Witnesses: A French Mystery Series

Marie Dompnier in Witnesses

Witnesses, or Les Témoins in the original French, is a dark and moody police procedural from France. It’s streaming now with subtitles on Netflix, iTunes and Amazon. Season 1 has 6 episodes.

Marie Dompnier in Witnesses

Marie Dompnier stars as Sandra Winckler, the police officer assigned to a macabre case. Her partner is Justin (Jan Hammenecker). Recently buried bodies are removed from their graves and placed in show homes.

Sandra is a brilliant detective – smart and intuitive. She has a daughter and a boyfriend. The relationship with the boyfriend is strained by several factors. She is determined as a cop and complex as a woman.

Early in the investigation of the unearthed bodies, it becomes clear that they are connected to former police chief Paul Maisonneuve (Thierry Lhermitte).

Paul, Sandra and Justin
Paul, Sandra and Justin

Sandra has an unpleasant history with Paul from her time in the police academy. He returns from retirement to help with this case.

At first Paul pretends not to remember Sandra. He finally admits he does. He also realizes as they work the case that she is a far better cop than he ever was. He even tells her that.

The case grows and expands and secrets are revealed and more and more murdered corpses are dug up and displayed in show homes. Each crime scene has a clue connecting it to Paul. As the episodes roll by, it becomes clear that there may be more than one crime and more than one criminal operating at the same time. Yet all are bent on revenge against Paul. His secrets and past are slowly unveiled as the investigation moves closer to a conclusion. The mystery grows more and more complex with each new episode until it leads to an exciting and dangerous climax.

The series is set in the small coastal town of Le Tréport in northern France. It’s winter, it’s cold, the colors are muted blues and greys, it rains frequently and clouds hang low. Much of it takes place at night. If that isn’t dark and creepy enough for you, there is also a mysterious wolf that witnesses report seeing around the crime scenes. Witnesses has been compared with other noir series such as The Wire, The Bridge, Broadchurch and The Killing.

The series is quiet and methodical with moments of terror and excitement sprinkled throughout. I don’t think it’s a series everyone will love, but I enjoyed it and happily watched all six episodes. I took French in college, and enjoyed seeing how much of the dialog I understood. I think I caught about 18.7% of what was said. Thank goodness for subtitles. Check out the first episode and see if you get caught up in the drama.

The Trailer

This is the trailer used in the UK.

And another trailer for Britain.

6 thoughts on “Witnesses: A French Mystery Series”

  1. 18.7% That’s pretty specific. I’m at 0%. But, if I can watch Dutch and Swedish shows and love them, then I guess French will be no problem. Thank God for Netflix and subtitles.

    1. Actually, I just caught an occasional Tout de suite or Oui or pourquoi. It hardly would add up to 18.7%, but I thought it sounded funny. I’ve watched Rita so much, I’m starting to recognize some Danish. I watched something in German a while back (can’t remember what at the moment) and was amazed at how much German I know. Been interested in language all my life, and hanging around the planet a long time gives me lots of exposure.

  2. Since most European languages are Latin based, there are lots of similarities in the languages. I watched a very good show THE ADVENTURE OF ENGLISH. It shows the evolution of the English language and how it pulls words from all the Latin based ones. It is a several part show that can be found on YouTube.

    Here it the link to the first episode … http://youtu.be/D9HxXjqWdoQ

  3. Pingback: Review: Witnesses (Les témoins) season 2 - Old Ain't Dead

  4. I have seen season one of this French series. I was not impressed. The leading character is a female police officer who ignores basic police procedure again and again.

    In spite if this fact we are told that she is a highly talented and very professional police officer. This is simply not true.

    For instance she watches a cemetery at night alone! And when something happens, she is unable to stop it!

    There are other examples. This aspect makes the whole series completely unrealistic.

    I do not understand why this series was allowed to move to a second season.

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