how to be a dad when his son is at home, so takes him out on a stakeout! The end result is that he believes his wife needs time, but she in fact has moved on and when he sees her new lover who comes to pick up their son he knows it’s over. He messed up and now it’s too late to make amends.
Judge Roban reminds me of an old headmaster, strict and stubborn. He has pushed everyone away and is ill but is quietly afraid, but tries to carry on as if all is well. I don’t feel he has still got over Pierre’s murder outside his office (his protégé). He believes in justice, but doesn’t like to cut corners and likes to investigate himself because he doesn’t trust anyone. We see his flaws and arrogance when he must have a biopsy for a suspected tumor, and I love the doctor who tells him he can get him benched if he thinks he is unfit for work, and makes him stay overnight in the hospital unless someone comes to collect him. Roban needs to learn he needs people and must be more gracious to those who care rather than push them away. He has always been in control and now finds he doesn’t have as much as he had, and when he expects a favor in return he discovers what power he once had no longer exists. I saw his disappointed face, but there is no honor among those who move up the ranks and play the political game, something he had not yet learned.
Joséphine Karlsson provides a subplot to the series so far as she reaches out to Laure when she has been raped. We all know she is a little unstable and uses her sexuality to get places and that reputation has stuck. We also see who the possible suspects are: her sleazy boss, and her former boss who both eye her up all the time. Laure and she bonded over the loss of Pierre, but they aren’t friends even though they reach out for one another when they need help. Joséphine pushes Laure away because Laure knows she will do something psycho rather than follow procedure. She does have excellent lines, and plays a dangerous game most of the time, which can and has backfired before.
So far the series has touched upon some topical issues such as corruption within governments, immigrants, and smuggling. The actors do an excellent job that would put many Hollywood stars to shame. This particular season has some gruesome scenes, and the makeup is superb, and the locations are all realistic as are the action shots on the street. It makes for a more gripping show rather than knowing in Hollywood it’s a set or a stationary car or process trailer on set.
The show always has unexpected twists and turns, so I expect the Mayor of the area to be involved in the corruption (I don’t like her), and Joséphine will go bunny boiler on her boss and Laure will have to decide to protect her or not after she told her to leave her alone. TinTin may have a breakdown but will the team rally around and help him or will he let them? The characters are all real and have flaws we can all identify with, and vulnerabilities that we know exist (something Hollywood doesn’t do well). If you need to catch up on the series, the first two are excellent, then three and four are okay, and five picks up the original pace again. One thing you will learn is how to swear in French!