Review: Witnesses (Les témoins) season 2

Marie Dompnier in Witnesses

Witnesses (Les témoins) season 2 is now available on Netflix. This dark French mystery series is full of tension and danger as cop Sandra Winckler (Marie Dompnier) breaks all the rules to catch a killer.

The crime that takes us into the 8 episode man-hunt is the appearance of a bus filled with 15 frozen male bodies. Sandra and her partner Justin (Jan Hammenecker) investigate. All of the 15 men have been missing for about 3 years.

At the same time the bus is discovered, Catherine Keemer (Audrey Fleurot) wakes up in a car. She’s frightened. All she can say is “Where is he?” She remembers nothing. Not her former life with her husband and 2 daughters or that she just gave birth to a child 3 months ago. She’s been missing for 3 years.

Soon enough the woman and the 15 men are connected. She had sex with all of them. Then other crimes involving pregnant women or women who just gave birth start to pop into the case. Men who had sex with those women were killed, too.

It’s a big sprawling case with many murders, many missing babies, and not enough leads. In the police department, Maxine (Judith Henry) is in charge of the case. Many officers join Sandra and Justine in the search for the killer or killers.

Catherine Keemer wants to find her newborn. She slowly recovers her memories of the 3 missing years, even before she remembers her two daughters. Through the first 7 episodes of series 2, her newborn was referred to as a boy. Suddenly in episode 8, it became a girl. The writers may have memory issues with the baby’s sex, but Catherine definitely wants that baby.

Audrey Fleurot and Marie Dompnier in Witnesses (Les témoins)
Audrey Fleurot as Catherine and Marie Dompnier as Sandra

Catherine sneaks away from protective custody at home with her husband and daughters. She’s going to find that baby on her own.

Sandra, her two children, and her ex husband Eric (Mehdi Nebbou) are threatened by the killer. That means all Sandra’s ex-lovers are in danger, too. Sandra is taken off the case.

Sandra and Catherine join forces and go on a dangerous hunt together. Clues include poetry about murdered babies, images of minotaurs, and a connection to an old orphanage.

Maxine and Justin, who are madly working through normal police channels to solve the crimes, work extra hard to protect Sandra. Sandra makes dangerous decisions while vigilante sleuthing, but she keeps in touch with her partner Justin as much as she can. Her refusal to stop investigating as she’s been ordered to do puts Justin in a difficult position.

As Sandra and Catherine come closer and closer to figuring out who is killing people and stealing babies, they are in more and more danger. It’s all tied to a group of children who were together in the orphanage and who now all demonstrate various degrees of mental illness.

Even in vigilante mode and with no back up, Sandra is a great cop. Smart, resourceful, intuitive, tough, and brave. By the end of the final episode, she’s worked it all out, but not without plenty of tense, nail-biting from the audience.

My review of season 1 of Witnesses has some background on the setting for the series. The orphanage used in season 2 was a huge stone castle on a hill near the sea. It was full of tunnels and mystery. It was a perfect setting for a mystery story.

There were many scenes on the coast of France, and many scenes in a heavily forested area. Each time we went back to the city, to the police department, the camera took us down from aerial views of a busy city and road interchanges.

Hervé Hadmar directed every episode of both seasons of Witnesses (Les témoins). He’s quite fond of the aerial shots. They are used over the forest, along the shore, above the city and over roads.

Marie Dompnier in Witnesses (Les témoins)
Marie Dompnier in the opening sequence

Season 1 had 6 episodes, season 2 had 8. The opening sequence in season 2 was again Sandra walking by some buildings near the beach. She opens a small building at the end of a long walk to find masked children inside, instead of a wolf as in season 1.

Season 2 was set in the spring, so the noir darkness and winter gloom of season 1 were gone. There was sunlight and characters often wore no coats. The brightness of the season did nothing to change the brooding darkness of the story, however.

Witnesses (Les témoins) was slow paced. There were many scenes with no dialog and minimal undertones of ominous music. It was binge-inducing. Each episode ended with some new danger dragging you forward to the next episode. The French cop Sandra Winckler is a well-written character with depth, faults, layers, and plenty of courage.

Season 2 takes us deeper into Sandra’s character. We see more of her as a mother and as a risk taker around a man she’s attracted to. We see deeper into her relentless need to stop the killer.

I had a problem with the subtitles. They were in a white font. Since the background of scenes were sometimes very light, the subtitles were invisible against it. Luckily it was never more than a sentence or two that couldn’t be read.

A good season 2 trailer with subtitles wasn’t available. But here’s a bit put together by Rialto Channel in New Zealand.

Season 2 of Witnesses (Les témoins) stands alone. You needn’t have watched season 1 to understand the characters or the crimes being investigated.

19 thoughts on “Review: Witnesses (Les témoins) season 2”

  1. Good review of a great show. I was oblivious of the sex of Catherine’s baby but it was driving my wife nuts in the last episode. Sure hope they commit to a third season, Marie Dompnier is an excellent protagonist.

  2. Great series but another continuity problem Calais and Mont St Michel are 471 kms apart and in episode 3 and 4 Sandra goes between the two places twice as if they are just round the corner!

  3. There is another one, the scenes shot in Martin’s flat in Calais are in mid winter, they then drive to the chalk quarry and the trees are all in full leaf and there are summer wild flowers growing in the fields…

  4. The storyline drove us crazy! Why did Sandra not contact the police as soon as she knew the name of the killer? Why did she not contact them when she managed to tie him up? What about tge four policemen killed by Geir at the farmhouse? They were never mentioned again!

    1. I felt the same, was irritated at the writers, they had an good plot, but all falls apart for some stupid and bad writing.
      I can cope with this type of writing for an show that dont take it self seriously. But not in this one.

  5. I enjoyed the show but it was way too slow–the redhead spent the season looking around at her surroundings with wide eyes and mouth open. Plot became ridiculous and disjointed. That said, I loved the scenery and Sandra.

  6. Just terrible terrible terrible disjointed story line . Some points already mentioned …. 4 cops blown away …. but “Eric’s on his way” …… that crime was never mentioned again.

    Timing out and disproportionate .

    Catherine’s Baby starts out as a boy and ends up a girl .

    Sandra escapes from Geir and instead of getting out and finding help …..she swans around and drinks vodka even though she has phone reception.

    Pistols can shoot for quite a few metres but all these supposed smart women cops walk around with them pushed into strong trained men’s backs …. just stupid !

    Geir follows like a placid lamb and gets into van and then follows Sandra around like a moron in the woods even though he has Gloria with him …. Sandra is outnumbered , and Geir spends a lot of time behind her back , but never an attempt to overpower her….

    A great 1 st episode , but then a series that just turned into sheer stupidity! How dumb and gullible do they think the audience is !

    Too many crying dramatic male police scenes and not enough thought!

    This house hold won’t be watching a 3rd series .

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  8. The answer to the baby’s gender debacle is easy: the french language has no neutral gender and both “bebe” and “enfant” are male nouns. Catherine never says she had a boy, and by “where is he?” she means where is the child, not the boy. The correct translation would have been”where is it?”, the correct gender neutral noun. Hope this helps.

  9. In this story you are supposed to empathize with a lead character who’s own actions are responsible for the death of at least 8 people, commits a series of violent crimes including kidnap and torture. All while neglecting the basic duty of her position as a law enforcement agent to follow the most basic protocols that could have saved lives and resolved the crime. While doing this forms a bond with a person who hasn’t the depth to at least empathize with the children she has forgotten and can not love. There are no good guys in this series. Just selfish egocentric personalities fighting other selfish egocentric personalities. And in the end you are just left wondering why is this person not in prison. It’s like Dirty Harry without the moral high ground.

  10. Susan E Stenger

    I absolutely love it and can’t quit watching it. Binged the whole thing. All the while muttering “idiot “.
    “Look behind you!!”

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