Spiral (Engrenages) is a long-running (8 seasons!) French drama that explores the criminal justice system from numerous points of view. This review will talk about season 1 only.
Spiral (Engrenages) has two women at the center of the action.
Laure (Caroline Proust) is a police captain. She’s a good investigator with the habit of taking men home for a one-night-only try out. Afterward she doesn’t want to talk about it. Does she keep this up for 8 seasons? I can’t wait to find out.
Joséphine (Audrey Fleurot) is a lawyer. In season 1 she’s getting started as a criminal defense attorney. By the end of the season it looks like she might be giving in to her dark impulses rather than being one of the good guys. I’ll have to watch more seasons to be sure.
Gilou (Thierry Godard) is a cop. In season 1 he develops a serious cocaine problem, but since Godard stars in all 8 seasons of the series, I’m assuming he gets a handle on it at some point.
Other important characters include Juge Roban (Philippe Duclos) and the prosecutor Pierre (Grégory Fitoussi). Pierre is smack in the center of the action in season 1. His best friend and his soon-to-be ex wife are both among the suspected criminals.
As my friend at Second-Half Travels points out, this series begins with a horrific scene of a mutilated woman. We have to put up with several images of this throughout season 1, but it does get slightly less gory as it goes along. The series was created by Alexandra Clert and Guy-Patrick Sainderichin. All but one of the directors in 8 seasons are men. There are some women writers among the many writers involved.
I think the gory mistreatment of women was more acceptable in 2005 when this series began. More women behind the camera would have helped. The same applies to the fact that the only kind of backstory they could come up with for the main character was her penchant for one-night stands.
Overall, however, the series is definitely a well-done mystery series. It’s interesting to see the story of a crime from more than just the cop’s point of view. All the actors are top notch. The twists and turns of the story are well done and keep you interested. This series hasn’t kept going for such a long time by being bad. It’s the perfect binge.
Spiral (Engrenages) is currently streaming on Hulu.
Here’s an old and rather blurry trailer for season 1.
Have you watched any or all of this series? I plan to watch more – will I love it?
13 responses to “Review: Spiral (Engrenages), season 1”
Great review, Virginia! I loved the strong female characters, and the acting is top-notch. It’s also a very good series for practicing your French due to all the slang.
Thanks for suggesting it. There are still some French films and series mentioned on your site that I want to see.
I’m watching Le Bureau right now on Amazon Prime and loving it. Realistic spy series with great acting. More male-dominated, but some strong female characters in it too.
I see ‘Le Bureau’ which is a remake of ‘The Office’ and ‘Le Bureau des Légendes’ which look like a spy story. Is it one of these?
Yes, it’s Le Bureau des Légendes. I did a weeklong trial membership with the Sundance channel to watch the first season.
Flashback to A French Village! I’m in!
Great review! I rewatched season one of Engrenages for the first time in about ten years and was shocked at the level of brutality against women, I think you’re right about times being different in 2005.
I also thought the side stories also had quite a lot of overused tropes about women.
I’m so glad I found this site! I just watched Season One and have questions on what happened in episode #8:
Can anyone explain the body at the very end? It looked a bit like the minister, but in an earlier scene he seemed unconcerned that the press might learn of his activities. And if he was killed, who did it?
Also why did Josephine destroy the evidence that proved her boss was framed by her ex? It seems like she could be rewarded for helping him.
Does anyone have answers for David?
Hi, I think the body at the end could be the Auctioneer Surrier from episode 7 and that his wife killed him when he confessed to murdering their child. I think Josephine does not believe her boss is innocent; she thinks his victim now says her allegation is untrue so that her son could have a father, as she has terminal cancer. I’d be grateful for your views!
That’s an interesting theory about Josephine. I think there was a scene earlier where her boss (forgot his name) started to flirt with her. Maybe she thinks he’s a creep and is probably guilty.
Another possibility is that if gets his name cleared then maybe he won’t need her anymore. In the beginning of Season 2 its clear that she has some money problems. But no mention of her former boss. We’re only a few episodes into S2 so maybe more will be revealed later.
Still not sure about that body at the end of S1E8…hmm.
I don’ think it was the Minister’s advisor as it is mentioned at the start of season 2 that Josephine resigned from job with him. Sideburns of head in bag match those of the auctioneer!