Review: The Mantis (La Mante)

Carole Bouquet in The Mantis (La Mante)

The Mantis (La Mante) is a French 6 part mystery series about a serial killer and her copycat. There are very minor spoilers ahead.

Carole Bouquet stars as Jeanne. She’s doing life in prison for 8 murders about 20 years ago. She changed her name when she went to prison. Now her grown son Damien (Fred Testot) is a cop. When a copycat killer recreates the first 3 of Jeanne’s murders exactly, Damien is asked to work on the case.

Fred Testot in The Mantis (La Mante)
Damien wants nothing to do with his mother and tells everyone she died

Jeanne volunteered to help the police with the copycat murders, but only if she could work with her son Damien. Damien tells everyone his mother died when he was 10 and he continues to hide his connection to the serial killer dubbed The Mantis. Even his wife Lucie (Manon Azem) thinks his mother is dead. None of his team of investigators know about his mother either.

Feracci (Pascal Demolon) is the world weary supervisor of Damien’s team.  He is the only one who knows Jeanne is Damien’s mother. The cop Szofia (Élodie Navarre) is very suspicious of Damien. She wanted to be team leader before Damien got the job.

Lucie, Damien’s wife, works in a ceramics studio with her friend Virginie (Frédérique Bel). Damien’s grandfather Charles (Jacques Weber) is on decent terms with Damien and sometimes cares for Lucie’s 10 year old daughter.

This is one of those mysteries where the police find suspect after suspect they are sure is the right one, but it is not. Jeanne offers clues from jail, which makes Damien seem to know things he couldn’t possibly know and raises suspicions on his team.

The case upsets Damien and his behavior at home makes Lucie realize he’s lying about something.

The copycat killer continues murdering people and the cops don’t figure out who it is in time to save but one victim. I didn’t like the motivation given to the copycat killer at all. In fact, I was offended by the choice to make that character a killer for the reasons used.

Jeanne had great motives for her murders. She was ridding the world of scum: abusers and child molesters. She missed one – the one she missed was obviously suspect for something early on in the series, but it wasn’t spelled out until the end.

There were plot twists and surprises at every turn. Some of them were interesting. For example, a suspect named Alex (Robinson Stévenin) who was Damien’s childhood best friend, turned out to be more than just a friend. That plot twist made sense. Others did not. Damien would get the shakes and had to take pills for it. It was very random. That plot twist made no sense.

There were 5 writers working on The Mantis (La Mante). Frankly, I felt they lost the details of the storyline once in a while. Certain parts of the story’s resolution were highly improbable. It was a decent mystery series: not great, but good enough to watch if you love mystery series. It’s currently available on Netflix.

41 thoughts on “Review: The Mantis (La Mante)”

  1. Improbable plot twists is putting it mildly!!! But, still, enjoyed it thoroughly. Carol Bouquet was a pleasure to watch–best kind of insane serial killer smile ever…..

  2. I liked the actors, Ms Bouquet in particular, but I didn’t like any of the characters. I think they wanted Jeanne to be a sympathetic character and I just couldn’t get behind that – there is never a “great motive” for killing people. Other characters acted inconsistently. There were too many false leads. Your sense that the many writers may not have tracked each other’s work feels right to me. This wasn’t a BAD series but it was disappointing.

    1. I could have phrased that bit about motives better. Especially since the one person who should have been the object of her wrath escaped until the end. I was just so upset about the tired old transgender trope that I got a bit carried away.

      1. christopher swaby

        one shouldnt need to know anyone TG to find their treatment in tv and movies by and large offensive, but as the father of a transgender daughter, i was offended by the use of that trope. as a criminal defense attorney for almost 30 years, i have never once had a TG client who was charged with murder (in fact, all of my clients so charged have been cis gendered males).

      2. Transgender women are killed at a higher rate than many other segments of the population. They are not the killers. I’m not trying to scare you, I’m sure you are already aware of the dangers.

        My grandson is transgendered, and I worry about him all the time. I’m sure you worry about the safety of your daughter just the way I do about him. Luckily, he has a car so when he is away from his usual safe spaces he isn’t on foot or on public transportation. I hope your daughter has a safety net of some sort as well.

      3. Christopher, I’m sorry that the choice to use a TG person as the killer offended you. I know a lot of people are really sensitive to this. I just really don’t think it was the writers’ intent to be discriminatory towards any TG individual. The killer could have been anybody at all, it shouldn’t matter about their personal background.

      4. I mean, I understand the impulse to say a trans person’s ‘personal background’ shouldn’t matter in making them a criminal in a fictional series, but in a world where a) transpeople–transwomen in particular–are SO much more likely to be the targets of violent crime and b) where the narrative trope of “transperson enraged / confused about their gender turns them murderous”, this is lazy and frankly irresponsible storytelling.

        (Write transpeople! Cast transpeople! You can even have, like, three or four transpeople in your story. I’m cisgender and I know something like a dozen trans people. In the same city! They have all kinds of lives and jobs that could easily be absorbed into a miniseries: architects and receptionists and waiters…)

        Although, Cathy, I do think we both share a hope for a world that’s truly safe for trans people and enough trans representation in all television shows that we all have many interesting and varied versions of their lives. And then maybe they can be the Final Reveal Criminal once more.

  3. Spoilers ahead.

    First things first: the transgender = psychopathic killer is overly done.

    There were also large plot gaps and/or errors. E.g, Damien asks his mother how old Mrs. Fontaine was at the time of Mr. Fontaine’s murder. Jeanne says 40-ish, to which Damien says that that would make her 80 now (and Mrs. Fontaine is portrayed as 80 and suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s). Error: The murders occurred 25 years ago, not 40. If 40 years had passed “Camille” would be mid-50s, not mid-30s.

    Once the killer is revealed, we are left to wonder how she knew of the 1st body in the well. We also don’t know how she knew about the reversed picture in the newspaper. The series establishes several red herrings, claiming each red herring was the ONLY person who could have known about X or Y or Z. With Camille as the killer, she could not have known about X or Y or Z.

      1. It was incredibly out of left field and entirely unnecessary. The crimes were not made “better” or “worse” because the killer was transgender. Surely being abused by her father was enough motivation…as it was enough for Jeanne. As you said, the inclusion (and I use that word ironically) of a transgender killer was solely done to “explain” why the killer was crazy. It’s a shame because prior to episode six, I was very captivated by some excellent writing, storytelling and acting.

    1. I didn’t see it that way. The killer is a psychopath who is transgender. The killer could have been any race, ethnicity, gender. Why is transgender off the table? No one seems to be who the appear to be in this series.

      1. While it isn’t impossible for a transgender individual to be a killer, it’s a tired old shortcut to demonize the person who is different and make them the villain. It’s like the “bury your gays” trope. A gay character is introduced just so they can be killed. I’m a bit sensitive on the trans topic, so I thought it was too quick and easy after all the characters that had been under suspicion to trot out a killer with such a motive at the last minute. I know mysteries like to pull out a surprise ending, so that’s nothing new. It’s all interpretation, isn’t it? If it didn’t bother you, there’s nothing wrong with your interpretation. What about the dude who jumped into a well of his own accord? Did you find that hard to believe?

      2. I agree with Barbara. I don’t think the transgender angle is offensive unless we make it so. It could have been anybody, and I don’t think the choice was intended to be disrespectful or discriminatory at all.

      3. This explanation would make sense if this were the only TV series in the world; however, in the context of so many other stories where villains turned out to be transgender as an explanation for their craziness, this is simply lazy and offensive. This is an actual storytelling trope, not just a random “race, ethnicity, gender” thing.

      4. Eva, if you google ‘transgender roles in tv and film’, you’ll see a long list of different characters. Two examples that are not “crazy murderers” are tv’s ‘Transparent’ and Cinemas’ ‘Dallas Buyers Club’. There is quite the array of trans roles which portray diverse human beings throughout various genres. Your argument is therefore invalid. I’m sorry that you see things your way.

      5. Virginia, I’m really sorry if I came across as being argumentative. I believe both Eva and I feel that this is an important discussion. We’re both passionate about the topic, and I do respect her opinion very much. From my end, I was trying to persuade her to see things in a positive light. It hurts me that she, and many others, feel badly about trans community issues at present. I apologize to you both for being somewhat vocal on the matter, and wish you all the best.

      6. I recognize your passion about the topic and just want discussion here to be open and accepting. Having transgender issues out in the open in American society is SO NEW. People are in various stages of understanding and acceptance. As for me, I’m going to continue to seek out and write about stories that include transgender characters as normal people. So, in the future there will be more opportunities to share ideas on this topic here on the blog.

    2. The killer knew about Jeanne’s 1st kill from the psychiatrist’s files and/or the psychiatrist himself. Damien alluded to the psychiatrist about talking with patients about other patients.

    3. I think we were meant to believe that The Mantis had revealed it to the doctor and she had read it in his notes.

  4. It appears that Jeanne lives in a luxury apartment. Is that how they house prisoners who need to be isolated in France? I just didn’t get it.

  5. there was a mistake in the episode with the opera singer. They were staging Tosca but after the assassination of Scarpia the soprano sang from Cavalleria Rusticana instead of Visi d’Arte, one of the greatest soprano solos ever. I was really confused.

  6. What a great story. Lots of twists and turns, and surprises! (I jumped out of my seat quite a bit) You know what, I loved the TG angle. It shouldn’t matter! Guys, it’s 2018, and acceptance and equality are improving drastically. Besides, I thought she was so cool! The actress did a really good job at portraying a psychopath, and I loved that she was Lucie’s friend the entire time and we had no idea.

    1. Watching it now and I knew it was the friend!!! Right after they call her Ruby…she’s wearing a red dress and bright red lipstick. Very hitchcockian.

      1. I too figured she was involved early on and always knew Alex was a red herring. I just could not figure out her motives. There were several plot holes with ages, etc. and the craziest one was them taking her back to the same location and the same guard in the same room with the vent (which should have been checked orginally) and having only one person guard her in the first place.

    2. You do realize transgender people are killed left and right in the real world, don’t you? Especially women. They don’t need further demonizing. Plus, it’s not a random thing that the killer was trans, it’s an actual storytelling trope.

      1. I realize this is a sensitive issue Eva. I have friends that are transgender, and I support them wholeheartedly. If you want to see this role in a negative and pessimistic fashion, that’s your deal. I thought the character was awesome, and you and I are both allowed to have a difference of opinion. Period.

  7. I enjoyed the series, but a big mistake was in Episode 5, during the funeral scene, Damien takes a phone call and says something about sending a picture of Virginie to Dr. Mueller. I had to rewind it because I thought I had missed something. Once that connection was made, I didn’t understand why he let Lucie go back to Virginie’s house. By the end of the episode it was clear that we are not yet supposed to know that Virginie is the killer, so I was disappointed by the unintended spoiler.

    1. Joanie, I noticed that too. That’s when the writers (and the director) lost the plot. And can anyone explain the link betweeen Séverin’s activities and the killer’s? What were the writers thinking there?

    2. He meant the portrait the police made with virginie’s help, after she claimed the killer approached her when she was with alex.

  8. I loved the series & I hope they make another. Why does everything have to be so political, it’s fiction. We have crime on every level & from every angle . They are “charaters” who make bad choices & in this case because of childhood trama, could be any of us. We watch because it’s a puzzle to figure out a mystery. Authors, keep writing, actors great job!!! If it didn’t keep us engaged we wouldn’t continue watching .

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