Spiral/ Engrenages Series Five- Review PART ONE. Some notes and dialogue and reviews of episodes one through to and including Episode Eight. Minor spoilers only. In French with English subtitles. On in the UK on BBC4 or channel number 107 on Virgin Media TV-Saturdays @ 9pm. Two episodes back to back.

Spiral/ Engrenages Series Five

Nb.  Introductory notes to Spiral
(taken from announcement of the new spiral Series posted on 27thDecember 2014)
Off the top of my head: a brief description of Spiral/ Engrenages.

Set in the 13th Arondissement/ area of Paris.  Spiral follows the homicide investigations of Captain Laure’ Berthaud and her team of Detectives: Police Lieutenant Frederic “Tintin” Fromentin and Police Lieutenant Gilles “Gilou” Escoffier.

We also follow the cases as they are prosecuted through the courts and defended and or prosecuted by the lawyers involved.  In this case the lawyers are likely to be Pierre Clement and Josephine Karlsson.  In Britain Pierre and Josephine would be called Barristers.  Pierre and Josephine are called “Avocats” and wear the same robes in court that Barristers do.

Then there is the examining Judge, or “Le Juge” in French.  In France the examining Judge has charge of the case and can investigate clues and question witnesses and so on.  The examining Judge is called Roban.  He is a fearsome and daunting adversary to criminals and any wrong-doer.

Roban the Judge can (handily) write his own search warrants too before he goes off on a sometimes solo search.


Spiral/ Engrenages Series Five.
Episodes One to Six

Some notes and dialogue on first watching.
Episode One.

I forgot.  It’s always a good idea to have finished your dinner before watching Spiral.

Uhum.  I don’t think:
“What a berk!”
Was really what Gilou said!  In French.

Judge Roban to a class of Law students:
Be independent, be bold, you will not make many friends..”

Ugh.  Pierre and Josephine snogging.  This is such a loss of dramatic tension.

Yey-here comes the Judge.  Roban gets in the lift and forgets to press the button.

I love Captain Laure’ Berthauld’s coat.


Review of episodes One up to and including Episode six

So Spiral, strangely so far has been for me anyway: fairly underwhelming.  I don’t quite know why.  Everything just seems a bit flat really.

I felt strangely detached from Spiral five.  Sure it was Spiral.  But the drama was just a bit blah.  Not until around now, which is episode six, have I really engaged with Spiral so to speak.  It’s all most odd.  In that I am questioning now whether Spiral is really as good as I thought it was.  Or is it me that has changed.

 Have I become more spoiled (as in Ambassador you are spoiling us with your Ferro Rocher chocolates) with the wonderful Scandi-noir series I have seen.  Am I missing the snow.  I don’t know. Or is it Spiral that is not the same.

Certainly I think i am missing the inimitable Spiral pastel blue light.  That sky blue bleached wash that intermittently used to fill the screen.  Usually in a particular sinister scene.

In Spiral Five we didn’t get to such Spiral artistry with colour until the very end of this episode six.  In which everything went to hell in a hand basket.  Dramatically speaking.  A white ghostly bright hospital basement shimmers with suffused light.  Gigantic sliding glass doors frame the scene.  Two women are weeping.  Who are usually sworn enemies of each other.  I can say no more.

We are shocked, as viewers, very shocked.  Especially if you are a watcher of all the previous Spiral series.  I didn’t see that one coming.  However we all know who exactly to blame: a character who is already developing his own seriously sinister storyline.  Since that character is the very last person you would have expected to see in such a sad state.  No.  Not him.  No..

However getting back to the curious and shocking murder which certainly roused my metaphorical interest in Spiral out of pure surprise. I couldn’t help but find the actual denouement of that character, face down somewhat comically on the floor: mildly amusing.  This is surely terrible of me, I know.

Still, what did I say somewhere about happiness just not being that dramatic.  It ain’t.  It’s boring.  So, farewell and salut my/mon very handsome man.  Tragedy abounds.  Methinks there will  be more tragedy to come.  When Pierre’s prediction to Josephine that her latest client will re-offend: will come back bouncing badly on the rebound.


Episode Seven.

Some notes and dialogue on first watching.

Marianne to Judge Roban:
“I’ve always known you were stubborn but you were always fair..”

So Roban is going to bring a new Judge in on the case.  and I see I have correctly guessed who that new Judge will be.

(Informant) Dijbril to Gilou:
“Fancy some sushi at my place whilst you wait?”

And Captain Laure’ Berthauld phones Josephine.  There has to have been a tragedy for that to have happened.

Josephine cuts off a piece of her hair.  She places it inside…I will not tell.

Oh no.  Laure is going up a long flight of stairs.  She has been wonderfully lucky so far.  But of course we are all worrying for her every time she gets into a mad escapade chase.

Josephine to Captain Laure’ Berthauld:
“If anybody had told me that one day we would need each other..”


Review of episode Seven

It was the story of the girl which finally engaged me in this Spiral series.  Not Berthauld and her crew.  Although I forgot just how good Berthauld and her crew are at following suspects.  They haven’t had a calamitous catastrophe for ages.  Like Berthauld and her men have had in car chases in previous series of Spiral.

Perhaps Spiral is too realistic.  That day to day feel is what makes Spiral seem ordinary.  That is  the point.  Spiral is the day to day life of Captain Laure’ Berthauld and her crew.


Episode Eight:
Some notes and dialogue on first watching.

So finally. I get my favourite Spiral blue light.  In the opening scene.

Herville, The Boss of Berthauld actually plays with a golf ball in his office.  An office which is up at the very top of the Police Station.

So Judge Mendy is supercool.  And stunningly beautiful too.

Judge Roban and Judge Mendy on a search:
Judge Roban:
“What beautiful marble…”
He continues:
“Eh la?/”
“And here?
 (suspect) Ziani:
“Just an old Cupboard we have not used for years..”

And an amazing coincidence in a case happens.  Plus a character who I thought was a guy turns out to be a girl.  Well I wasn’t sure.  it was a kind of Snoop from The Wire thing going on.

And Josephine gets her groove on.

I forgot how good Captain Laure’ Berthauld, Gilou and Tin tin and the rest of her crew are at playing a suspect.  With their little games.

So the Lawyer who fancies Josephine has a completely fabulous office.  The floor-light is black glass ceramic with white ceramic stripes.  Like a zebra.

Berthauld to Gilou:
“What, you can’t manage without me?!”
It’s true.  Gilou doesn’t like to be away from Laure’ now.

So there is a story with a beautiful girl (Cindy) in it,  Gilou and Cindy’s boyfriend Dijbril.  You just know that this is all going to go horribly wrong.  For her.

The Judge, Roban:
“Jean Luc?
Jean Luc is sitting at the desk.  The same desk  that the Judge kept looking longingly at, when it was empty.



So Spiral Five I believe has just four more episodes to go.  The drama for me anyway has certainly taken its time getting off the starting blocks and into a jogging pace.  I feel like Spiral is nearly over when it only just got going.

Possibly the documentary style that Spiral seems to have become dangerously close to: is just too much realism.  As T.S. Elliot wrote: Humankind cannot bear too much reality.


There are some genuinely affecting moments in Spiral Five  so far.  Some shocking ones too.  I suppose it is good or nice to catch up with the characters of the drama in a soap opera sort of way.

However I have lost, mostly, interest in the murder that is meant to be the crux of the case.  Or more correctly, the double murder.  The double murder that opens the series as always.  The murders just seem too long ago.

There are so many disparate story lines they have all become tangled in a dull clump.  Like a big knot of different embroidery threads.  That now needs a long and patient untangling.  Which is I guess, the job of Laure Berthauld and her crew, the Judges too, to do. (or undo)

The personal story of Berthauld’s predicament in this series I felt was distracting in the extreme.  So unusual is this as a storyline for the modern day female Detective I feel almost constrained to declare it to be fresh.  Rightfully right on even.

 However the effect of this back story I felt was to keep piercing the illusion of the dramatically created world of the expected Detective drama: and somehow shrivelling it down.  Like a shrunken balloon.

I even found myself wondering at one point, heretically for a Spiral fan, if Spiral might be veering into a teachy preachy moment on this very subject. In a Pathologist’s laboratory, deep down in the basement.

Maybe this whole personal storyline of Berthauld’s is a point making exercise.  As in necessarily including this theme.  Since such things just never happen or are shown as a general rule.  Who knows.

The other side to this story for Berthauld is it leads us to wonder if this will be the final series.  And
Berthuald will go all domesticated and officially become boringly happy.  With guess who.

Then there is Detective Tin Tin with more domestic dreariness.  Which we are meant to be interested and or sympathise  with.  me I just found it an amusing reflection of the horrors of being a stay at home Mum being far more horrific for Tin Tin than being a twenty four seven/ round the clock Homicide Detective.



On the subject of balloons: this must be the first time ever whilst watching a TV drama that I have found myself conjuring up the visual image of two medium to large sized balloons being used as props.

Oddly for me, I felt duty bound to write more about Spiral after the T.S. Elliot quote.  Since there didn’t seem like enough.  However forcing myself to squeeze more out of the drama to write about is not a very good sign. This may mean that Spiral Five is certainly enjoyable to watch at the time. However the drama is fairly forgettable when over.

Spiral Five being hard to describe due to its very pedestrian nature and day to day documentary style. The drama is made more determinedly grounded in reality by the domestic and physical aspects described above.  A kind of anti-matter effect to a drama.  Or dark matter even, pulling the dramatic illusion down.

For me anyway, Spiral seems to have lost a certain pizazz, if that is a word.  A certain something/ je ne sais quoi, that made it fresh and different and a feast for the eyes.

So back to T.S. Elliot then..


Liked it? Take a second to support Clarissima on Patreon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *