Review: Black Spot (Zone Blanche), season 1

Suliane Brahim in Black Spot (Zone Blanche)

Season 1 of Black Spot (Zone Blanche), a dark and suspenseful mystery series from France, is streaming on Netflix now. Season 2 arrives on June 14.

The series is set in a heavily forested area in a town called Villefranche. The head of the police department Laurène Weiss (Suliane Brahim), called The Major by her officers, investigates a string of deaths and inexplicable events.

The Steiner family owns the town. Bertrand Steiner (Samuel Jouy), the Mayor, runs the sawmill and several other businesses. The two overarching storylines for the whole of season 1 involve his missing daughter and activities against the Steiners and their businesses from a group of protestors called Children of Arduinna.

Camille Aguilar in Black Spot (Zone Blanche)
Laurène’s daughter Cora (Camille Aguilar) is secretly searching for her lost best friend, the Mayor’s daughter, and gets involved with Children of Arduinna.

Mixed in with those overarching storylines, each of the 8 episodes has its own mysterious event. There are deaths, kidnapped babies, lost cavers, gangs of criminals, dead farmers, predatory heroes, protests, high school initiation ceremonies, and other always suspenseful events. They all require a foray into the creepy dark forest, or creepy dark caves, or creepy dark barns, or creepy dark houses.

The series is all atmospheric touches – dark settings, lots of mist and fog, prophetic crows who are almost actors in the drama, bones and stuffed creatures everywhere. The forest might be alive, or the trees might be alive and vindictive, or there might be some shadowy presence in the forest – it is implied but not revealed in season 1. There are meaningful symbols and friendly wolves.

The people in the Villefranche police revolve around the main character Laurène. Nounours (Hubert Delattre) works with her. Nounours means Teddy Bear in English, which I took to be a nickname. Teddy Bear is Laurène main officer. He is indeed a big bear of a man. And he’s gay, which is one of many subplots in the series. Hermann (Renaud Rutten) is an investigator who is good at finding information from large bits of data. Camille (Tiphaine Daviot) is the receptionist. She’s studying to become an officer, when the crows aren’t driving her to distraction. The final character in every investigation is the doctor, Leïla Barami (Naidra Ayadi).

Laurent Capelluto in Black Spot (Zone Blanche)
This strange fellow from out of town does not fit in at all!

Into this mix of officials comes Franck Siriani (Laurent Capelluto), a district attorney from out of town. He’s looking into all sorts of things that aren’t revealed at first. He hangs around and becomes part of several investigations. He’s definitely an oddball in this town where everyone knows everyone.

Other regular characters include Léa Steiner (Anne Suarez), the Mayor’s wife, and Sabine (Brigitte Sy), who runs the bar where everyone hangs out at night.

The series title Black Spot (Zone Blanche) is certainly an odd translation. I can only assume that someone (Netflix perhaps) thought black was a more menacing color to Americans than white. (See a clarification in the comments.)

If you love a binge-worthy suspense drama, give this one a look.

Pin This!

Black Spot (Zone Blanche) poster for review at Old Ain't Dead

Watch the trailer for Black Spot (Zone Blanche)

I couldn’t find a season 1 trailer with English subtitles. I’m including one from French TV so you can see the style of cinematography and characters. Netflix, of course, has it with English subtitles.

Have you seen this suspenseful drama? I’m planning to watch season 2. Are you?

Advertisements

24 thoughts on “Review: Black Spot (Zone Blanche), season 1”

  1. Zone Blanche means a dead cellphone zone in french. So, I believe that the english translate aimed to keep the meaning. Here in Brazil the serie was translated as Labirinto verde, meaning Green Maze, more imaginative lol! But yet related to the forest that surrounds Villefranche… Thanks for your post, I love this serie!

    1. Thanks for sharing that, it really makes the translation make sense! Not having cell phone service was an important part of the series. With my limited French, I was making a very literal translation on my own.

  2. Black spot comes from Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, Treasure Island. It meant marked for death. In more modern setting, it would refer to a person outcast or singled out, not dissimilar. A place without signal in the USA is commonly referred to as a dead zone. Turning white zone into black spot is a bizarre renaming. I expected pirates with a title like Black Spot.

    1. A coverage blackspot is defined as a geographic area that experiences reduced mobile phone signal due to factors other than being too far from a cell tower… But who knows… Maybe they are planning to put some Pirates in Villefranche in season 2! Stranger things already happenned in there, lol!

  3. I have watched both seasons with my family and it had kept us on the edge of our seats. When will Season 3 come out?

      1. I just finished Season 2 last night and everything and every character is poised for another season. Really nothing, except the prosecutor’s witness/amie (Camille?) and Bertrand”s father, was resolved at the show’s end. I’ve looked online, but I can’t find any mention of Season 3. Keep us informed.

  4. The dubbing is terrible. The subtitles barely match up. One going “Don’t celebrate too soon.” Said by a character, the text below, “Don’t pour a martini just yet.”. Another dubbed character in CC says, “He’s a jerk” while the voice over (which is a terrible match for the character) says, ” F**k him.”

    1. The dubbing is fine. You just have an expectation that the subtitles which are a translation of the French should match the English dub, but dubs often need to change wording to either match lips better or make it flow better.

  5. Season 1 was atmospheric and occasionally intriguing, but also thematically perplexing (what looked and sounded like repeated evocation of the Appalachians that reminded me of Justified, without any attempt to actually anchor or flesh out the meaning), with clunky writing (characters made to behave wildly out of character simply to get to a desired plot point) and an hilarious finale (Herne the Hunter and his magical moss patch). It also took a long time to get a more complete sense of the geography of the setting. Oh, and the sheer rate of homicides in this backwater Podunk that has only three gendarmes was astonishing.

    Still, I liked and enjoyed watching it while making my crabby comments and will probably move on to Season 2. Incidentally, I don’t know if we’re all seeing the same subtitles, but it’s obvious that the translator was translating the lines without watching the series as some of the lines don’t match the action. Generally, though, apart from a few mistakes of tone and register, the subtitles were quite clear and accurate.

    1. To respond to your point about the number of murders, I find this true of many series. They set themselves in a small town, yet need a weekly murder to occupy the police. That’s almost as hard to suspend disbelief about as some of the things that happen in the forest.

  6. I think both series are superb, full of the old world suspense. Nothing like a good forest story without too many effects. Ode to Netflix that links the globe with great drama. In Australia we have a channel that also does that, SBS. The good in Netflix is that I can listen to the program in any language I understand, which to me is English or Spanish and sometimes in french to get into the the mood. I agree with the comment of dubbing needing to be cultural and lip-sync-appropriate. Expecting the lines to match in translation is expecting sameness in all cultures, and that is not how life is. Your reviews are spot on! Thank you

  7. I’m extremely appreciative that Netfix unfailingly provides subtitles; SBS the Australian TV station that shows quality films, rarely has subtitles if it’s an English-speaking show, unfortunate if you’re deaf. I count my blessings

Comments are appreciated!