Review: Engrenages (Spiral) 2×5

All hail Samy, but what's up with French policing?

Samy in Spiral

In the UK: Sunday 11th October, 10pm, BBC4. Available on the iPlayer

Last week‘s slight holding pattern is abandoned in this week’s Engrenages (Spiral) as Samy, the Special Branch officer, begins to work his magic on the investigation and Aziz comes back into town.

Spoilers and more after the jump.

The mysterious north African, Samy, arrives from Special Branch to help with the investigation into the Larbi crime family. Aziz is still out of control and finally pushes one of his young gang members too far – the team are called to a street shooting and the perpetrator is a sinister teenager.

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?
You can’t help but watch Engrenages and think that either French policing is a bit backward or we actually have something to be proud about in this country and the US in the shape of our police forces.

Guest plot of the week involved a teenage boy who spends too much time on the Internet and playing games and ends up wandering down a road with a shotgun, shooting at phone boxes. At first, this all looks a bit daft, although not as daft as CSI: Miami‘s gamer episode, what with said teenager seemingly having borrowed Barbara Bain’s trolley from Space: 1999 to wheel around on. But then it turns out he’s actually acting out after having shot a woman he met online, when she decided he was too young for him once she’d met him.

I’m not sure there’s much of a message in this plot, other than perhaps parents should parent rather than simply let their children sit in their rooms by themselves, ordering who knows what off the Internet. If that is the message, I don’t think it’s as radicals as the producers must think it is. 

However, call me odd, call me overly careful, but if I were the police or even one of those French investigating judges, I wouldn’t take the teenager to the scene of the crime, before the forensics people have even turned up. What is the French for "cross-contamination of evidence" or even "great big chance to escape from custody"? Je sais pas.

But that’s what happens. Dramatic licence or revelation of extreme duncery in the French criminal investigation system? I don’t know that either. I also don’t know why they took Roban on a stakeout this episode either. You can’t really go undercover in a pinstripe suit.

Not all French policing is duncery though. Because Samy, the North African Special Branch officer, has turned up and he has some great plans. Okay, compared to the the kind of undercover operation you get on Dark Blue, say, it’s reasonably basic, but compared to what Laure and co have been trying to do, it’s light years ahead.

It’s a good way to introduce Samy into the mix, since his skills are clearly a notch above the standard detective skills depicted and gives you some respect for him. He’s not too smart-alecy either, and a particularly nice moment is when he’s dancing with the normally harsh Gilou to Arabic music, who accepts the new arrival and his non-Caucasian heritage without a hint of prejudice. Samy’s ability to speak in Arabic and knowledge of the criminal culture also makes him a useful addition to the team, even if he does have a few skeletons in the cupboard with an old colleague of his who’s in prison.

Samy’s arrival is just in time for the return of Aziz, everyone’s least favourite rapping psychopath. Aziz is having to eat humble pie with the local crime boss, who is also his supplier, with a particularly fun scene recreating The Godfather but in a Moroccan stylee.

With Aziz down on his luck, he’s finally willing to let Karlsson be his lawyer. It’s good to see the evil one demanding some respect from Aziz, even if she’s losing it elsewhere by sleeping with her boss, Szabo, in an effort to poach more of her boss’s clients. Ew. Someone really should have told her about directory enquiries or even Minitel.

The other woman of the piece, Laure, is falling apart in a peculiarly French way. She blows off the psychiatrist assigned to her, and then breaks down to her later after the gaming teenager jump out of a window. She doesn’t really appear to know why she’s breaking down, or at least isn’t coherent about it, which given how much more loquacious she was with her fellow cops a couple of episodes ago is surprising. Quite where the producers are taking her character, I don’t know, but it all feels a bit hopeless for Laure at the moment. Hints are that she’d quite like to get back together with Clement, but since he’s busily messing up his own life right now, I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

The episode concludes with a return to the scenes of the first episode: the small child who witnessed the cremation by Aziz of an informer. Things are certainly starting to hot up on Engrenages.


  • Natalia Romanova

    TMINE's publisher and Official Movie Reviewer in Residence. I've written for numerous magazines, including Death Ray and Filmstar, and I've been a contributor to TMINE since I was at university and first discovered I really wanted to write about movies, oh so many years ago. Sob.

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