Saturday, 9 February 2013

Spiral 4: State of Terror, BBC4, starring Caroline Proust, PREVIEW

Fromentin (Fred Bianconi), Gilou (Thierry Godard) and Laure Berthaud (Caroline Proust). Pic: BBC
Fromentin (Fred Bianconi), Gilou (Thierry Godard) and Laure Berthaud (Caroline Proust). Pics: BBC
Rating: ★★★½ 

BBC4: starts Saturday, 9 February,  

Story: Captain Laure Berthaud and her team discover an identified man who has been dumped in woods by a mystery couple. The body has been badly damaged.

Spiral was BBC4's first French series, appearing in 2006 and winning a small but solid band of UK fans. Since then it's become a huge export success, being shown in 70 countries, with Netflix in the US showing it last autumn.

Fromentin and Berthaud in Spiral 4
The heat is on for Fromentin and Berthaud
One advantage Spiral has over many UK dramas is that it's not done on a shoestring and squeezed into as few episodes as possible. It's a 12-parter, allowing the writers to knit multiple story strands together, involving the hard-bitten police personalities and their various mistakes, legal shenanigans and political corruption.

Series four throws down several juicy gauntlets in terms of plot for the coming weeks. A dead man is discovered in woods with no hands and other severe injuries. It appears he may have been handling a bomb, and leads could be pointing towards a terrorist cell for Captain Berthaud and her team.

Berthaud is a proper cop 'because she has no kids or husband'
However, their investigation gets sidetracked as Berthaud has to attend a reconstruction of the incident in which she shot a suspect in the last series, with accounts of her actions being split between that given by her lieutenants, Fromentin and Gilou, and that of another officer who doesn't back her. To add to the pressure, the squad has a new boss, Herville, who demands that his officers start hitting clear-up targets.

Herville is quite a creep, telling Berthaud that she's a proper cop because she has no kids or husband, or any other sentimental rubbish. The sense of them and us – the hierarchy and the cops at the crime face – is one theme that Spiral always captures well.

Caroline Proust as Berthaud in Spiral 4
Captain Berthaud
Caroline Proust is pretty convincing again as the tough woman leading her rugged band of brothers. Berthaud is not as intriguing as Sarah Lund (The Killing) or bizarre as Sara Noren (The Bridge), but she still cuts it as a woman sacrificing way too much for the job.

Josephine Karlsson
The series sometimes stretches plausibility to breaking point, and occasionally the plotting between the police side of the drama and the legal side, with the lawyer Josephine Karlsson typically cutting some dodgy deals, has been disjointed.

Series two was probably the most unconvincing. Three was much better, and four looks promising. It's good to have Berthaud and her team of stroppy men back fighting the crooks and their own bosses.

Cast: Caroline Proust Laure Berthaud, Gregory Fitoussi Pierre Clement, Fred Bianconi Fromentin, Thierry Godard Gilou, Audrey Fleurot Josephine Karlsson, Bruno Debrandt Commissaire Bremont, Jerome Huguet Thomas Riffaut, Judith Chemla Sophie Mazerat, Amandine Dewasmes Magali, Martine Vandeville Conseillere Banque, Cedric Appietto Pujade, Marc Zinga Moussa Kone