New!Spiral 1(Engrenages):BBC4 Saturdays @ 9pm aired on 3rd September with Episode 1&2 (French with English subtitles-real name The Cogs)

Spiral is a French Police and Legal Drama series set in Paris. In which Berthauld, the Chief Inspector of the Homicide Division leads her squad investigating crimes.

The French legal system is different. There is a Magistrate, Pierre, who accompanies the Police to all murder scenes. Both the Magistrate and Berthauld report to the Judge who decides whether the case will come to Court and can himself investigate the crimes. The Public Prosecutor Josephine, like a Barrister, prosecutes or defends the claimants.

Spiral 1 is dark. In that the lighting is fairly dark but not the gloom favoured by Forbrydelsen or The Killing Remake.

Being the first one in the series and having seen Spiral 3 i recognise with fondness my favourite blue light that flooded chosen scenes in Spiral 3. Here the beloved blue light is not quite so neon bright and surreal nor so ghostly in flavour as it was in Spiral 3.

In Spiral 1, the blueness of the light in it’s earlier incarnation, is more sepia tinged. It is brush stroked like watery watercolour over most of the scenes. The light has a grainy, gritty quality. Like sifted sand was thrown on top of wet washed water colour blue with a paintbrush.

This pale washed watery blue light is the backdrop for Spiral yet pervades it. Covered almost imperceptibly by this finest sand like anti-fairy dust. An obvious signal perhaps of a grainy and gritty Drama.

However Spiral, whilst shocking in spades, is never obvious. Nothing is truly clear. All is muddy, hidden and unreal, surreal is the sole signpost.

Spiral veers perilously close to caricature. Yet escapes it by delivering us evil instead. When we least expect it. The various murders are horrific. There are odd almost laughable cases that stop just short of hilarity even humour. Which instead teeter wobbling on the edge.

Spiral looks down and over that edge into an abyss both dark and deep. A near comical story of a Teacher being accused of witchcraft veers off from it’s very ridiculousness into a dark depressing alleyway of a dead end. The Teacher has now really gone insane. Magistrate Pierre tells Berthauld that his questioning of the Teacher “finally sent her over the edge”.

The story of the Teacher is visually grafted for a few moments onto a mysterious scene in a flat where we see blood a-spattered and two tiny infant feet speckled with blood poking out from under a sheet. For an awful moment we think that this is what the Teacher did. The scene takes it’s time to pan around and light upon the figure of an African nanny. She also believed in witchcraft. Or rather that the devil had been residing in the small child.

Each pair of Episodes of Spiral has several murders. All completely horrific. One to two murders are solved within the two episodes. The main murder which is continuing throughout and is yet unsolved is that of murdered and once beautiful Romanian Phd Biology student and Escort Girl Irina. Once beautiful since her body turns up dreadfully disfigured. All the murder victims present the most awful deaths, disfigurements and dark deeds carried out upon them.

The Characters in Spiral:

Berthauld
Berthauld, the Chief Police Inspector is here, breezy, bouncy and bright of mood. None of the coruscating scorn, anger and sizzling cynicism she has in Spiral 3.
I have decided my nickname for Berthauld in Spiral 1 will be The Artful Dodger from Oliver twist since she has something of the cheeky cockney about her.

Pierre
is the-Public Prosecutor who is currently standing in as Magistrate for the Court
Pierre is decidedly dishy, dashing and handsome. He has a shock of black hair which looks rather new romantic in style when dishevelled. Pierre is new to the job, passionate about justice and sympathetic to the victims. He has ideals. He comes from a well off middle class background unlike Jospehine who we shall meet later. He is also rather sweet, innocent and trusting in nature.

Berthauld cheerfully flirts with Pierre. She is bursting with confidence and cheekiness asking him out for a drink. Clearly with more than a drink on her mind. Likewise she practically propositions a cute and charming deaf interpreter who was definitely interested.

Pierre meets up with slightly manic Marianne, his wife. Manic only in that appearing with such cheerfulness and a boot full of his favourite painting lovingly wrapped in a blanket at his new flat could only really mean one thing. Marianne found the vision and yet unseen vista of Pierre’s new pad to be a distinct turn on. Odd since she is apparently divorcing Pierre against his wishes.

Pierre is still madly and mournfully in love with Marianne. Afterwards, lying in his arms, she declares:”Isn’t it great, being able to do this as single people”! Marianne, have you seen your ex-husband?
Perchance you need your head examining..

Gilou
Then we have Gilou, one of the Policemen in Berthuld’s squad, lumbering about in his largeness. Or should it be largesse. Meeting a lady friend who is a little of a stereotype Lady of The Night. Who seems inordinately cheerful considering her job. It could be the large plastic packets of coke accounting for her jollity.

A Christmas type snowfest that she passes on to Gilou for no discernible reason other than for him to “test it”. That’s a new one. Usually a user considers themselves quite a reliable tester and doesn’t need an independent objective opinion. She may just have oodles of the stuff and doesn’t like it lying around.

Gilou’s lady friend could be an independently wealthy socialite with her own business in coke. Or a cheerful drug dealer. Gilou proceeds to snort up his baggie contents at every conceivable opportunity. After an unconvincing moment spent waggling the bag in the loo. Like he was really going to throw it down into the watery depths. Such a waste.

Gilou snorts it up on a credit card in broad daylight seemingly at the traffic lights in his car. After a quick look around for bystanders and such like. There it goes. Up his nose. Luckily the Police in Spiral don’t drive marked Police cars. Now that could have been embarrassing.
Unfortunately whilst snorting, Gilou misses an important suspect leaving a building that he is supposed to be watching. Whilst he is otherwise engaged.

You can’t help but admire Gilou’s chutzpah during this manoeuvre. Both Berthauld and Policeman Tintin berate Gilou for missing the suspect leave the building. Berthauld looks upon Gilou with such silent exasperated scorn as if she knew exactly what he was doing and cannot be bothered to say.

Benoit Faye:
whom Pierre describes as “like a brother to me”
Benoit Faye is an old school friend and suddenly benevolent buddy of Pierre. Who rents out to Pierre said sumptuous and giant new flat for free. Shortly afterwards an incriminating fat red diary is found left behind in a taxi. The diary belonged to Irina and is full of high ranking names including that of Benoit Faye.
It transpires from the investigation that Irina left Benoit Faye’s apartment just before she was horribly murdered.

A bit unlikely Irina would have left her big fat red diary in a taxi by accident. More like a last ditch drop of a clue by someone frightened and in fear of her life. A clue pointing into the upper echelons of society judging by the high ranking names in her diary.

Benoit Faye is rich, cold-hearted and with a lot to lose. He is some kind of fixer moving amongst the upper echelons of Parisien society. Benoit turns up early to see Pierre after Irina’s murder and is suddenly everywhere at once. He knows where the vodka is kept in Pierre’s new flat.

Josephine
Then we have the character of the beautiful Josephine, self-employed lawyer and prosecutor. Whose red hair is barely visible unlike in Spiral 3 which was more in colour than this grainy blue black and white washed water colour sepia of Spiral 1.

This must be her early days as a Prosecutor, or Barrister. Josephine appear to be independent in that she is not based at the court nor linked with and answerable to the Judge, Le Juge, unlike Magistrate Pierre.

The mysterious white stripe haired woman:
Josephine is approached by a slightly seedy woman with a shock of white hair striped in her dark brown bob. She invites Josephine to her office for a meeting.

The mysterious ex-Lawyer:
In this office Josephine is made a proposition by an even seedier looking guy who chain smokes with shaking hands and hasn’t shaved in a while. This chain-smoking hand-shaking unfashionably over-stubbled man sits behind a huge desk in a vaguely looking office room.

The man tells Jospehine that he used to be a Lawyer and was struck off for a “drinking problem”. Josephine is wisely sceptical at this pronouncement, saying that “plenty of Lawyers have been heavy drinkers”. Seedy shaking-hand man admits that it was indeed a worse transgression but won’t for the moment elaborate.

He offers Josephine money to act as his proxy since he can’t practice. She astutely bargains him up to a higher percentage and he agrees. He wants her to inveigle herself into the high profile murder case of Irina and offer her services as a lawyer to the dead girl’s parents. Who have no Counsel.

The reason for this plan is not clear as it is certainly not born of altruism and a desire to help the grieving parents. it seems to be born of a desire to raise his, or rather Josephine’s profile as a lawyer and get a big case. The family will not have to pay.

Then the ex-lawyer chuckles nastily and tosses out the casual aside that the crime he was struck off the lawyer register for was “rape”. A shocked silence from Josephine ensues. Too late. She has signed up her metaphorical soul, or rather her job, to a devil.

Before Josephine met with the chuckling seedy rapist the mysterious woman with the shock of striped white hair is seen conferring with him. He unaccountably has a huge game of sticks laid out on his desk which collapse as they talk. They are brother and sister and the meaning of their conversation is not entirely clear but seemed to centre around:

“Have you got her?” “Yes” “We can proceed then” “ha ha..”.

However Josephine is extremely tough, smart and streetwise not to mention slightly Sociopath, so hopefully she can look out for herself.

The Judge, or Le Juge, in French
Last but not least dear readers we have Monsieur Le Juge. The Judge. Those of you who have been around for the other Spirals will know the Judge.

My nickname for the Judge or as they call him in Spiral, “Le Juge” was Lee Van Cleef. Le Juge, with his piercing gaze is a steely eyed silver haired crusader for justice. Nobody escapes his all encompassing mission.

In the French legal system the Judge has responsibility for everything. All cases have to be submitted to him. He decides what will be investigated or prosecuted. The Judge also calls in and questions claimants and defendants. Sometimes criticising and castigating shrinking and frightened people.

Le Juge is also wont to going off on his own investigations out of his office and raiding premises. Since presumably he can sign his own search warrant.

Le Juge cuts through emotion and vengeance, pettiness and spite, claims for wrongful this or that. All are equal to him in his dispensation of justice as he sees fit. He has no time for vagaries from the true and impartial path.

The Lawyer for the African nanny pleads insanity on her behalf due to her belief that the “child was a burden to the mother and the devil was inside him”.
There is an equally appalled silence from both the Lawyer and the Judge on hearing the Nanny’s explanation for hacking a baby to death. The Judge responds acerbically that:

“She is not insane, she knew exactly what she was doing and why”.
he continues
“You choose your religious convictions, she chose hers, she is responsible”! To which utterance the Lawyer looks on in bemused amazement.

Who can forget the scene in Spiral 3 where Le Juge instructs Madame, the wife of the Mayor, to strip in his office as he needs all her clothes plus handbag as evidence of corruption! He treats all suspects equally. Le Juge wants results and justice so all criminals and suspects are treated the same.

This egalitarian attitude of Le Juge comes in useful when the suspects are high ranking, rich, powerful or politicians or all of these. Le Juge is quite happy to hunt down injustice and corruption wherever it lies. In spiral 3 even his own brother came under his investigation. Although Le Juge did give his brother a warning.

Le Juge declares that Irina “died in the course of her business”. Like this was an unavoidable job hazard. Therefore he concluded that there was no point in investigating her murder. However when Le Juge is given Irina’s red diary as evidence he does start to investigate…

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