Season finale: Engrenages (Spiral) 3×11-3×12

A look back at the 3rd season and a preview of the 4th

Karlsson in Spiral

In France: Some time last Summer
In the UK: Saturday 7th May, 9pm, BBC4. iPlayer: Episode 11, Episode 12

Given they had a full 12 episodes this time, you’d have thought they’d have been able to fit everything in, wouldn’t you?

Spoilers and stuff after the picture of Laure looking moody.

Laure in Spiral

11/12: Police strive to pinpoint the connection between the elusive leader of Niko’s prostitution ring and the Butcher of La Villette, who is still on the run. There is more tension between Laure and Gilou, as Gilou prepares to leave the team. Judge Roban finally gets proof of Arnaud’s betrayal and his reaction is unforgiving. The screws tighten on the Courcelles bribery investigation. Szabo finds Josephine’s Achilles’ heel and uses it to blackmail her back into his clutches.

12/12: The police finally close in on Niko’s prostitution ring, but the Butcher of La Villette is still evading custody. Will Captain Berthaud manage to track him down? Will Niko’s men get to him first? Or will he get the opportunity to kidnap another victim? Judge Roban finds that the high moral ground comes at a high price. Pierre discovers that Josephine has made a deal with Szabo in order to save him.

Pierre Clement (Gregory Fitoussi)
Laure Berthaud (Caroline Proust)
Francois Roban (Philippe Duclos)
Josephine Karlsson (Audrey Fleurot)
Gilou (Thierry Godard)

Was it any good?
Compared to the more rushed and implausible season two finale, these final two episodes were a whole lot more enjoyable. However, they failed to provide resolutions to most of the plot threads and indeed ignited a whole load of others, the producers being confident that season four was on the way and that no one French in the right minds would want to miss them.

So we got the cathartic capture of Ronaldo, who had returned to his psychotic ways for no very good reason other than because the scripts needed him to for viewer closure. While the chase and capture were as thrilling as most things Spiral, it felt a little too easy – an eye-witness tells them what kind of van Ronaldo has stolen and Laure’s gut instinct helps them find it in the right place. The vice ring is bust as well, although I’m still not exactly sure how Ronaldo ended up contacting the ring and why he helped them (anyone?). It’s also notable that despite the weeks of surveillance, all it took for the Crime Squad to get the ring was for a single prostitute to tell them. They were reassuringly strong-armed as well – I shudder to think what would have happened if the ‘CID’ (caveat: there is no such thing as CID in France) had tried to arrest everyone by themselves.

However, that’s about the only closure we got. Niko escaped after Gilou has a temporary heart attack. What was that exactly? He passes out from running too much and no one seems that worried? Huh. Then he decides not to leave ‘CID’ for the ‘Special Branch’ (caveat: ditto) so that he can cover for Laure, now she’s only gone and shot the unarmed Ronaldo in cold blood. Handy bit of status quo reestablishment there.

Karlsson returns to Szarbo, as we knew she would, but to save Pierre’s career – because she’s been in love for him for God knows how long. Yey! Laure also seems to have got her man, and he seems to have got her, although what kind of relationship that’ll be, I don’t know. I suspect it’ll be dropped between seasons in true Spiral style and never mentioned again.

And Roban’s investigation, just as it finally hits pay dirt, is grabbed from his hands by his brother fessing up to everything, leaving Roban to give his long-absent boss a monologue straight from the producers about why she (and her real-life counterparts) haven’t been doing enough to defend the position of the investigating magistrate against the Sarkozy reforms.

Season 3
So not a lot of closure at all then. But the threads that needed closing were closed in a reasonably viable way, unlike season two’s, and as a season, despite a shaky start that had some strange bits of impluasibility, I’ve overall preferred it to the second season. Instead of the frequent digressions into individual aspects of the French legal system, the show has been more focused on the main plot, with most of its efforts going into looking at the pros and cons of having investigating magistrates. The show has also remembered to service the main characters: whereas season two tended to forget both Tintin and Gilou in favour of Laure and Samy, this season everyone’s had a look in.

My main complaint, apart from the implausibilities at the beginning and the relative ease with which Ronaldo and the ring are captured (as well as the little consideration given to the impact of the case), is that Karlsson, Roban and Clement have been isolated from much of the main plot. While they have touched base occasionally, Roban’s been pretty much on his own and Clement and Karlsson have just been doing their own things, unrelated to either of the two main plots. If next year could find a way to integrate them more with the main plots so they’re there for a reason – or at least use them better – that would be just peachy.

Season 4
Talking of next year, for obvious reasons, only highlight the next bit if you want to know about season four of the show. Filming begins in June and the fourth season will air at the start of 2012 in France (who knows when in Britain). Brémont is going to be transferred and his replacement is going to cause some discord. And Laure and her team are ‘going to infiltrate a cell of activists, which will inevitably echo the case of the Tarnac Nine, a group of hippies who ran a collective farm raided by armed police. The government suggested they were part of an anarchist terrorist plot to overthrow the state. Their lawyers and a raft of intellectuals and politicians accused the government of stoking fear of the extreme left.’

And for anyone who loves those interrogation scenes, bad news I’m afraid: ‘last month, France’s police custody practices were changed after accusations that the justice system was trampling human rights. No longer can anyone, including those as young as 13, be held for up to 96 hours without charge. This means Spiral can have no more brutal questioning scenes.’

What next?
So that’s me, over and out for another season, I’ve just started rewatching season one again, and it’s very strange to see the different relationships, Laure hitting on Clement, Karlsson smiling a lot, Gilou with that haircut and all the strange rapid zooming and CGI. But I’m loving it. Anyone want to join me?

I’ll leave you with this, for those who speak French and who want to see Audrey Fleurot (Karlsson) talk about the third season as well as the next season and Karlsson in general.

  • Chloe

    For all the flaws in the last episodes, though a lot better than last years, I am bereft now that the season’s over. I both like and am frustrated by the many plot lines that I assume will run over into next year, or not knowing the show.
    Thank you Rob for reviewing every week, loved reading your analysis. I finish university on Tuesday and have already decided to re-watch Spiral I & II, hopefully III will be out on DVD soon.

  • Thank you: we collectively swooned at Josephine’s blue dress (let alone her more intentionally ‘attractive’ LBD) and positively hit the ceiling in glee when Josephine snogged Pierre as she exited to her inevitable moral doom at the hands of Szabo.
    A more satisfying series than last years for sure, though those loose ends better get cleared up at least in part (then again: it’s Spiral and they don’t do that sort of thing). Roll on S4 and I’m not spoilering myself if I can manage it.

  • Ronaldo met ‘Vlad’ in prison when he was first arrested for the murders and he helped the vice ring as the discovery of another body (the girl killed by Nico) would give him an alibi : how could he be the ‘butcher’ if he was in custody when the girl was murdered? In fact that’s why judge Roban decides they don’t have enough evidence to keep him in.
    I appreciate what you say about the implausible nature of some of the stuff that happens (how does Berthaud ‘know’ where Ronaldo is?) but ultimately it doesn’t really matter as the programme explores ethics in a truly compelling way. The justice system in France – like everywhere – is a mess, the characters negotiate the minefield of choice, deciding what the right thing to do is when sometimes the most unethical thing to do is the right thing. Berthaud herself is trying to achieve an ultimate end – catching Ronaldo – and will do things that are totally unethical in order to achieve this end. The same goes for the Judge. They are both intelligent, complex characters who struggle with the choices they make and know there will never be a happy resolution to the situations in which they become embroiled. But they keep going anyhow, pushing the boundaries of the ethical in order to achieve their goals. And living with the consequences of their perhaps ill-judged but ultimately human actions. At the end Berthaud’s boss says to her that the law was invented to transcend revenge. He knows what she has done, and she knows she will have to live with the choice she has made. But can you blame her? And what about josephine? Was her choice really the sacrifice she makes it out to be or a way back into the Szabo world without having to admit she is pleased it turned out that way? She is a deliciously ambivalent character. Who looks amazing even in her legal getup!
    What a great programme and a great blog.

  • Chloe

    Vlad, as antigonex says, has always been in prison, I assumed that when Ronaldo was beaten up that was part of a prison power thing and he then became useful for his knowledge as ‘the butcher’.
    The coincidences on shows like Spiral never bother me as much as they do others simply because it happens so many times in real life. I’ll let Laure’s ‘gut instincts’ slide because of the last scene between her and Ronaldo, with giving Caroline Proust’s comments about her character background in the Guardian article let us see just how much Ronaldo got to her and how far she has come since the first season.
    Can’t wait until season 4, unlike Rullensberg I’m not averse to spoilers, I know I’ll forget half of them anyway. Just sucks that the DVD isn’t scheduled for release until 1st August, though that is better than the 10ish months it took to release season 2.

  • MediumRob

    I get that Ronaldo and Vlad met in prison (although without a rewatch, the timeline seems to be not quite right). I just don’t get why Ronaldo would trust someone he met in prison to confess not just that he did all the murders to but his entire modus operandi, just on the offchance they’re telling the truth that they can murder someone and make it look like one of his crimes so he’d have an alibi and they could frighten the girls they’re going to be selling to the Dutchman in a couple of weeks anyway. I don’t get why Vlad would get Niko to help Ronaldo once he was released – what would happen if Niko didn’t help? Nothing. Would Ronaldo really say to police “I didn’t do that murder – it was that gang who I told how I did my real murders to.” Doesn’t really add up to me. Equally, they could have just snatched and killed him the moment he showed up.
    Interesting interpretation re: Josephine. I don’t see her as ever wanting to be under anyone’s thumb, least of all legally bound over to the Russians. She clearly hated what she’d done, so it was clear to me at least that she did it for Clement.
    And yes – the blue dress was nice.

  • MediumRob

    Oh, and where are my manners? Thanks for all the kind words everyone – you’ve made it all worth it!

  • Am I right in thinking that Dylan was persuaded by Pierre’s dissing in the ‘playground’ and went with Szabo to the judge to withdraw the charges right before Szabo has Josephine meet and sign with the Russians? So Josephine does what she does to save Pierre and only realises the next morning that Szabo – quel surprise – double-crossed her… That rather undermines the idea that Josephine was really looking for an excuse to get back with Szabo, deliberately putting herself under his thumb…

  • MediumRob

    Now I rewatch it, I think you might be right. Karlsson is all antsy rather than relieved when Wagner reveals Pierre is off the hook. Wagner says Dylan came to see him with his lawyer “last night”, which would suggest before Karlsson met up with Szarbo so the deal was done before she signed the papers. So either Szarbo was flat out lying and tricked Karlsson into signing the papers despite Dylan already having changed his story or he put through his end of the deal in exchange for her turning up, as promised, but then got her to sign the papers. Either way, naughty Szarbo and poor Josephine.

  • The other David

    I have to second Rullsenburg’s comments about Szabo knowing about Dylan dropping the charges before the meeting with the Russian. Josephine looked like someone had shate in her breakfast when the judge said that the charges had been dropped the night before. She knew she’d been swindled. Josephine isn’t the easiest character to sympathize with (but, if she keeps wearing that green top or that blue dress, I might have to get over that), but I definitely sympathized with her then. That said, she’s definitely edging into my good book with her kiss of Clement. I’m just hoping that the writers don’t pull the she’s-a-bad-girl-with-a-heart-of-gold schtick in the next series. Josephine is a viper and she’ll always be a viper — that’s why we love her (ok, there I said it). Am looking forward to series 4!
    P.S.: I thought I’d picked up a curious coincidence between the name of the town which was being investigated for bribery among it’s elected officials in Engrenages, and the name of the town mentioned (according to a bad Google translation) in an article about Audrey Fleurot. However, while the names of the towns are similar (Villedieu in the case of Engrenagres, and Villeneuve in the case of Un village français), but it appears I was mistaken. <irony>Damn those frogs!</irony>
    P.P.S.: Like others, I have to thank you, Rob, for your dedication to reviewing Engrenages. From what you’ve said of your workload, it certainly was a labor — but I hope it was a labor of love. TMISNE has been my first destination for reviews of each episode of Engrenages, and I have to express a heartfelt thanks for your insight on this show and a lot of others. Thank you.

  • Hear, hear: I’ll second the thanks about doing the reviews! We luffs ’em!

  • Tom Campbell

    There’s no episode 13? That’s it? Oh!

  • Pat

    I’ve read some reviews claiming series 3 was well below the quality of series 1 – I couldn’t disagree more. I thought it was easily up there with the first two. The characters are what make it for me, they’re just so watchable.
    What I’m getting really hacked off with at the moment is people claiming Engrenages was inspired by The Killing – when it actually came along at least two years before.

  • Pat

    In the clip above Audrey Fleurot (Karlsson) appears to be on the set of WW2 drama ‘Un Village Français’, another fantastic French series I dearly hope the BBC will get on UK screens asap.

  • Pingback: The Medium is Not Enough TV blog()

  • Pingback: The Medium is Not Enough TV blog()