Thursday, February 18, 2016

SPIRAL fans, rejoice: Season 5 -- the best yet -- is out now on DVD via MHz Network

As ever, the French cops/lawyers/judges/justice series SPIRAL (Engrenages) resonates darkly like little else you'll find on television anywhere. Season 5 of this remarkable show offers up children as its central theme -- one barely conceived, another dead, and the rest in various and tricky places on the spectrum in between. Parenting, too, comes in for a licking, as we see some truly shocking instances of the very bad sort and what this can lead to in the later lives of the participants.

The same six lead characters are back again and in their usual fine form. One of the things that makes the series resonate so strongly is how these characters continue to grow and change -- with their strong and weak points both contributing to this growth and change -- while engaging us with remarkable strength and force. The other thing is that makes Season 5 so compelling lies in the surprises that await us. These come both from the exquisite plotting and the fine characterization by the series creator, Alexandra Clert (shown above), the currents writers and the lead performers, each of whom gets better with each new season.

What we have this time begins with the murder of a mother and her child, and the surprise pregnancy of one of our "heroes." There is also a series of robberies going on in which young hoodlums on motorcycles and thieves in stolen cars wreak their havoc on the citizenry. A "snitch" turns out to be an unlikely if self-serving ally, and the initial suspect in the murder case appears to be possibly innocent.

Judge Roban (the marvelous Philippe Duclos, two photos up) has grown hardened in surprising ways, while lawyer Joséphine Karlsson (everyone's favorite French redhead, Audrey Fleurot) has both softened and strengthened. (The latter is shown above with that fine actor Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, here in an ace supporting role.)

That pug-ugly and extraordinarily sexy actor Thierry Godard (above, right) deepens and broadens as the cop, Gilou, while Captain Laure Berthaud (Caroline Proust, below, left) must deal with her usual work-related business while deciding how and even if to welcome a newcomer to her life. (The French -- and perhaps still too Catholic -- attitude toward pregnancy and abortion is given a very interesting workout here.)

Tintin (Fred Bianconi, above) is having his usual family problems, and that other lawyer, Pierre Clement (stalwart hero Grégory Fitoussi)  has gone from prosecutor to the defense side and is handling the case of the prime suspect. It is via Pierre's character that the series offers one of its biggest surprises to date. M. Fitoussi, below, left, is shown with Olivier Chantreau, who brings a nice combination of outsized anger and bleak confusion to the role of of the prime suspect.)

As ever, the insistence on the inclusion both good and bad in our six lead characters and most of the major supporting ones makes the series infinitely more complex and believable than many others of this genre. And the addition this time of actress Shirley Souagnon in the role of a character named Karen Hoarau, aka Oz, proves a terrific piece of casting and acting. Ms Souagnon, below, makes a memorable impression indeed.

For anyone new to this fine series, begin with the first through fourth seasons, all of which are available via Netflix and Hulu. Season 5, however, is available on DVD only from MHz Networks, and for anyone who can't wait, that would be the place to order it -- for sale or streaming (soon) via the new MHz Choice option. 

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