In the UK: Sunday 27th September, 10pm, BBC4. Available on the iPlayer
It’s episode three of the second season of Engrenages aka Spiral, and we have a new theme on top of the usual Engrenages tropes. We have the series’ continuing study of the misogyny prevalent apparently everywhere in France, whether it’s in the legal system or among the general populace, as well as the acknowledgement that good can be evil and evil can be good.
But in this episode, we also have a look at terror.
Laure’s net is closing in on Aziz, but she still has to call in a favour from Roban to help her hold a suspect. A police stakeout on the estate goes dangerously wrong. Pierre is faced with a moral dilemma as his star begins to rise. Karlsson continues to play a dangerous game with Szabo’s shady clients.
Was it any good?
I think it almost goes without saying that yes, of course it was bloody good. Intriguingly, it seems that of all of the Engrenages characters, the one the producers and writers seem to love the most is Karlsson, since she gets the juiciest amounts of screen time again this week.
Guest court case of the week involved an abusive husband who had murdered his wife and who had claimed self-defence. In the usual shake-up of expectations, handsome prosecutor Clement is on the side of the husband, while gorgeous distillation of pure evil Karlsson is representing the abused daughter. Karlsson’s raw cunning is enough to get the case thrown up to the higher court it should have been in rather than the lower magistrate’s court.
Here, Engrenages argues that serious crimes such as murder are treated less seriously if they involve the elderly – and that our hero hasn’t been paying it the attention it deserves because it’s perceived as a trivial case, detrimental to his career. Equally, Karlsson argues that Clement doesn’t commit himself to his cases – that he’s merely acting – whereas she embraces hers full bloodedly. In other words, he doesn’t care enough to win if there’s nothing in it for him.
I also detected a certain hint of flirtation between the two when discussing Laure – since that particular relationship is nearly up in smoke, will these two come together later on, as our hero starts to put morality lower on his priority list than career advancement and realises he and Karlsson are no longer so far apart?
Karlsson, however, is also discovering that working for the scum of the earth may pay better but it’s significantly more dangerous and soul destroying. She’s nearly raped at knifepoint by her client, Aziz, and Rashid spits in her face and treats her with contempt the whole time. Is she going to re-evaluate her priorities and have a change of heart, or is she going to suck it up and live with it if it helps pay the bills?
Terror is Aziz’s weapon of choice and he deploys it with sociopathic skill during the whole episode, whether it’s beating up someone who lost him money – after taking a baseball bat to the knees for him – terrifying Rashid’s girlfriend to have sex with him and then putting the video on his blog, or attacking Karlsson.
Indeed, terror is the common theme of the episode, with the elderly woman and daughter kept in terror by her father, the police terrified into allowing Aziz to escape when he deploys a mob to attack them, or Rashid being terrified into committing suicide because he knows what will happen to him in prison for having snitched.
At all stages, the producers imply that the system is letting people down by allowing this fear to exist, by allowing the father to keep abusing his family, Rashid to be beaten in prison after Karlsson tells Szabo that he plans to inform to the police, or for Aziz’s various beatings and abuses to go unpunished.
Laure, of course, is questioning the system rather a lot right now, given she’s on a brutality charge and Clement is basically telling her it was her fault. She’s 34, not in a relationship, has no children and she’s not exactly seeing the point of it all right now. Despite the fact I thought she was suspended by Judge Wagner last week, she’s stil in action and leading the investigation into Aziz with the help of the ever wiley Judge Roban.
Roban it was who applied the pressure on Rashid to confess, and inadvertantly ended up getting him killed – what the fallout from that will be, we’ll have to wait to see until next week. But it’s interesting to see even the judges twisting the system to suit whichever party they favour at a particular moment – or justice as they see it.
While it was a very strong episode, the big weakness for me was the technology macguffin that allowed Aziz to discover he was being watched. Until that point, the surveillance work had been surprisingly impressive, but the sudden ability of police surveillance equipment to accidentally transmit using WiFi their camcorder pictures into nearby TV sets was a leap too far for me.
Other than that, though, another tense one. And who can’t help but totally despise Aziz now, even if he does love him mum?