Spiral series 5, Caroline Proust, Gregory Fitoussi, Thierry Godard, Audrey Fleurot PREVIEW

Spiralling out of control? Herville, Tintin and Laure. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★

BBC4: starts Saturday, 10 January, 9pm

Story: Following the death of Sami, Captain Laure Berthaud is trying to cope as best she can. But with her personal life a mess,  she receives some unexpected news and is then plunged into the investigation of a shocking double murder. 

THANK GOODNESS for BBC4’s Saturday night crime slot. It has transformed viewing habits in the UK, creating a passion for subtitled, high-quality Euro-crimers such as The Killing, The Bridge, Inspector Montalbano and the French contingent including Braquo and the even better Spiral.

Which returns tonight. The police drama is a cut above the norm with its superb interweaving of stories involving the detective squad under Captain Laure Berhaud – caught between the criminals and her own backstabbing bosses – and the machinations of the legal eagles, particularly the cynical Joséphine Karlsson.

It is a tough drama, full of hard-bitten cops and the realpolitik of the justice system. Series four even ventured into the realm of home-grown terrorism in France, a subject that became horrifically real this week.

Captain Berthaud’s hard-bitten boys

Back in the fictional world, Captain Berthaud is wilting a bit under all the pressure. She may be a female role model as she holds her crew of hard-nut cops together, but she’s no paragon. She makes mistakes, shoots suspects and slaps people around. Somehow, she usually just about gets a result.

Crime scene – Gilou and Laure

Not so in her personal relationships. As series five begins, she is in a bar picking up a stranger for some car sex. However, things don’t go as planned and Berthaud makes a shocking discovery about herself.

Her lieutenant Gilou tells her in his usual blunt way that she’s acting like a zombie. That’s when she’s not screaming at their colleague Tintin for having a plaque made commemorating their much missed colleague Sami, who died in series four.


Disturbing double murder

The pressure mounts when they are pitched into a disturbing double murder uncovered on the river.

Meanwhile, Karlsson begins to rebuild her damaged career in her usual manipulative fashion by talking a young lawyer out of a potentially juicy case so that she can nab it.

Pierre Clément (GREGORY FITOUSSI), Joséphine Karlsson (AUDREY FLEROUT)
Seeking a comeback – Joséphine

Spiral is a well-written and bruising series. Where there is a tendency in the UK for bland cop shows shot against lush locations (who mentioned Death in Paradise?), Spiral gets down and dirty in the Parisian underworld, with settings of urban desolation usually prevailing.

BBC4 now puts money into this series, a sign of how much a fixture Saturday night Euro crime is now. Not every show has been a success, with the recent Crimes of Passion and Salamander falling below expectations.

But Spiral delivers again in terms of sophisticated storytelling and the action and suspense you expect from the genre. It sits comfortably alongside the best dramas from Denmark or Italy.

Cast: Caroline Proust Police Captain Laure Berthaud, Grégory Fitoussi Assistant Prosecutor Pierre Clément, Philippe Duclos Judge François Roban, Thierry Godard Police Lieutenant Gilles ‘Gilou’ Escoffier, Fred Bianconi Police Lieutenant Frédéric ‘Tintin’ Fromentin, Audrey Fleurot Lawyer Joséphine Karlsson

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