Spiral – series 3 PREVIEW

The team tackling the Butcher of La Villette. Pics: BBC

Rating ★★★★

BBC4, from Saturday, 2 April, 9pm

Spiral is far more bruising than most series put out by the Beeb and ITV. The French coppers depicted here have a way of doing things, and kid gloves are not standard issue. A bit like you imagine real cops to be the world over.

They’re unshaven, they shout in people’s faces, they’re known to go in for a bit of whoring and cocaine. When a wedding photographer looks suspicious, they drag him away and put a crude sign in his shop window to let his customers know what they think of him – ‘Closed for paedophilia’. Barnaby and Lewis are never this in-yer-face.

Series three is taking The Killing‘s BBC4 slot on Saturday nights, and for a short while you could be forgiven for thinking you were back in Copenhagen, so bleak and wet a night is it. And there’s a female in charge, the battling captain Laure Berthaud, played by Caroline Proust.

The Butcher of La Villette
The episode is called The Butcher of La Villette, and that’s no understatement. The body of a young prostitute is discovered and looks as though she has fallen victim to France’s own Jack the Ripper. The pathologist even suggests a surgeon, vet or butcher as the likely culprit.

No nonsense – Caroline Proust as Laure Berthaud

The lifeblood of the series is internecine politics and interplay between the detectives, prosecutors and judges, who make most viper nests look like models of decorum and integrity. Here, Berthaud stumbles on a huge case involving a psychopath, only to discover that her lieutenant, Gilou (Thierry Godard), knew the girl was missing two days before her murder, but did not start a file on her or circulate her photo. As thanks for covering his arse, he tells Berthaud he’s transferring to Special Branch.

He also refuses to accompany Berthaud to give the girl’s grandmother the grim news of the murder, because he knows she will want to know why nothing was done to find the teenager. Again, exactly the kind of cock-up you hear of but never see in most home-based procedurals.

A very grubby case

Meanwhile, Judge Roban (Grégory Fitoussi) is busy threatening a couple whose child has been savaged by a dog in case they embarrass the mayor’s office, and the murder case descends into a very grubby story of a daughter pimping her friends for her father.

The complexity of the narrative and the depiction of realistic characters seems completely foreign to British mainstream series these days, with their linear procedural plots and zombie characters.

It’s a long wait till autumn and series two of The Killing, but in the meantime it will be great watching the French rozzers elbowing their way through this mess.


  1. Robin, any idea when Season 4 of Spiral is going to come out?

  2. Haven’t seen any mention of it yet. I’ll keep you posted.

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