In the UK: Sunday 25th October, 10pm, BBC4. Available on the iPlayer
You may have noticed last week that I was a bit worried that the final two episodes of Engrenages (Spiral) were going to be a let down. That the producers might not be sure where they were going, or might have made a mistake or two.
Foolish me. Even the subtitles were excellent this week.
As Samy's undercover mission nears its conclusion the team will soon be ready to make their swoop on the Larbi brothers - but an unforeseen complication throws the operation off the rails.
Is Samy really who he says he is?
Pierre Clement (Gregory Fitoussi)
Laure Berthaud (Caroline Proust)
Francois Roban (Philippe Duclos)
Josephine Karlsson (Audrey Fleurot)
Fromentin (Fred Bianconi)
Gilou (Thierry Godard)
Aziz (Reda Kateb)
Samy (Samir Boitard)
Was it any good?
It's all systems go as the episode revolves entirely around the main investigation this week and is the better for it.
The Larbis - or at least the younger Larbi, Mus - are now shown to be a scary bunch of guys. Not the sociopathic scary of Aziz, but the calculating, clever and cooly dangerous kind. Play by their rules and they'll be nice to you. Take a different path and it won't be pretty.
They mess around with Karlsson to see if they can corrupt her; they push the occasionally absent Samy around as their criminal ambitions grow ever greater, and Aziz is now dead and buried, of course.
Meanwhile, the cogs are turning and sub-plots from episodes ago are coming back to haunt Samy, who's arrested by internal affairs. They still want him for being part of the crooked 93 drug squad, and Clement's boss is angry enough with him because of his behaviour last episode, that they're all willing to sabotage the Larbi investigation to get their men if necessary.
That means the goodies are forced to work on the same page again for once, with Clement and Roban using their own methods to try to get Samy out of jail and back undercover. Laure and her squad forego the politicking of Clement and Roban in favour of beating up suspects and covering them in petrol instead, but that seems to work, too.
Miraculously though, by episode end, just about every relationship and expectation on the show has been subverted in some way and we're left wondering what's going to happen in the finale. Will 'Samy' as we must now call him be exposed, thanks to being spotted hugging Laure in jail? Will Laure still be a member of the police, given Wagner's investigation into her has put her on probation and off the case? Will Clement have a career left soon? And what the hell is going on with Karlsson?
Although the show only touched on it in passing, it's clear Laure is starting to lose it. More interestingly, it shows how much, even when fellow cops know something is up, they still stick together and regard any intrusion into their affairs as unwarranted - even when they're breaking into shops and threatening to burn people to death.
Nice to see Clement getting a little jealous about 'Samy' and Laure's relationship, but remaining mature enough to help out. Also interesting to see Laure holding her own against the ribbing and greater abuse meted out against her by her fellow cops. She's all alone, poor love, yet you can't help but feel 'Samy's going to get one in the head next episode, leaving her even more miserable. It doesn't bode well that she's the only one he didn't tell his real name to, does it?
I've asked it before but I'll ask it again: what's up with Karlsson this week? First she smuggles a SIM card into jail for a friend of the Larbis, purely to ensure she has some clients who can pay her. But when she finds out that 'Samy' is an undercover cop, thanks to some devious sneakery and some half-wittery from the admin staff, she tells the Larbis that he's clean.
I'm guessing she's realised now that she's going to need some kind of protection for when the Larbis's operation goes pear-shaped, but it's obvious she hasn't gone to the dark side enough to have a police officer killed. Will she be working with the police next episode or doing something even more unexpected? She's tricky that one, and I'm expecting some very dirty, ruthless negotiating on her part. It'll be fun to find out what it is though.
Clement's plans from last week have also become more obvious: he wants to take down his boss, wants to stand on the side of truth and goodness and doesn't care if he might get damaged along the way. It's an intriguing twist after his slow corruption by the necessities of politics of previous weeks. I'm hoping that his plan's a bit deeper though, or he's going to be in trouble.
All in all, a thoroughly excellent episode, with more emphasis on character and policing than in previous weeks that made it satisfying throughout. With so many story threads needing tying up, I'm guessing either episode eight is going to be a mad melange of resolutions or most of them are going to extend into the third series (nearly finished filming, I think).
I have slightly more faith in French policing now they've actually managed to do a few competent things as well as their usual ignoring of the rules. But I'm still thinking that the Larbis need to be a little smarter in how they work to become truly outstanding villains. Next week, we'll see if they step up to the plate on that one.
PS I also have more faith in the subtitlers, too, since this weeks' were reassuringly fruity: I'm wondering if maybe they take it in shifts, and it's the prim maiden aunt's turn again next week.
- November 3, 2009: Season finale: Engrenages (Spiral) 2x8
A review of the series and series finale of season two on Engrenages (Spiral)
- May 1, 2011: Review: Engrenages/Spiral 3x9-3x10
A review of episodes nine and 10 of the third series of BBC4's Spiral